One of the biggest critiques former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley ever received was that he was stubborn when it came to his defensive philosophy. He would often run the same scheme and coverages, try to fit square pegs into round holes in terms of position fits, and most importantly, never adapt and adjust to the offenses the team would play against.
While the leadership of the Jacksonville Jaguars isn’t anything like it was in the Bradley era, the coaching philosophies on the defensive side of the ball are drawing parallels to those dark days.
Todd Wash, the Jaguars defensive coordinator and disciple of Bradley and Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, is the problem with the Jaguars defense, a unit that has given up 63 points in the past two weeks, including 40 to the 25th ranked offense in the NFL in Dallas this past Sunday.
On paper, the Jaguars defense is star studded. On the injury report, the Jaguars defense is pretty healthy other than nickel cornerback D.J. hayden, who is dealing with a toe injury. On Pro Football Focus, the Jaguars defense is getting credited with 110 QB pressures through six games, tied for 10th most in the NFL.
However, despite an All-Pro caliber secondary, the Jaguars coverage scheming has been incredibly poor and bland, specifically over the past few weeks. They run a heavy mix of primarily Cover 3 and off-man coverage with sprinkles of “prevent” defense, which they have been doing since the Bradley era first began. While NFL offenses struggled against it last year in Jacksonville’s first season as a dominant defense, teams now know what to expect. They scheme around the openings and space that these coverages allow, which is preventing the defense from being able to create turnovers and record more sacks. And Todd Wash isn’t doing a thing about it.
Let’s dive into the film from the Cowboys game to get a better understanding.
We start off with a Cover 3 look. Three deep defensive backs splitting the field into thirds, with “inside” linebackers responsible for underneath routes and dump-offs, and the outside linebacker (Leon Jacobs) and nickel (Ronnie Harrison) taking the flats and outside receivers if they come back to the QB.
Middle linebacker Myles Jack drops way too deep and appears to alert free safety Tashaun Gipson of the slot WR running a seam, something Gipson was already aware and responsible of. Jack’s miscues lead to an easy dump-off to Ezekiel Elliott turns into a 10 yard gain. This is a prime example of how teams beat up Jacksonville’s Cover 3, attacking the underneath. As fans love to say, JAX struggles against pass-catching RBs. Well, this is part of that problem.
This play has been debated by media and fans alike as to who is responsible for slot WR Cole Beasley. A narrative has been built that the Jaguars are in off-man and FS Tashaun Gipson should have broke down and followed Beasley to the sideline.
Wrong. Even in off-man, Gipson is too far removed from the line of scrimmage to be in off-man, and A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey line up with outside leverage pre-snap: This is zone. With four defensive backs playing deep, it’s Cover 4, the most basic coverage in football: Prevent defense. The field is split into deep quarters for the DBs, and the LBs/nickel take on routes within about 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Beasley and Allen Hurns time their cuts to catch Ramsey and Gipson off guard, and Ramsey bites. He follows Hurns on a skinny post into Gipson’s zone and opens up the boundary for Beasley to bring this ball in with loads of separation. Ramsey knows it too, because he turns back as soon as he sees Gipson, as the ball leaves Dak Prescott’s hand: Too late. While Gipson points at himself after the play, it’s hard not to see that Ramsey is at fault here considering the makeup of how Cover 4 works.
In fairness to Ramsey, however, this secondary is not a “prevent” group of players. They carry an aggressive mantra. They feed off of matchup battles. They like playing man and getting in receivers faces, forcing receivers to beat them. This is not a Cover 4 group of players. They are so much better than a boring, conservative coverage that high schoolers are taught on day one of Summer Football Camp.
There really isn’t much to say about these two clips, other than simply asking “Why?”.
Why on Earth are defensive tackles dropping into coverage? On the first play, in the redzone, Wash sends two edge rushers and drops nine into coverage, including a pair of 290 and 331 lb DEFENSIVE TACKLES. Yes, the underneath is being covered by Malik Jackson and Marcell Dareus. There’s room for creativity in football, always. But this… this is too far.
While the rest of the clip isn’t shown (the emphasis was on Jackson/Dareus), the Jaguars were in off-man once again, and Cole Beasley beat Tyler Patmon for a touchdown, utilizing exactly what off-man gives you: Space.
On the second play, again Malik Jackson drops into coverage. He is tasked with getting off his block and following the tight end on an underneath route on a play action boot to his side. 10/10 times, unless Jackson or any defensive tackle pancakes his blocker before he releases from his block, the tight end will win this coverage matchup.
