The Jacksonville Jaguars had a season for the ages in 2017. Although Leonard Fournette had a major impact, the Jaguars defense dominated the games last season. That said they allowed a large number of big plays. That could be a problem moving forward.
Lets start with the positives from 2017. The season ended with the Jaguars defense ranked second in the league in yards allowed and in points allowed. In addition the defense added plus 10 in turnover ratio. They also achieved 33 takeaways…a franchise record and 21 interceptions, also a franchise record. To add the defense ranked fourth in third down defense. These are just a few of the lofty stats the group posted in 2017.
Another positive is that all except two of our starters are returning. The two not returning will be missed. Paul Posluszny, the seasoned veteran who helped with defensive calls and mentoring, and Aaron Colvin, an excellent nickel back. Neither, however were full time starters. Poz ranked seventh on the team in tackles and Colvin ranked ninth. Also Blair Brown has some playing experience at linebacker and may become a starter.
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The Jaguars added some strong players on defense in free agency and the draft. First they added DJ Hayden to play nickel. He is a seasoned veteran with big shoes to fill. Next the first round draft choice, Taven Bryan, is an excellent addition to the defensive line and an insurance policy against injury. Last Ronnie Harrison is a safety from Alabama and adds depth to the defense. Both draft choices are expected to be starters in the future.
Big play issues
Despite the excellent stats and numerous accolades, the defense allowed 114 big plays last season. Big plays are a rushing play of 12+ yards and a passing play of 16+ yards. In addition the defense allowed 11 rushing touchdowns with an average length of almost 20 yards. (This is somewhat misleading due to two very long plays in the Jets game.). They allowed 24 passing TDs with an average length of almost 27 yards. The team did well in the red zone but these long plays really hurt in certain games at critical times. As Todd Walsh, defensive coordinator, jokingly said “we are really good in the red zone so we try to give up the long ones.”
Without a doubt our coaching staff is working very hard to improve this issue. Todd Walsh again commented that we need to defend every blade of grass. There is little doubt that this inability to stop big plays hurt the Jaguars in the final quarter of the AFC Championship game (along with poor calls by the refs and Tom Brady.). It will be very interesting to see the adjustments made for 2018.