On this edition of the Jags Roundtable, the guys crunch some numbers from last season that need to be better in Jacksonville this season if Gus Bradley & co. are going to turn things around for a potential post-season birth.
Zac Blobner: Team Interceptions (26th)
The Jacksonville Airport is 16 miles from Everbank Field, and in 2015 plenty of football frequent flyers came through Duval. With only 9 interceptions all of last year, saying the Jaguars struggled to stop passes, is an understatement. Only the Ravens (6), Cowboys (8), & Bears (8) had less picked off balls. That number has to go up this season and it will.
The additions of Tashaun Gipson & Prince Amukamara through Free Agency and Jalen Ramsey & Myles Jack through the NFL Draft will help revamp a secondary in much need of fresh faces. Plus, the only four players to pick off opposing QB's while wearing the Teal & Black 12 months ago (Telvin Smith, Davon House, Johnathan Cyprien, & Paul Posluszny) are all fully set for 2016.
Even with all the additions, and even if the guys click and chemistry comes sooner rather than later, it’s hard to imagine this defense turns into the Legion of Boom overnight. Realistically, the Jags D needs to get up to at least 15 interceptions this season. Averaging only one pick roughly every 7 quarters usually leads to a pretty bad year; time to initialize the "No-Fly Zone!”
Kerry Belkin: Sacks (20th)
The Jaguars haven't been to the playoffs in 9 years, and a large part of the reason is because their pass rush, arguably the most important function of defense, has been relatively inept. Last year wasn't much different. They ranked tied for 20th last year in terms of team sacks.
That number is sure to go up.
The Jaguars are more talented defensively that they have been at any other time since their last playoff run. Dante Fowler Jr. has looked great thus far in the preseason, and the Jaguars staff is excited about Yannick Ngakoue. Malik Jackson will serve to help free up Fowler Jr. and Ngakoue by commanding double teams. Not to mention these secondary is much improved, and should be able to cover longer. The longer you can cover the receivers, the more likely it is that you're going to be able to get a sack.
There is no question that the Jaguars are much, much improved defensively, and it's not ridiculous to expect their sack totals to go up as a result.
Ben Freid: Rushing (27th)
The Jags were 27th in rushing for 2015. So the numbers can’t get much worse. Though T.J. Yeldon showed promise, he began to break down towards the end of the season. The addition of Chris Ivory will not only brings the rushing numbers up, but will also keep Yeldon fresh.
Chris Ivory is a great running back for the kind of offense head coach Gus Bradley has in mind. It’s clear he has tried to model his defense after the Seattle Seahawks, but Chris Ivory shares a very similar skill set to that of Marshawn Lynch. Ivory brings the power running game to the next level for the Jags. Yeldon is better in open space and catching balls out the backfield, regardless of his 6’1 225 lb frame. Chris Ivory will allow this team to rush the ball consistently and effectively, while also being utilized in goal line situations.
T.J. Yeldon will be entering his second year with the Jags and showed his versatility last year. He can catch the ball well, and is good in the open field. He struggled in short yardage situations, but will leave those duties to Chris Ivory. Yeldon is great for between the 20s.
Between the two running backs the Jags will have a more balanced approach on offense. This is not exactly a thunder and lightning type of duo. Both bring size and speed to the running back position, and both have been used as every down backs in their short careers.
Perhaps the best thing for the running game is not the running backs at all. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns will draw a lot of attention. Defenses will have to focus on stopping Blake Bortles and the young receiving core before loading the box and stopping the run. This will create more opening for Ivory and Yeldon to take advantage of.