A taste of “off-man”. Bouye, Ramsey, and Jack are all taken out by the routes they defend and the middle of the field opens up. Cole Beasley runs a crosser, that Tashaun Gipson (starts on left hash) fails to break on, despite Beasley being his man (Patmon is playing back-side spy, likely watching for a Prescott scramble). If Gipson plays closer to the line of scrimmage, this play ends on a different note with no other receivers getting open. But off-man causes a ton of pre-snap separation that can be hard for even the best DBs to close.
Another off-man play, where Gipson is 10 yards removed from his responsibility pre-snap. Is he trying to disguise off-man as a 2-deep safety? Perhaps. Is that smart when you’re playing man coverage, especially with the nickel corner in front of you blitzing to force a quick release? No. Gipson comes down after Hurns breaks outside with about six yards of separation in between the two. If Patmon doesn’t knock this ball away, Hurns made the wide open catch.
There were plenty of short plays that added up throughout the game that exposed the Jaguars repetitive Cover 3/off-man coverages, but the above clips should give you a solid idea of what happened (as if the scoreboard wasn’t enough). Now, let’s look at the couple of plays that did work.
Tight man coverage. Not necessarily press, but playing close to the line and allowing the defensive backs to mirror footwork and slow a route down is what the Jaguars secondary does best. In this instance, it’s Ramsey vs. Hurns on a fade route, and Jalen Ramsey never loses on fade routes.
A Cover 1 look with cornerbacks playing tight man and a deep safety. While this play ended in a 10 yard scramble, receivers were shut down across the board and an Abry Jones pressure forced Prescott to bail. If we saw these looks all game, Prescott may not have found a rhythm in the pass game and things could have been much different. The coverage looks great, and with that, the pass rush looks great too.
However, we didn’t see many of these tight man, Cover 1 looks on Sunday, and we don’t see Todd Wash call it much in general. Which doesn’t make sense considering the elite skill-sets that his personnel provides. The secondary is athletic and physical enough to play more tight man, which can allow for more blitzing by the pass rush. But when spacing is consistently allowed by poor coverage calls, QBs will release the ball before the pass rush can make a mark, and there isn’t much the DBs can do about it.
Until Todd Wash starts to adjust to the strengths his defense provides, offenses will continue to carve up the Jaguars via the space in his consistent coverage calls. Opposing offenses study this defense and know what Wash likes to run, and target the space that keeps getting put on film.
No matter how talented this Jaguars defense is, they can only do so much behind repetitive, low-variance play-calling. We saw it in the Bradley era, where there was a clear mold that the staff tried to force players into. Right now, Todd Wash is doing much of the same with his defense, and it’s holding a truly elite group of players back from the domination they’re used to bringing out on Sundays.
Life after former Jaguars superstar cornerback Jalen Ramsey
The trade many expected to happen, did happen, and possibly sooner than anticipated. Now, with Jalen Ramsey off of the team, what’s next for the Jaguars in 2019 and beyond?
All good things must come to an end. At least that is what the majority of Jaguars fans will tell themselves after the team shipped off one of their most prized possessions on a late Tuesday evening.
The Jacksonville Jaguars (2-4) traded Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams (3-3) yesterday for a significant haul. Compensation the Jaguars were ultimately pining for from the very beginning. After reportedly turning down numerous deals for the star cornerback, the team finally gave in after Ramsey was declared a no-go this past Sunday following a meeting with Jaguars owner Shad Kahn. Khan told ‘The Street’, he expected the All-Pro cornerback to suit up against the Saints.
Ramsey had already missed the previous two weeks due to a back injury, which the star cornerback spoke about on Nate Burleson’s 17 Weeks podcast. Ramsey had not practiced with the team until last week and was seen during the portion of practice open to the media as simply going through the motions in individual drills.
If the Jaguars were going to trade Ramsey, it was always going to be for a steep price. The Jaguars had no intention of sending Ramsey off for — frankly — disrespectful offers or compensation. The team held tight until Tuesday when the Los Angeles Rams offered compensation the team simply could not refuse.
Earlier in the day, the Rams traded up-and-down cornerback Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens (4-2) for a 2020 fifth-round pick and linebacker Kenny Young. This sparked speculation of Ramsey eventually being the next cornerback to be traded, and at 7:43 P.M. it was reported by multiple outlets that Ramsey would indeed be traded to the Los Angeles Rams.
Ramsey had always been an outspoken, potentially problematic football player during his time in the NFL, however, after a conflict between himself and head coach Doug Marrone, combined with a reported conflict between himself and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin, the dam was finally broken.
After three years at performing as arguably a top-three defensive player in the NFL, the relationship was completely severed. This would be the end of a consistent toxic-relationship between Ramsey and the Jaguars, which is well documented here by ESPN’s Michael DiRocco.
Life After Jalen Ramsey
So where do the Jaguars go from here?
