The Jaguars once high powered defense is missing. Can it find its rhythm against the Saints this weekend?
The Jaguars defense is missing something. It is no longer the juggernaut that struck fear in opposing offenses like it did in 2017. The biggest question this team faces on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints is can this unit return to the force it was earlier in the season – Week 2 and 3 – and beat a very good opponent at TIAA Bank Field?
According to Mark Long of The Associated Press, this is a unit that has lost its way, with or without cornerback Jalen Ramsey on the field.
"“The Jaguars (2-3) have too many holes and too much inexperience on that side of the ball to be considered one of the NFL’s best,” Long wrote. “They’re allowing 23.6 points a game tied for 19th in the league.”"
Considering the offense is 18th in the league in scoring (22.2 points a game) this team must find a way to lower its points surrendered if it wants to remain in the playoff race in December.
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The question that needs to be asked is “Where did our defense go?” Head coach Doug Marrone and defensive coordinator Todd Wash are part of a coaching staff that was on hand when the Jaguars ranked second overall in total defense in the NFL in 2017. The scheme is basically the same and many of the same players are still on the team.
If you take a look at the 2017 roster and the 2019 roster and you will see that many of our stalwarts are no longer in Jacksonville. Football is always in a state of change but playing as a unit takes time. The defensive line has made the least changes. Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue are the same starters. Marcell Dareus remains a force in the middle of the line. The Jaguars lost Malik Jackson in the middle at the end of last season. His replacement was supposed to be first-round draft choice Taven Bryan. Sadly he has not met expectations yet.
The linebackers, Myles Jack and Leon Jacobs, remain but Paul Posluszny – our defensive quarterback has not been replaced. Jack has moved to this position with mixed results. Telvin Smith left the team this offseason has been replaced by a rookie Quincy Williams. Players in new positions and a lack of experience have made our linebacking corps a work in progress.
Because of a lack of continuity and discipline, this unit has been exposed to huge plays early this season.
Finally, the secondary has also shown a lack of cohesion. Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson are gone. Ronnie Harrison took over in 2018 at safety and has played well so far. Our other safeties are Jarrod Wilson and Cody Davis. A.J. Bouye is an adequate corner and D.J. Hayden is a solid nickel corner. The temporary loss of Jalen Ramsey (to injury?) is difficult to overcome but Tre Herndon is filling in and learning with each game played.
"Playing time as a unit may help to some extent. Right now everyone is trying to do everything. Defensive end Calais Campbell commented, “We have to be better. It starts with our captains….it is on us to elevate our game.”"
The Panthers were able to run the same plays which the Jaguars weren’t able to stop. The middle of the field was open most of the day.
How would I fix this? First I would spend lots of time with our linebackers to help them understand why they must stay in their gaps and not run to help others too quickly. Second, I would adjust my defense to stop the other teams from repeating a play over again for huge gains.
Last, I would shore up the middle of the defensive line by bringing in Dontavius Russell. He was a very good player at Auburn and despite his late draft status could be a surprise.