The Jaguars offensive line has been a major topic of discussion for the past two to three years, and not in a good way. The line has underperformed in some games, but then in others looked dominant. What the Jaguars offensive line lacked, however, was consistency. They seemed to be on the verge of breaking that rock through this season, however.
Then the Cardinals came in and smashed that rock over their heads.
The Cardinals sacked Trevor Lawrence three times, more than any previous game this season, but also got heavy pressure on him with a variety of stunts and games they would play with their linemen. However, I do think there were some positives to come out of that game for the offensive line. So lets open up the film room, starting with...the...whirly bird?
THE WHIRLY BIRD
In all honesty, I hated this call when it happened. The Jaguars called a flea flicker with the lead early in the third quarter. The play was designed to get a good shot downfield off of misdirection. It also called for Andrew Norwell to do a 360 and pick up the nearest edge defender. That is the “Whirly Bird” technique, and as Nate Tice of The Athletic put it, the technique normally works on long developing plays:
Jaguars fans, here's a proper "Whirly Bird" by the LG in the wild.— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) September 28, 2021
It's used on long-developing play actions like the Jaguars flea-flicker on Sunday or this TE Delay by the Vikings. pic.twitter.com/DpJJebuusL
This...this is how the Jaguars looked:
While I understand the merits of the flea flicker and the whirly bird technique, I’m not exactly sure that it would work in this case. The Jaguars failed to get enough movement from the left side of the line, and that’s largely due to having the backup left tackle in the game. That’s reason one why I probably wouldn’t run that play there.
The second reason is...JJ WATT?? Watt was unblockable for most of the game(we’ll get to that later), but because of his length and first step, he’s able to get vertical into Norwell’s gap as soon as he turns, making a complete “whirly bird” unavailable to use. You can see from the endzone angle that if Richardson gets more of JJ Watt, then the play has a chance of hitting for a huge gain. That’s also a massive ask of a backup left tackle, or any left tackle regardless.
One of the aspects of the game I was looking out for was how the Jaguars would handle Chandler Jones and JJ Watt in pass protection. Given that Jones didn’t make a huge impact in the passing game, I’d say they get high marks for Jones. JJ Watt...was JJ Watt. He consistently got pressure, and his gravity pulled offensive linemen to him, freeing up stunts, such as this one that got a sack for Markus Golden:
Watt’s pressure forces Cann to ride out the stunt to help right tackle Jawaan Taylor, but this allows Golden to step right into where Trevor Lawrence is stepping up.
The Cardinals also played with the offensive line’s eyes, especially on obvious passing downs. This is a third down in the first quarter, and the Cardinals only have one lineman down in a three point stance(JJ Watt). Before the snap, it looks like there are six people crowding the line of scrimmage, seven if you count defensive back Byron Murphy. Then, when the ball is snapped, linebackers Zaven Collins and Jordan Hicks drop into coverage, and Murphy blitzes. The blitz is picked up well on the left side. However, the right side has a massive problem. AJ Cann and Jawaan Taylor fail to communicate on which blitzer they’re picking up, leaving them both attached to Golden, and allowing Isaiah Simmons to get a free shot on Lawrence. Oh, and JJ Watt is still JJ Watt:
UPS AND DOWNS IN THE RUN GAME
For a large majority of the first half, the Jaguars run game was being negated by excellent front seven play by the Cardinals. JJ Watt (I’m mentioning his name a lot) was darn near unblockable, and the linebackers for the Cardinals made great plays.
On this play, Tyron Johnson is supposed to wind back and block a defensive back. I don’t think JJ Watt plays DB. Leaving Chris Mahnertz to block Watt one-on-one is not a good decision, as much as I think Mahnertz is a great run blocker. Zaven Collins also makes a great play getting skinny past Jawaan Taylor and making a good play.
I think this run play also has potential to hit for a big gain, if executed better. The Jaguars run power away from the numbers, with Marvin Jones going in motion. This should create a gap where guard Ben Bartch (filling in for Norwell, who got dinged up) takes on the weakside edge defender, and Jacob Hollister takes on the weakside linebacker. Bartch HAS to get a better block here. Devon Kennard gets so much knockback on Bartch that he ends up right where Robinson is running. If anything, this play shows that Bartch isn’t ready yet, and that the Jaguars need Andrew Norwell healthy:
However, it wasn’t all bad in the run game. I think in the third quarter, the Jaguars offensive line found their groove and mowed down the Cardinals en route to a James Robinson touchdown. A couple of plays stand out to me, ones that I think the Jaguars can execute really well in the run game.
The Jaguars run a lot of split zone, especially out of 2-tight end personnel. They also execute it fairly well on this play. Brandon Linder gets a pancake here, and Cam Robinson and Andrew Norwell get good enough combo blocks to allow James Robinson to cutback and find a huge lane. Luke Farrell also does a great job cleaning up Chandler Jones. An all around good play:
The final play I wanted to highlight is one that I think puts a TD on the board before the Robinson score. The Jaguars run power out of 12 personnel, with Luke Farrell going in motion and coming back as an H-back. Will Richardson (filling in for a dinged up Cam Robinson), does a good job of getting to the second level and also helping Andrew Norwell. Farrell and AJ Cann do a good job of creating a gap as well. If Marvin Jones gets a little bit more of a block on Budda Baker, we’re looking at a one-on-one with Carlos Hyde and a DB. I’ll take Hyde in that situation:
Overall, the Jaguars offensive line play was up and down on Sunday. They had inconsistencies in the passing game, and early in the run game, but seemed to find their groove in the third quarter. I think getting Trevor Lawrence on the move and letting him do more options and QB keepers will help the line in the run game and passing game, as long as they continue to make holes.