The Jaguars defense looked much better this week against the Indianapolis Colts than it has over the last couple weeks. Returning to the starting lineup were Derek Cox (Hamstring) and Rashean Mathis (moved from nickel) as the two outside corners. This move shifted William Middleton to second string nickel (4th corner) behind new nickel starter Aaron Ross who moved back to nickel with the superior play of Mathis.
Mathis was able to play well on the outside, including a very close play that resulted in an interception that was overruled by a hazy pass interference call. Mathis plays the receiver more than he plays the scheme – a departure from Ross – and looked to be in control of his receiver, especially when left alone with him outside. It was good to see Mathis returning to form following his ACL injury last year.
Cox had a superb outing in his return from injury. He looked like the shutdown corner that he was last season and proved again why he is considered the top corner on the team. The rapidly ascending Cox wasn’t credited with a pass defensed, but was all over his receiver and Andrew Luck’s throws were restricted to other parts of the field almost all day. When Luck did throw at Cox, he was quickly over the ball. He forced receivers to respect his presence, making some touch catches almost impossible for the receivers.
By bringing back Mathis and Cox, the Jags were able to use their safeties more liberally. Dwight Lowery was especially good in his positioning. He seemed to be all over the field (only two tackles on the day though) and was in the right spot for three interceptions, getting his hands on two. While he didn’t make the plays (including one deflection in the endzone) his presence, like Cox, had to be respected. His good positioning almost helped Paul Posluszny get a second pick as well. His counterpart, Dawan Landry, seemed to be an enforcer throughout the day. He was in on five tackles and provided a much-needed physical presence in the middle of the field almost the entire time the Colts tried to move the ball.
While Luck still managed over 300 yards on the day, he was not able to complete 50% of his passes. Most of Luck’s completions either beat the coverage when the safeties were over the top and the receiver hit the seem where the corner let the safety come in for help or when Ross was allowing plays over the middle from the nickel. Ross needed to up his play, especially with a hot Middleton returning to the nickel for some plays. Middleton dominated the nickel last season, resulting in the offseason release of Drew Coleman – a superb nickel corner in his own right. Ross will need to make sure he is on his game more in the future so that he can fend off a unit that was very good as a whole.
While the Jags didn’t get any “coverage sacks” on the Colts (Luck used his legs to escape a few times), the secondary made this defense much better. Ross retains his nickel spot, but the secondary unit of Lowery, Landry, Cox, Mathis, and Middleton made a strong case to return against the Colts. With Cox and Mathis playing well it will be much harder for teams to score on this defense.
It’s nice to see the team’s bend but don’t break defense coming back. Maybe a few more deflections and close plays will turn into big turnovers and help set up the offense in the future. Here’s to hoping.
– Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims