At the quarter pole of the season, the Jacksonville Jaguars have made strides on defense but regressed on the offensive side of the ball.
Heading into the 2016 regular season, the Jacksonville Jaguars looked like a team that was going to be driven by a high-powered offense. After a breakout year in 2015, quarterback Blake Bortles looked ready to take the next step along with the litany of skill position players around him. With so many new and young pieces needing time to gel together and get acclimated with newly designated defensive coordinator Todd Wash, it was understandable for most to expect the offense to carry the defense through the first leg of the schedule.
Well so far the offense has been a disappointment and the defense has been a pleasant surprise. The first few games of the year are generally hard to predict, but it’s been staggering just how much the roles have been reversed between the defense and the offense. Outside of the buzzsaw they ran into in San Diego, the Jacksonville defense has been solid. They actually rank 5th overall in yards per play.
By advanced metrics, the defense is also miles ahead of the offense. According to Football Outsiders, the Jacksonville defense ranks 11th in DVOA while the offense ranks 28th among all 32 NFL teams so far in 2016.
All of these statistics line up with what we’re seeing on the field as well – Blake Bortles has struggled mightily so far and he’s getting no help from an anemic running game. Before having some success in London against the Indianapolis Colts, the Jaguars had less total rushing yards as a team than over 20 individual running backs.
On the defense, we’ve seen several young players flash and ascend. Telvin Smith has been a star, Jalen Ramsey looks like a bully who can cover anyone, and the defensive line is getting good pressure on opposing quarterbacks with Yannick Ngakoue, Dante Fowler Jr., and Malik Jackson.
While there’s understandably concern about the offense, the defense has shown enough to get somewhat excited. We’ve seen growth every week by the rookies and first year players, and the coaches finally smartened up and inserted Myles Jack into the starting lineup. The hope is the defense can carry the offense for a few more weeks while Bortles shakes off whatever is bogging down his production. It’s quite a flip from what we saw last season, but it could lead to some meaningful games later in the year.