While I have some serious optimism about the potential for the Jaguars offense, the key to the game against the Colts may just be how well the defense can defend against a rapidly growing Indianapolis offense. Andrew Luck may be a rookie, but he’s leading a strong group of receivers and tight ends with a resurgent Donald Brown alleviating some pressure. It will be a tough task for the Jaguars to win in this game if they can’t force Luck to make the mistakes he did in week one against the Bears.
It will be important for the Jaguars to get out ahead early in order to force Indy to throw the ball. The Bears demonstrated that Luck can be manipulated if he is forced into throwing to save the game. The Jaguars do not want to do what the Vikings did and let the offense balance and become comfortable – that is a sure way for Luck to gain confidence and put up some big numbers. It will be difficult to do if Derek Cox (probable) sits out or underperforms, but the corners need to blanket the receivers all day and the linebackers need to find a way to cover two very talented Colts tight ends. Without Daryl Smith in for the third straight game the Jaguars may have to incorporate some more scheming to create mismatches in favor of the defense, it will be curious to see if defensive coordinator Mel Tucker adapts the responsibilities of the positions in order to compensate for deficiencies. If Tucker decides to not add more scheming to his base 4-3 then the Colts may embarras the linebackers like the Vikings and the Texans did.
The defense also needs to swarm to the ball. The ability to gets hats to the ball has been the strength of the defense under Tucker during his tenure. Unfortunately this is largely reliant on linebacker play; Kyle Bosworth and Russell Allen have been getting to the ball just a little too late. It will be important for the defense to play fast and really be on top of the ball if they hope to limit the big gains on screens, middle, and underneath throws that the Texans and Vikings capitalized on. In a league that is relying more on the tight end this current defense is ripe to be exploited unless they play out of their minds. I, unfortunately, don’t think Bosworth has that ability though I do think that Allen (team leader in tackles) has another level he could get to.
While the corners and linebackers need to up their game to be effective it may ultimately be the use of safeties Dawan Landry and Dwight Lowery that most affect how the defense will fare against Luck and company. Landry and Lowery are performing as the best unit on the defense through two games. Landry (third highest tackles on team) has been all over the field during the first couple games – as he should be – and can really affect the play of those he is expected to cover or the responsibilities he has. If he is used to cover Reggie Wayne a bit more or move up to help the linebackers in the middle, he could really affect the game. Similarly, Lowery could be influential in stymying the running game by providing a strong presence that can help set an edge if one of the defensive ends struggles or to help fill gaps where Bosworth has been failing in his responsibilities.
While the defense can’t control jumping out early against the Colts, their ability to limit the offense will help the offense slowly gain ground. This defense is not a turnover generating machine like some other defenses and rather than trying to focus on that the team should play to its strength: bend but don’t break. The unit allowed too many points against the Texans and that dictated the way the offense could play. The defense must assert itself early if it hopes to give the offense a chance at building an early lead and thus making the defense’s job easier by forcing some hasty decisions and mistakes from the young Andrew Luck.
- Luke N. Sims