Sep 11, 2011; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive back Derek Cox (21) runs onto the field during player introductions before a game against the Tennessee Titans at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Fernando Medina-US PRESSWIRE

Pass Defense...Can We Cover?

Is it possible for numbers to lie? Apparently numbers never lie. I beg to differ. According to, the Jaguars ranked 8th in overall pass defense last season allowing only 208.8 yards per game. That’s pretty good right? Yes, it’s very good! Our defense saw increased play last season due to free agency acquisitions Dawan Landry, Paul Posluszny, Clint Sessions, Dwight Lowery, Drew Coleman, and Matt Roth. Mel Tucker ran a mean unit last season indeed.

I was looking at how Jacksonville did overall in 2011. We finished 5-11 and “you are what your record says you are.” Right, Bill Parcels? I’d have to agree, but the Jaguars were a paradox. This was a team I saw go toe to toe in 2011 with the Ravens, besting them on the national stage on Monday Night Football. Even though the Saints put up 23 on us at home, a defense can only hold up against Drew Brees for so long. We were in that game until Drew Brees did what Drew Brees does.

Many would say that if we had a more potent offense maybe just maybe we could have won some of those games that required us to have an effective passing attack. That is definitely true. True as true can be. But what if the offense comes out in 2012, and it’s not any better? What if the team is once again thrown onto the back of the defense?

41-14, destroyed by Atlanta on Thursday Night Football. 32-3, embarrassed by the New York Jets. 38-14, taken apart by the San Diego Chargers. When was the last time you heard about a top 10 defense being decimated that many times in one season? Do numbers lie?

If we want to see this team succeed, we have to do more than just improve the offense. I’m a believer in our rushing defense. There are a lot of pieces coming back healthy in 2012 that will only improve the unit.

What about the pass defense? How many times did we see receivers running wild on this unit last season? Should we really feel better about Rashean Mathis coming back healthy? If he’s the best corner we’ve got, sure. Should we feel better about Derek Cox coming back healthy? Absolutely.

The Jags fans have been pretty tough on old Mathis, and I can see why. He’s more of a ball hawking corner. He goes for the ball first, then tries to make the tackle. That worked a few years ago, but it’s not going to work at his age. He’s going to have to rely more on recognizing routes, tackling well, and just being a solid vet. If he continues to try to be a “play maker” when his play-making days are in the rear view mirror, he’s going to get beat and become an even bigger liability in coverage.

Mandatory credit: Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIRE

As far as Cox goes, ever since after his rookie season in 2009 his play has been digressing due to injuries. In 2011 he hit IR pretty early in the season. If he can come back healthy, build on the level of play of his rookie season, and begin covering teams’ #1 receivers we’ll be in good shape. I still believe we should put free agent acquisition Aaron Ross in the slot. I believe he’s best suited to cover the #3. Last season with the Giants, he totaled 60 tackles, 46 solo, 4 interceptions, and 12 passes defended. He’s still relatively young and has two super bowl rings.

There are some young corners on the roster that I think have a lot of potential in William Middleton and Kevin Rutland. Both saw playing time last year. Middleton totaled 38 tackles and one interception while Rutland had 21 tackles and an interception. Middleton was drafted by the Falcons in fifth round of the 2009 draft and Rutland made the gameday roster as an UDFA in 2011. Throw 2012 6th round draft pick Mike Harris into the mix, and all of a sudden you have 3 young corners providing depth and possibly competing for a roster spot depending on how many corners we decide to carry.

Can we cover? Will Mathis step up and be the vet we need him to be? Will we see more of those flashes of brilliance from a healthy Derek Cox? Will Ross be the good value free agent acquisition I’m hoping and praying he will be? Will Middleton, Rutland, and Harris challenge one another to be better and develop their game?

If not, then prepare to see wide receivers run wild and rampant in our secondary. If our offense isn’t equipped to participate in a shoot out with teams like the New England Patriots, then hope and pray we can cover.

-David R. Johns

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Tags: Aaron Ross Atlanta Falcons Baltimore Ravens Derek Cox Drew Brees Jacksonville Jaguars Monday Night Football New York Jets Rashean Mathis San Diego Chargers

  • LukeNSims

    They’ll have it rough trying to cover Matt Stafford, Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Schaub (twice), Andrew Luck (Maybe?), and Tom Brady.  Pretty tough draw for the Jags in the quarterback/secondary matchups.

  • Bobbyp84

    I actually feel good about our defense. I mean we finished 6th overall with half our defense hurt. And yeah true we had a few bad defensive displays but look at what we did with cam newton.. he got over 400 yards his first 2 games and than pretty much got shut down on us. And as for the jets, we threw what, 3 interceptions in like 5 minutes of play whichput them in the red zone each time? Thats about 21 points given. But how many games did we barely lose to? look at the browns game. 3 downs on the 5 and couldn’t get in. another against the texans I believe. 4th and 1 around their 40 yard line. Thats why I’m feeling that this year will be a great year. Last year we took care of our weakness and improved dramatically on it. (defense). This year we took care of our passing game enough to make us contenders. Either way I’m looking forward to seeing them on the field soon

  • mdjagsfan

    Our defense can’t be blamed for any of those blowouts. We were already decimated by injuries in the Falcons and Chargers game. As for the Jets game, McCown was constantly putting the Jets in good field position with all those picks.

  • LukeNSims

     @Bobbyp84 I love what we did against Newton.  I was hoping Gabbert would have a bigger game since we could put the debate of who the best rookie quarterback would be to rest.  But the defense did a good job proving that a strong (and well planned/prepared) defense can shut him down.  And shut him down we did…

  • Bobbyp84

    I agree, wish he would have done better but this is a new year..he can’t forget about next year though. He needs to remember his performance last year so he can up it.

  • Davjay1983

     Injuries are a part of the game. I see your point though. Overall our secondary better be ready to play in 2012. As Mr. Sims noted: Cutler, Stafford, Rodgers, Schaub, Luck, and Brady. Hopefully our pass rush will make up for any kind of holes in the secondary. And it doesn’t matter if McCown threw 3 picks. Our defense has to keep us in the game, and they didn’t that day. There were some holes, but I honestly believe we’ll be better this year.

  • Davjay1983

    The numbers are there. but look at the best defenses in the league, Bobby. The Ravens, Steelers, etc…do they get blown out that many times? I’m not referring to anything but the defense. Just saying our cover guys have to get better, and if injuries DO happen which they will we have to have better depth.

  • NickelandDime

    Although the numbers are there, I dont believe teams that have a top 10 defense should ever go 5-11. And yes, those blowouts can be blamed on the defense. Anytime the opposing team has the ball, and are successful in scoring, its always the defense’s fault. Luke McCown and MJD arent out there defending our end zone.

  • Bobbyp84

    @Davjay1983 @Bobbyp84 yeah thats true dude, and I think if we can establish a good pass rush than that should take some stress off our cover guys. While drew brees and philip rivers had all day to throw than chances of him finding an open guy is high and wares down our defense so I agree that we need depth on that. But I have a good feeling about our crew this year and hopefully our front 4 can make plays and not put it all on our DBs. I also think that the addition of bryan anger will help our defense as well. They will have alot more room to work with. Didn’t we lead three league in 3 and outs the last 2 years? If we can continue doing that with anger than that will help our offense more as well. And with the ravens and steelers… They didn’t get blown out as much like we did, but our defense was on the field alot more than theirs. Our offense could not stay on the field and its been proven that when a defense spends the whole time on the field than that causes ware and tear. Also you can imagine their morale and frustration last year with the offense