Another week where I’ve gotta start with the positives before I criticize. Make sure you read after the jump because I have found a very interesting revelation in point #7.
- 1.) Terrance Knighton answered the call and turned in a dominant performance yesterday. He absolutely bulldozed a double team on his first sack of the game, driving back the Eagles’ center and right guard without ever losing steam. The problems he caused forced the Eagles to double team him much of the game, giving Tyson Alualu ample opportunity to work one-on-one with his blocker and penetrate the backfield. This is the synergy we need from our defensive tackles and their split sack was an uplifting and tangible example of the teamwork they showed much of the day.
- 2.) The entire defense (and the front four, especially) had a more aggressive demeanor yesterday than I’ve seen in the previous two weeks. Like last week, I say this with all due respect for the lapses that existed on defense as well – but on the whole, the defense looked hungry and I have to speculate that Jack Del Rio’s increasing attention (he has supposedly taken over defensive play-calling duties) has something to do with this. He has many critics, but he’s always been touted as a players’ coach and his defensive guys respond to him. The D-line was utterly relentless and when guys had the opportunity to make hits, they brought the wood. There were several incompletions where Eagles receivers were hit before they could secure the ball or seemed to “hear footsteps” going over the middle and dropped passes that should have been routine catches.
- 3.) The Eagles found the formula for beating the Jags big and it will continue to be exploited until it’s fixed. Look at Vick’s numbers: 17/31, 294 yds, 3 TD’s. That’s only a 55% completion rate, but he averaged 9.4 yards/attempt and 17.3 yds/completion with touchdowns from 61 yards, 45 yards, and 16 yards. If the stats don’t do it for you, maybe watching the game did. The Eagles were attacking the deep secondary with everything they had. First of all, Michael Vick is not a more accurate quarterback since being released from prison – he threw plenty of bad balls that fluttered or were nowhere close to the intended receiver. BUT HE KEPT THROWING DEEP. The Eagles game plan was to keep hitting us where it hurt the most and they could have completed a lot less than 55% and still beaten the Jaguars soundly. If you think the Colts and Texans aren’t frothing at the mouth right now, don’t be surprised if Manning and Schaub forget what a checkdown pass is when they play Jacksonville.
- 4.) Players, not plays – the Jaguars got WAY too cute against the Eagles. There were all kinds of schemes on defense: 3-3-5, Dime, Dollar, safety blitzes, corners blitzes, zone blitzes, and everything in between. It was aggressive and though at times it appeared to be effective, this was the wrong approach. On the Touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson, Michael Coe was in one-on-one coverage on a house blitz that included Rashean Mathis as one of the blitzers. Does someone want to tell me what is obviously wrong with this picture? (Answer: our only legitimate defensive back was blitzing while a guy who was cut this week covered the Eagles best receiver.) We have to maximize the abilities of our players when we’re this thin and blitzing Mathis is a great example of what not to do.
- 5.) David Garrard played with the weight of his last game on his shoulders. This is old news by now. David has got to play without a memory and learn to move on from his mistakes. Otherwise, the Jaguars will be moving on from him.
- 6.) Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton have progressed, but were victimized by top tier defensive ends “teeing off” against the pass. When we’re down that far, it’s obvious we’re gonna pass and our tackles showed they are not yet able to hold off the rush in these type of one-on-one situations with the odds stacked completely against them. Without the threat of the deep ball, the running lanes get clogged. Without the threat of the run, blitzers can “go for broke”. This offense must find a way to stay competitive and stay balanced or we will continue to be victimized.
- 7.) You find football players where you find football players, but small school guys’ bodies are not as NFL ready. Reviewing the last two drafts, here are players we picked from small schools: Terrance Knighton (Temple), Derek Cox (William & Mary), Jarrett Dillard (Rice), Zach Miller (Nebraska-Omaha), and Rashad Jennings (Liberty) from 2009; D’Anthony Smith (Louisiana Tech), Larry Hart (Central Arkansas), Austen Lane (Murray State), Deji Karim (Southern Illinois), and Scotty McGee (James Madison) from 2010. That’s 10 guys drafted from small schools. Knighton has had weight issues. Cox has a foot injury that has hindered his performance. Jarrett Dillard broke a leg last year, placing him on IR, and has developed a stress fracture in his other foot this year, placing him on IR. Zach Miller has had foot problems that have kept him out of much of offseason practice. Rashad Jennings has stayed healthy, but remember he was at Pitt before he transferred to Liberty to be with his family. D’Anthony Smith is on IR with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Larry Hart has remained healthy, but was a power lifter in college and presumably has more weight training than the other draftees. Austen Lane has had leg issues and is yet to play in the regular season. Deji Karim hurt his hand and is yet to play in the regular season. Scotty McGee hurt his foot and is on IR.
Anyone care to make a counterpoint?
- 8.) There are two major problems with the running game and neither of them are Maurice Jones-Drew. The first issue is that the offensive line has been restaffed with pass blockers – Uche Nwaneri and Justin Smiley are strong in pass protection but are not known for their road grating, Eugene Monroe has leaned out and is a pass protector, and despite everyone’s doting over Eben Britton’s aggression and run blocking, he was a left tackle in a pass-heavy offense in college and I’m yet to see good form or power in his run blocking (not to say he and Eugene are not developing their run game skills). Secondly, the Jaguars have been desperately trying to play catch-up by emphasizing (and telegraphing) the pass in the last two games (even early on, before the game was out of reach) because the coaches are worried the defense can’t hold on for long.
- 9.) Gene fixed the pass protection, he fixed the pass rush, but it turns out there’s more. It’s every fan’s two least favorite words but we will have to BE PATIENT. These were priorities 1a and 1b for this year. I think it’s safe to say that Monroe and Britten have shown enough to presume that they will be long-term and valued fixtures on our offensive line. David Garrard has been harassed far less this year than in the two years past. Unfortunately, we’ve learned that even with capable weapons and decent pass protection, your quarterback won’t always play well. Seven sacks in three games with loads of QB hits and pressure – yeah, I’d say we’re putting opposing quarterbacks under duress. Unfortunately, in three games we’ve learned that coverage is the other piece of the puzzle for defending the pass. So let’s hope Gene drafts a quarterback and some defensive backs next year – preferably from big schools.
- 10.) There’s no question David Garrard and Jack Del Rio are playing for their jobs at this point. Desperation can be a very powerful motivator. Here’s to hoping for the best.
Remember Jags fans, we’re only three games into the season. In 1996, we won 3 of our first 9 games and fell just short of the Super Bowl. I’m aware of the fact that the Jaguars had the league best passing offense that year, but even then, no one counted us in for a second. Stay positive and cheer hard.
- Andrew Hofheimer