Jaguars' revamped D finds success against Chiefs

BY foxsports • November 10, 2009

Halfway through the season, the Jacksonville Jaguars have finally settled on a defensive scheme. At least for now. The Jaguars installed the 3-4 defense this summer, hoping to use it in certain situations this season. But after losing defensive end Reggie Hayward (broken leg) in the opener, coach Jack Del Rio switched to a 3-4 alignment on a full-time basis. The move backfired as Jacksonville failed to put steady pressure on quarterbacks. The Jaguars, who had a league-low five sacks in their first seven games, went back to the 4-3 last week - days after giving up 305 yards rushing at Tennessee and failing to rattle Vince Young. It worked, at least against woeful Kansas City. The Jags (4-4) had Matt Cassel scrambling early and often, and finished with a season-high three sacks in their 24-21 victory Sunday. "The pressure was crazy," defensive lineman Atiyyah Ellison said. "I think we'll be staying with the 4-3." Del Rio doesn't anticipate another change. "We're going to continue to scratch around and settle on things we think our guys can do best," he said Monday. "If you're playing a four-man line, you're counting on your ends to generate a little pressure. I feel like our guys were excited about what we did. Obviously, we had a little success and want to build on that. "I feel like right now we can do either, but I think our plans are not to tinker and go back and forth." Tinkering got the Jaguars in this situation. Jacksonville ranked 20th in the league last season with 29 sacks, the third fewest in franchise history, even after using its top two draft picks on pass rushers. The Jaguars selected Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves in hopes of boosting an ineffective pass rush. They combined for six sacks last season. Del Rio thought the speedy ends would flourish in the 3-4 scheme, but neither has a sack in 2009. Groves has been the biggest disappointment. Considered too small to be an effective lineman and not aggressive enough to play outside linebacker, Groves has struggled to find a role - regardless of the scheme. He dropped to third on the depth chart a few weeks ago, then got fined for missing a charter flight to Seattle because of a car accident. He was back in the starting lineup Sunday against the Chiefs and finished with three tackles. Del Rio believes settling on a scheme should make things easier for Harvey and Groves, and could help the defense avoid setting a franchise record for fewest sacks (17 in 1995). "For the outside guys, what we're doing with our approach now is taking them and letting them put their hand on the ground and be more aggressive in their charge," he said. "I think there's a chance to generate a little more aggressiveness in the nature of what we're doing and how we're doing it with our four-man front. That's the hope." Until the Chiefs gained 139 yards on their final two drives, Jacksonville's defense allowed just 162 yards in the previous 10 possessions. The unit forced seven punts, including five three-and-outs, and held Kansas City to 60 yards rushing. Nonetheless, defenders were wary about making too much out of one game. It came against the Chiefs (1-7), who have one of the league's worst offenses. "We won't know how much the 4-3 helped us until we run it again next week and the same thing happens," cornerback Rashean Mathis said. "It worked. That was probably the most pressure we've gotten on a quarterback. But they were vulnerable to it, and we exploited it."