Week 2 of the 2016 season was an opportunity for Jacksonville to build on the near-miss promise of their season opener. Instead, it was a catastrophe of a monumental scale. A fan-base disillusioned, national media dismissive and the potential for a fractured locker room all emerged.
In this installment, we look at the defensive scheme issues that saw veteran middle linebacker Paul Posluszny matched up on the #1 receiver and speedy Travis Benjamin.
Let’s be really clear from the outset. It isn’t Paul Posluszny’s fault that he couldn’t keep up with and cover Travis Benjamin. Although many used this play as fuel for the “get rid of Poz, let’s start Jack” movement, this breakdown wasn’t his fault as a player. Sure, Jack would have probably been able to keep Benjamin honest from a speed perspective, much more than the slower Posluszny, but this was a scheme failure and one that was apparent in so many ways on Sunday.
As written immediately post-game, the Jacksonville Jaguars were out-coached by the Chargers staff on Sunday. The Chargers offense and veteran quarterback Phillip Rivers, puppeteered the Jaguars into every matchup, seemingly knowing inside-out how the Jaguars would respond to any formation, motion, down and distance and personnel grouping. They used this to attack with ease and exploited favourable matchups throughout.
"This is but just one play, one example of the failures to respond in personnel, the defensive gamesmanship or the ability to make quality adjustments."
Let’s take a look at the notorious Poz vs Benjamin play and see just how it was scheme failings that underpinned the execution failures.
The above image shows the pre-snap setup in the 3×1 offensive set by the Chargers. The Chargers deployed Benjamin as the #3 wide receiver in this set, with MLB Posluszny drawing the matchup. Ramsey and Gratz are aligned against the #1 and #2 formation receivers.
In the above highlighted is the bracketed strong safety (Cyprien) and cornerback (House) aligned on tight end Antonio Gates. This suggests pre-snap that one of the two will blitz with the other drawing man coverage of the tight end. Cover 1 across the board is the read for the Chargers, with Gipson the deep middle support.
In addition to identifying the matchup advantage, the Chargers are also able to identify the space target, in this case the boundary side hashes to numbers.
Even before this play begins, we can see big risks for the play defensively for Jacksonville. San Diego know them and are about to exploit them having set the table and with the right play call to capitalise.
So how do the Jaguars respond to the pre-snap concerns? When they see Poz lined-up on Benjamin do they check out of the original defensive setup? No. Do they make a reasonable quick adjustment to swap Poz and Telvin Smith’s role within the defensive setup? No. Do they identify the risks, kill the blitz and have Cyprien or House Bail to take the deep half support (and thereby fill that space to be attacked)? No. They do none of this.
Above, the play in mid-progress. Gipson is understandably stuck. The vertical releasing routes of #1 and #2 hold him on the field side. The shallow route of Gates keeps House and the coverage on the boundary side in the flat. This retains the integrity of the space they desire to exploit.
Benjamin is already even (therefore ‘leavin’) and with leverage on Posluszny. Telvin Smith is in no-man’s land, not covering anyone, pressuring anyone or even influencing the quarterback decision making. As for Cyprien, on the blitz…stuffed. With less defenders in coverage and defensive back blitz not impacting the pass, it is all over.
Gipson’s forced late response and decision gives the speedy Benjamin all he needs and Rivers all he wants to execute and exploit.
This is but just one play, one example of the failures to respond in personnel, the defensive gamesmanship or the ability to make quality adjustments.
Without going into more detail, the image above shows how the defensive responded to Benjamin next time…they triple cover him. Whilst ignoring other players, such as Williams who takes the shallow cross to the house. There is a distinct lack of sound structure, self-awareness and ability to utilise the best players for the best purpose on defense.
With the glaringly obvious, and the immediately referenced concerns about coaching and scheme, this is where you would expect quality leadership to step up and take responsibility. Cue Todd Wash…
The sentiments are clear. The same issues that a Bob Babich-led defense faced a year ago are not improved, despite a much better roster. Bradley and Wash…that’s on you. Not a “Young Man”
We will see against Baltimore what they have learned from this debacle.