DEFENSE MECHANISM

This year may just be the end of Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust for the Jacksonville Jaguars, which has been the team’s operative mode this entire century.

When Jack Del Rio was hired 12 years ago, former owner Wayne Weaver threw some shade the way of departed coach Tom Coughlin at the presser.

“No more three yards and a cloud of dust,” Weaver said. Del Rio’s hire was to be the beginning of a new era. 

And it sort of was. From Leftwich to Garrard to McCown (!) to Gabbert (!!) and now to Bortles, Jaguars fans have sat through a decade and a half of putrid offense. At their best, the Jags were just two steps behind Peyton and the Colts. At their worst? A lot of three and outs. 

It looks like the nightmare is about over. Blake Bortles is making the requisite progress in his sophomore year. Three preseason games in the books, and he’s made smart decisions in all of them.

Game 3, against Detroit, the offense turned in a solid performance. The debut of TJ Yeldon was eagerly anticipated by most. A telling bit of caution was extended my way by an Alabama fan I know: Yeldon fumbles and he gets hurt.

Sure enough, he fumbled on the goal line; managed to score before that happened. He did not get hurt in the game; knock on wood. He also seemed to have an issue getting through open holes. Whether that was a function of nerves, of still getting up to speed with the offense, or vision will be a question worth monitoring going forward.

The most interesting play from Yeldon found him in the slot, as Bortles took the shotgun in an empty backfield. Yeldon took the flare and juked his way to a 12 yard gain. 

For those wondering how the Jaguars might use their crowded backfield, consider that Yeldon and Denard Robinson both offer a compelling mismatch opportunity in the slot, and a counterpoint to renaissance man Marcedes Lewis, who hasn’t looked this good in a preseason since before he signed his big money contract.

So the offense looks solid. The defense? It needs some help. Which is ironic, given that Gus Bradley was the architect of the best defense in the current NFL era in Seattle. 

As I wrote elsewhere on Friday night, “the defensive secondary is shakier than the Chinese stock market. Golden Tate ran through them like a truck driver through a bag of Krystals, including on a play in the second quarter where he clowned Aaron Colvin so badly that they are having the DB fitted for some oversized shoes and a red nose. The pass rush is more like a slow jog.”

How to remedy that issue? Sadly, they don’t seem to have the pieces in house. This still looks like a unit that Andrew Luck picks apart twice a year.

They’re going to have to sift through the cut lists of other teams. Tim Jennings got cut from the Bears because they “wanted to go younger.” There will be guys like that available. We keep hearing about how free agents want to come to Jacksonville, because of the incometaxweatherscoreboardGusBradleypositiveattitude. Jags need to get some help in that secondary, and on the defensive front also. Let’s see what they do between now and the first real game. 

 

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october, 2021

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