Over the past week we have been 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 took it one position at a time. Now, we’re onto our final look at how the Jags finished an abysmal 2-14.
This time: special teams.
Special teams isn’t really a position, but doing individual pieces solely on Josh Scobee, Bryan Anger, and kicking/punt coverage may bore more than one person. So, dear reader, we have put it all into one post.
The Jags have two very big legs in Scobee and Anger. Say what you will about drafting Anger in the third round (and you should say a lot) but the Jags do have premium talent at both kicker and punter.
Josh Scobee has made a name for himself in Jacksonville as a very reliable kicker. In the 2011 season he hit on 92% of his kicks and this season he nailed an impressive 89.3%. However this tied him with Arizona Cardinals’ Jay Feely at just 13th. Scobee only hit one of two kicks beyond 50 yards, and just 84.6% (11 of 13) of kicks between 40-49 yards. Fortunately for the Jags, Scobee was able to bring it home by hitting every kick from 1-39 yards (13 of 13). This was Scobee’s third highest percentage of kicks made in his career (92% in 2011 and 92.3% in 2007).
Scobee also doubles as the place kicker on kickoffs for the Jags. Here he struggled in 2012. Scobee averaged only 66.1 yards per kickoff (24th in the league) and had just 26 touchbacks (24th). Only 39% of Scobee’s kicks were touchbacks which allowed a greater chance for teams to burn the Jags’ poor coverage, as we’ll see later. Despite the poor coverage, Scobee’s average starting position for the opposing teams was the 22 yard line (21.8 yard average). His leg was hardly the root of the Jags’ problems on kickoffs, however.
Poor Bryan Anger will probably never live down being picked before Russell Wilson in the third round of the 2012 draft. But for a rookie punter with a chip on his shoulder, Anger did pretty well. Anger tied for the second longest punt of the season with a beautiful 73 yarder in week nine. Anger also did well with his punt average of 47.8, good for seventh in the league. Just 44%of Anger’s punts were returned (17th in the league) to go with his generally long punts. A large part of this was due to Anger punting 6% of his punts out of bounds. Further, 32 of Anger’s punts were within the opponents’ 20 yard line (eighth in the league). To further prove Anger’s worth, he finished 10th in the league in net yards with 41.3 despite having the most return yards in the league.
Which brings me to the worst part about the Jags’ special teams: kicking and punting coverage.
The Jags were generally atrocious in punt coverage. Despite Anger booting the ball downfield the second most times in the NFL (91), keeping up a consistent average of 47.8 yards per punt, and forcing just 44% of punts to be returned, the Jags allowed the most punt yards returned in the league. The other top five punters with returned yardage all had at least 52% or more of their punts returned. This problem is partly due to the Jags punting far too many times, but it also has to do with the coverage. Arizona’s Dave Zastudil punted the most in the NFL (112) and had a low 42.9% of his punts returned and finished sixth in yards returned. The Jags simply could not cover punts. This hit an all time bad when Montell Owens was starting at running back against the New England Patriots and they returned 75% of Anger’s punts for over ten yards per punt return.
Major offenders on kicking and punting coverage were undrafted rookies Antwon Blake and Kevin Elliott who tied for third in the league with five missed tackles a piece. In fact they tied with the Giants, Ravens, and Texans with the third most missed tackles on returns (25). For Josh Scobee who had 56.5% of his kickoffs returned, this was a major problem.
But the Jags return game is surely their saving grace, right?
No returner (of which the Jags had 10, not counting DE George Selvie and TE Zach Potter) had a return longer than 32 yards and the average return was just 21 on kickoffs and 7.3 on punts. The Jags’ best punt returner, Quan Cosby, was mediocre at kick returns and was only with the team for two games. Not surprisingly, the Jags did not return a kick or a punt for a touchdown during the 2012 season.
What the Jaguars have on special teams is a mixed bag. The specialists, Scobee and Anger, are quite good while the rest of the players are not very good. Coverage failed time and again (especially against the Tennessee Titans in the season finale). Unfortunately for the Jags, they just weren’t good enough to in other phases of the game to make up for it.
- Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims