Jaguars look to dial up defensive pressure after latest loss
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) After getting picked apart by Houston quarterback Brian Hoyer, the Jacksonville Jaguars are making a defensive change.
How drastic a modification remains to be seen.
But coach Gus Bradley said Monday he plans to use more five- and six-man pressures beginning with this week’s game against Buffalo (3-3) in London. It might not seem like a huge difference, but a lack of defensive pressure has been Jacksonville’s biggest problem this season.
”Pressures can do a couple of things,” Bradley said. ”One, I think it can stimulate a defense. You can see it bring energy. At the beginning of the game, if you don’t feel like your defense is playing with a lot of energy, bringing pressure can stimulate them, so there’s a purpose for it. … The whole intent is to try to affect the quarterback and force him to make bad decisions, so I think that’s what you’re looking at.”
The Jaguars (1-5) have 12 sacks, including one in a 31-20 loss to the Texans on Sunday, and haven’t been overly effective at pressuring quarterbacks.
Bradley’s defense is designed to generate pressure from the ”Leo” position – the defensive end lined up on the weak side of the formation – on first and second downs, and get sacks on third down using blitzes and a ”green package” that features the team’s top rushers.
The system managed 45 sacks last season, which ranked sixth in the NFL, and many of those came with four-man fronts. But the numbers have dropped sharply since, prompting Bradley to get more creative and gamble a little more.
”Maybe we throw in some extra ones,” linebacker Dan Skuta said. ”Let’s see what they come with. It’ll be exciting to see what they come up with in the next couple of days.”
Injuries are a big part of the problem. Jacksonville drafted Florida standout Dante Fowler Jr. with the third overall pick, but he injured his left knee in the first hour of a rookie minicamp and is out for the season.
Former second-round draft pick Andre Branch was expected to slide into the starting role following Fowler’s injury, but Branch sprained a ligament in his left knee in the preseason and missed the first three games of the regular season. He played better in his third game back Sunday, but he’s still not where the Jaguars need him to be.
So Jacksonville has been trying to get by with 12-year veteran Chris Clemons.
Clemons has six tackles and a sack.
”That’s how we’re built,” Bradley said. ”So we need it from the Leo. If we’re not getting everything that we need, then we’ve got to look at bringing pressure and taking a guy out of coverage.”
The Jaguars believe things should improve as Branch and disruptive defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks get healthier. Marks, who had a career-high 8 1/2 sacks last season, made his season debut against the Texans. He had one tackle in 21 snaps.
Hoyer completed 24 of 36 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns against Jacksonville, which also has been dismantled by Cam Newton and Tom Brady this season. It’s one thing to watch Newton and Brady do that, but seeing Hoyer do it almost forced the Jags to make the change. A fourth consecutive loss surely factors into the decision, too.
”Pressure doesn’t necessarily mean more sacks,” Bradley said. ”Pressure could lead to poor decisions, but it can also lead to big plays. I think you’ve got to look at the team you’re facing, how much it can affect them.”
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