Last year the Jaguars were last in the league in first downs with a whopping 251 – a full 165 behind the 1st place Packers. Moving the ball a meager ten yards in football is perhaps one of the most difficult distances to cover in the history of the world. While not as difficult or costly as gaining ground in World War I, teams frequently struggle to get the ball over the next ten yards to get a fresh four downs to work with. The Jags just happen to be the worst in the league at it.
While I love the Jaguars, I recognize that the offense is easily the worst part of the team. Maurice Jones-Drew can’t do everything, Blaine Gabbert can’t do a lot of things, and the receivers can’t do anything. But in 2012 that will have to change if the Jaguars plan on being even remotely successful.
The Jaguars faced more third downs (241) than any other team last year. This was not just a result of bad offense play calling (Dirk Koetter….) it was also a consequence of inexperience and poor play. But it was the resulting 33.6% of converted third downs that truly embarrassed the Jaguars during the 2011 season. Being 25th in the league at converting third downs to continue the drive is another negative talking point for the media to jump on when criticizing the Jaguars. If the Jags had been even remotely close to the league-best Saints mark of 56.7% they would not have had to attempt the sixth most fourth down plays (17) during the season.
I bring up the poor statistics of the Jaguars ability to continue drives because it is frequently overlooked. While the offense was anemic (especially the passing offense), the job of the offense is to move the ball. When your defense is especially good it is expected that the offense at least somewhat capitalize on the better field position the defense puts you in place with. In the Jaguars case this mostly occurs via the leg of Josh Scobee.
Unfortunately, even with the massive leg of Mr. Scobee, the Jaguars were only in position for him to boot the ball 25 times. 25 times is good for 27th in the league and a full 25 less than league-leader David Akers of San Francisco. Scobee was 5-6 on field goals from 50+ yards and we all know he can make a 59 yarder, he’s got quite the leg With a 92% chance of making his kicks, the offense really only needs to get the ball to the opponent’s forty yard line (realistically) to have a decent shot at sending in Scobee to get the team three points. Yet they only got close enough 25 times.
The Jaguars averaged a league-worst 22 yards per drive, meaning that despite averaging 22.4 yards per kickoff return (yes, the team’s special teams consistently put up more yards than our offense…) the team could not move the ball a meager four first downs to get Scobee in range for a field goal and some points for the Jags (assuming the team began from the 22 yard line and started the return from the goal line). To be fair, the Saints only averaged 42.4 yards per drive and they were the best in the league.
My point here is not that the Jaguars offense was terrible – this we already knew – but that a greater emphasis must be placed on gaining first downs for a team that has the ability to score from relatively far away from the goal line. I firmly believe that the Jaguars could be the team leading the league in field goal attempts. It got the Niners to the NFC Championship game on a good defense and Akers’ leg. By focusing more on getting the ball past the next ten yards the team will greatly increase its odds of gaining those points. With the new offense of Mike Mularkey and Bob Bratkowski, I think the team will have a greater emphasis placed on the intermediate routes that should free up first downs for the team rather than the more vertical focus of Koetter.
Scobee for MVP?
– Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims
Tags: Blaine Gabbert Bob Bratkowski David Akers Dirk Koetter Green Bay Packers Jacksonville Jaguars Josh Scobee Maurice Jones-drew Mike Mularkey Mike Thomas New Orleans Saints NFC Championship Game San Francisco 49ers