The Jacksonville Jaguars starters had the day off against the Detroit Lions. After a couple of successful joint practices, Doug Pederson and his staff decided they liked what they saw from their number one unit. This offered plenty of snaps to players looking to solidify their positions on the roster.
The run game against the Lions mainly stayed consistent with Week 1, but the Jaguars did add one more concept: Wham. This is a logical progression since the Jaguars have been running split zone well this preseason.
It can go by many different names, but split zone involves an offensive player (usually the TE lined up as wing) coming across the formation to block the backside end man on the line of scrimmage (EMLOS). For wham, the formation and play action will look exactly the same as split zone. But the wrinkle is the play side offensive guard leaving the defensive tackle alone, allowing him seemingly free access to the running back. The tight end will then block down on the DT as he comes upfield, and wham!
These are both great plays showing how a playbook is built. Designing plays that look very similar, until they’re not, makes life difficult for a defense. A playbook built on complementary plays is a successful one.
Doug Pederson has locked in CJ Beathard’s spot as the backup quarterback over Nathan Rourke.
“He’s [Nathan Rourke] done exactly what we ask him to do. C.J. [Beathard] is our No. 2 and, obviously, Trevor [Lawrence] is our No. 1.”
Beathard’s performance against the Lions backed that up as well. Beathard ran the offense efficiently and had some big-time throws. As a backup, that’s exactly what’s needed when called upon during the regular season. While Rourke can wow with the occasional big play, his lack of consistency and steadiness is probably what’s going to land him as the emergency quarterback week after week.
A rule change this season allows teams to have a third-string QB dress on game days while not limiting the gameday roster. The emergency quarterback can only play if the top two signal callers are ruled out of the game.
Beathard’s best throw of the day came early in the contest. On the seventh play from scrimmage, Pederson called a Hitch—Slot Fade—Sit concept to the left side of an empty formation. As Beathard came to the line of scrimmage he saw Cover 1; man coverage with a safety roaming the middle of the field.
Beathard dropped back and expertly kept his eyes on the middle safety. This forced the defender to stay in the middle of the field. As defensive backs are accustomed to reading the quarterback's eyes, there were no tells on this play to give him a read. Pre-snap Beathard knew exactly where he was going with the football once he saw Cover 1.
It also helped that the slot fade was being pressed, with the defender right up at the line of scrimmage. It didn’t matter to Beathard if Tim Jones won his matchup. Slot fade against man coverage is a one-on-one type route, as long as Beathard kept the safety occupied. As a quarterback, you're taught to miss these types of throws wide. Meaning, only give your receiver a chance to catch it and nobody else.
Beathard didn’t miss. He dropped it right in the bucket for Jones. After Jones won his release against that press coverage, he caught the deep ball in stride on his way to a 48-yard gain. The throw was a beauty and nothing the defender could do about it.
Tank Bigsby got the start against the Lions as Travis Etienne sat out. It was a good opportunity for Bigsby to showcase his talents, as he ran for 70 yards on 13 carries. The patience and vision Bigsby showed were impressive for a rookie.
On Bigsy’s third carry of the game, the Jaguars ran a concept called duo. Similar play to inside zone but with different keys for the running back. Bigsby patiently took the ball as the Lions' defenders overpursued to the offense's left. The first-year running back saw it all develop and cut back, gaining 17 yards on the carry. It was called back for holding but was nonetheless an impressive run.
Another impressive run was two plays later. Peterson dialed up a counter play that saw Bigsby scamper for another 17 yards.
As Bigsby took the ball on the handoff, he followed his tight end and guard to the left. A slight hole did open up that would’ve seen a minimal gain. Bigsby’s vision allowed him to see the contain defender, whose job is to make sure nothing gets outside him, use his outside shoulder to take on the blocks of the pulling guard and tight end. Once the defender engaged, he lost the edge completely.
Bigsby noticed instantly and didn’t skip a beat cutting to the outside. He then showed an impressive burst to get the corner on his way to a big gain.
Much debate can be had about the defenders who he’s doing it against, but that’s not the most important piece to this puzzle. The fluidity and quickness Bigsby shows with these cuts is what matters. He’s decisive in his cuts because he trusts his instincts and reads. All while being able to ramp up to full speed instantly.
The Jaguars found themselves an impressive running back in the 3rd round of this year's draft out of Auburn who will complement Etienne nicely.