After acquiring two first-round picks — one in each of the next two drafts — and a 2021 fourth-round pick, the Jaguars have plenty of ammunition to supplant their already talented roster with an influx of young, and talented players over the next two seasons.
The core of the Jaguars roster stems from young (25 years or younger), talented players at nearly all levels of football both offensively and defensively. Although the team is currently sitting at 2-4, there is plenty to be optimistic about moving forward.
Starting with defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue (24 years old) and Josh Allen (21), the Jaguars have a couple of core pieces on the defensive side of the ball which could potentially make up for the loss of a star cornerback. Although there is no replacing a generational talent such as Ramsey, having pass rushers that will impact the quarterback will always take precedence.
Jaguars’ wide receivers DJ Chark Jr. (23) and Dede Westbrook (25), along with running back Leonard Fournette (24), and linebacker Myles Jack (24) have already shown how talented they are or could be in the very near future. These players represent the potential “star” level core players of the team as it stands right now.
Players such as offensive tackles Cam Robinson (24) and Jawaan Taylor (21), defensive end Dawuane Smoot (24), safety Ronnie Harrison (22), and potentially right guard Will Richardson (23) all-round out a young group of players who will impact the team’s decision making over the next couple of years at least. While these players have not performed at the level the aforementioned group has, they have the potential to become something special in Jacksonville.
There are also several young, and talented players such as linebacker Quincy Williams (23), and the remainder of the Jaguars past couple of draft classes who have not proven themselves on the field, but have the potential to do so in the next couple of years.
More recently, sixth-round quarterback Garnder Minshew has proven to — at the very least — be a capable replacement-level starter for the team over the course of the season while veteran quarterback Nick Foles recovers from a broken collarbone. It remains to be seen whether or not Minshew will evolve into the team’s franchise quarterback, but his play — during the first five games of the season — illustrates the potential.
The Jaguars have posted a 1-2 record without Ramsey, and while he absolutely would help the team right now, and moving forward, the team’s issues have not been only due to his absence. There is no point of playing revisionist history right now, Ramsey was probably the team’s best player, period. But, the team’s issues are certainly not simply in the secondary.
The Jaguars lost to the Saints last week 6-13 after a complete offensive failure due to the Saints’ ferocious defensive gameplan. They lost to the Panthers a week prior due much more to the Jaguars’ defensive front seven players than secondary after Chrisitan McCaffrey ran for 185 yards.
Replacing Ramsey at the moment is second-year cornerback Tre Herndon. According to Pro Football Focus, Herndon has allowed 15 receptions for 232 yards and two touchdowns. However, in the last two games, the young corner has allowed only six receptions for 72 yards and zero touchdowns.
The Jaguars’ season has not ended simply because Ramsey is no longer on the team. There is still hope for a great finish — especially with their talent on both sides of the ball –, and it will start this Sunday when the Jaguars travel to Cincinnati to face the 0-6 Bengals.
Bright Future Ahead
Along with the players mentioned above, the Jaguars now have enough ammunition to make waves during the next two draft classes. Although they have plenty of pieces to move forward, there are still voids on the team which need to be filled — soon.
There is no need to take a deep dive into the next NFL draft, however considering the compensation the Jaguars were awarded by trading Ramsey, there is enough reason to at least take a peak.
With the Rams currently sitting at a 3-3 record, their first-round pick from this season would be around 16th overall. This is due to change, but with their struggles on offense, and a tough schedule, it should bode well for the home team.
During the next draft, the Jaguars will almost assuredly take a look at the cornerback position, one name which will stand out is Florida star cornerback C.J. Henderson. Henderson is thought of by most draft pundits to be a top-five cornerback in this class.
While no one can reasonably replace Ramsey — especially not right away –, having star power at all levels of the defense is still a priority.
Draft flexibility is a must in today’s NFL, and the more darts you have to shoot at the board, the better. The Jaguars will enter the next two seasons with 18 total draft selections (nine in each year), which includes two first-round picks in 2020, two in 2021 and extra picks along the way in the later rounds.
Considering the Jaguars’ situation at quarterback, the team has done a fantastic job of balancing their movement in the draft with the movement of the team. By 2021, the Jaguars will know whether or not Minshew is the answer, and will have a reasonable opportunity to move on from a would-be 32-year-old quarterback in Foles.
With two first-round picks in 2021, the Jaguars can maneuver their way up the draft to select a quarterback if need be.
While the immediate future may look grim, ultimately, trading Ramsey could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. The Jaguars will almost assuredly find out over the next several weeks as their season is on the line heading into their week nine bye.
REPORT: Jaguars trade CB Jalen Ramsey to Los Angeles Rams
After weeks of speculation and intrigue, the Jaguars have finally solved the long-standing feud with cornerback Jalen Ramsey
The Jaguars have officially traded cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams. The compensation? Two first-round picks (2020,2021) and a fourth-round pick (2021). After a tumultuous few weeks, the long-awaited trade has finally happened.
