Over the next week or so we will be going through the Jacksonville Jaguars 2012 roster to try and find the problems that led to the franchise’s worst-ever record: 2-14. There were so many problems with this team that it goes well beyond one article. So, for the sake of simplicity, we’ll take it one position at a time.
This time: defensive end.
The 4-3 defensive end is a premium position in the NFL. It can bring the player glory if they are successful and it can help push a team into the playoffs or to the Super Bowl. Players like Jared Allen and Cameron Wake have made names for themselves through their ability to overpower, outsmart, or outmaneuver offensive tackles in their nearly constant quest of sacking the quarterback. Perhaps no position on defense can dominate a game quite like a defensive end can.
The Jaguars didn’t have a dominant defensive end all through the season. No defensive end notched more than three sacks, even. At a position that can wreak havoc on the opponent and save the day for the defense, the Jaguars had nobody. It was a practically non-existant position the entire season.
Diagnosing 2-14 could have been summed up simply by talking about the defensive front four for the Jaguars – there were problems beyond that, so we gave them more attention – because the team did better in 2011 with similar talent along the front four. This year was supposed to be further development for those players, instead we got sub par performance after sub par performance.
A big part of a defensive end’s performance is his third and fourth down pass rushing productivity. Pro Football Focus measured this just before week 15 of the 2012 season and found the usual culprits in the top ten: Von Miller, Cameron Wake, J.J. Watt, and (surprise) Jacksonville’s Jason Babin at fourth. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, Babin arrived to the team on week 13 due to his “inefficiency” with the Philadelphia Eagles. In Jacksonville he joined a mediocre cast.
The Jags were a sad bunch at defensive end. Jeremy Mincey got a nice deal after a “breakout” 2011 campaign, only to contribute three sacks, 10 QB hits, and 22 QB hurries. Austen Lane was expected to be a bigger contributor in 2012 but only contributed two sacks, six hits, and 10 hurries. Second round 2012 draft pick Andre Branch was expected to be an immediate contributor but only managed to help with one sack, two hits, and 11 hurries.
It was a sad, depressed, and maddening year at defensive end. Every defensive end on the team, except Babin, graded poorly in the pass rush. They were ineffective. Babin was with the team for only four weeks and managed to finish seventh on the team with 1.5 sacks in four games. The Jags made up for it by being above average in run support, but with the interior line doing everything it possibly could to allow running backs room it did little to ease the pain on the Jaguars’ defense.
Inefficient and ineffective, the Jaguars were found wanting at a premium position. Babin should be back for next season but it wouldn’t shock me to see an entirely different cast around him as the Jags try to dig out of 2-14.
Next we’ll look at the linebackers.
- Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims