Jaguars’ revamped defense struggling in preseason

The Jacksonville Jaguars failed to pressure quarterbacks, get

off the field on third down and prevent points last season.

The defensive woes were the focus of the team’s offseason, with

coaches, players and front office personnel eager to get them

fixed.

But after two preseason games, the same problems persist.

Jacksonville’s revamped defense simply looks like it needs more

work.

The Jaguars have allowed opponents to score on four of their

first possessions in both preseason games. Philadelphia scored a

touchdown and three field goals in its first five drives against

the Jaguars. Miami came away with three touchdowns and a field goal

in its first five drives Saturday night.

”I don’t feel the need to explain a whole lot about preseason

effort and how we’re putting things together,” coach Jack Del Rio

said Monday. ”I’m more interested in us going out and recognizing

what we’ve got to do better and committing to the work necessary to

get that done.”

The Jaguars have some excuses: lack of game-planning, several

newcomers finding their way, a different defensive scheme and

several key injuries.

Three starters – linebacker Daryl Smith, defensive end Aaron

Kampman and defensive tackle Tyson Alualu – missed the opener. They

returned last weekend, but linebacker Justin Durant and cornerback

Rashean Mathis were out.

”We are still trying to get that cohesiveness on defense,”

linebacker Kirk Morrison said.

Jacksonville gets another shot Saturday night against Tampa Bay,

which will be without starting quarterback Josh Freeman.

Kampman, the team’s top offseason free agent acquisition,

believes everything the Jaguars have done wrong can be

corrected.

”Explosive plays are really what we’ve done,” Kampman said.

”Some things are really easily correctable with our disciplined

eyes, making sure that we’re in our gap.”

Maybe, but the two preseason performances are a bad sign for a

franchise that was hoping for a defensive turnaround after

finishing with a league-low 14 sacks last season and giving up 380

points – the most since its inaugural season in 1995.

The Jaguars signed Kampman to a four-year contract worth $26

million, hoping he will return to Pro Bowl form after

reconstructive knee surgery in December. They traded for linebacker

Kirk Morrison, used their first four draft picks on defensive

linemen and parted ways with several aging veterans.

But how soon will all the changes pay off?

Kampman and Alualu, the 10th overall pick, played their first

meaningful down together Saturday night and showed promise. They

combined to sack Chad Henne on Miami’s first offensive play. But it

was pretty much the only thing Henne did wrong.

Henne completed 11 of 14 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns

against Jacksonville’s starters. Backup Chad Pennington was equally

efficient, throwing for 54 yards and a score in one series.

Del Rio pointed to issues in the secondary, the one position the

Jaguars didn’t address in the offseason.

”There are some things that we’re doing that we’ll need to do a

whole lot better … going forward for our football team to have

success that we intend on having,” Del Rio said. ”We’re going to

have to play better back there. There are still some basic leverage

in tackling issues that we’ve got to rectify.”

He used Anthony Fasano’s 55-yard touchdown reception as one

example, saying the tight end should have been stopped a few yards

from the line of scrimmage instead of running untouched into the

end zone.

”It was shoddy leverage and tackling on that play,” Del Rio

said. ”It’s real easy to see. Those are basic football plays that

we’ve got to do better, basic stuff. You’re not talking about

anything other than an eye violation and then a poor job of

leveraging and tackling, and when we do those better, it’ll look a

whole lot better.”