Many speculated the Jaguars may hold onto the star cornerback beyond this season to maximize their potential compensation, but it only took one desperate team willing to part away with what the Jaguars felt he was worth to ultimately get the deal done.
The Jaguars cornerback had not participated with the team in several weeks due to an on-going back injury. Ramsey became malcontent following a reported dispute between himself and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin after the Jaguars played the Houston Texans in week two.
After the reported discussion, Ramsey requested a trade via his agent and would go on to play one more game for the Jaguars.
“Some disrespectful things were said on their (Jacksonville Jaguars) end that made me definitely walk out and call my agent. As soon as I walked out,” Ramsey said on the 17 weeks podcast shortly before the team’s week three matchup against the Tennessee Titans. “I told him, ‘its time. my time is up here in Jacksonville.’ I said, ‘I wanna ask for a trade’.” The Pro Bowl corner says he was truly at peace when he made the decision. “I was completely calm.”
Now, a little over a month later, the Jaguars have made good on his request and have ended their toxic relationship with the star cornerback by sending him to Los Angeles.
Drafted fifth overall in 2016, Ramsey accounted for 182 total tackles, 45 passes defended and nine interceptions. Ramsey joins former 2014 and 2015 first-round picks Blake Bortles and Dante Fowler Jr., in LA.
The Jaguars have long-wanted at least two first-round picks for the star corner, and get their wish. Ramsey met with Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan last week and had a “heart-to-heart” which ended with Khan believing the All-Pro player would be suiting up last weekend.
The Jaguars later confirmed the trade and now have 18 picks, including four first-round selections, over the next two drafts. The Jaguars will now have plenty of ammo to surround their extremely talented young core of players in Jawan Taylor, Ronnie Harrison, Myles Jack, Yannick Ngakoue, Josh Allen, DJ Chark Jr., and potentially quarterback Gardner Minshew moving forward.
In the meantime, the Jaguars will likely continue with second-year cornerback Tre Herndon as they have for the past three weeks. Herndon has had an up-and-down three starts with the Jaguars, however, he has shown potential to — at the very least — be a capable starter opposite of A.J. Bouye.
The Jaguars now have 18 picks, including four first-round selections, over the next two drafts.
— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) October 16, 2019
Jacksonville Jaguars: Three crucial adjustments needed before bye week
An up-and-down start to the season for the Jaguars seems to be on a downward slope as Jacksonville loses another tough matchup for after struggling offensively in Sunday’s game against the Saints.
Following that loss, the Jaguars continue to be sucked into the abyss that is being below .500 at this point in the season.
With a 2-4 record, many believe that it is just the beginning of another disappointing season that will cause turmoil within the supporters of the team and players.
That is far from the case according to defensive end Calais Campbell. In a post-game interview following the Jaguars fourth loss of the season Campbell says “You’ll be foolish to doubt the heart of this team, this team has a lot of heart. We’re gonna keep it together…and we’re gonna find a way to be a really good team this year.”
A promising statement from a leader of the Jaguars. But — as the saying goes –, actions speak louder than words.
The Jaguars will start a stretch of games that are rather favorable for them to get back on track going into the bye week and could put them in a position to make a late-season playoff run.
As the Jaguars gear up to take on the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, and Houston Texans over the next three weeks, there are three essential adjustments to make in each of those games to go into the bye week with a winning record.
Three crucial adjustments for the Jaguars to make before the bye week:
1.) Limit penalties
With only two penalties accepted in week six, the Jaguars must continue to limit unnecessary penalties that shoot themselves in the foot. As we have learned thus far in the season, the Jaguars are not a good enough team to overcome an abundance of penalties.
With questions surrounding multiple parts of the team —including the linebacker and offensive line positions— the Jaguars do not have the luxury that some teams around the NFL do to overcome penalties with talent.
To this point, the Jaguars rank in the bottom half of the league with nearly 63 penalty yards averaged per game. With football being a game of inches, it is essential to execute cleanly to be successful in the NFL.
In the fourth quarter against the Saints, we saw a first-down run of 14 yards by Leonard Fournette subsequently negated due to a hold that backed the Jaguars up eight yards into a 1st and 18 on the Jaguars 44 instead of a first down in plus territory.
Just three plays later, Jacksonville was stopped on fourth-and-short and set up the Saints with the opportunity to close out the game.
The inability to get out of their own way all season has created an inability to win in close games. If the Jaguars can somehow find a way to limit the number of penalty flags thrown, they have a much better chance to “win games now” as Myles Jack would say.
2.) Find consistency on the offensive line.
The Jaguars have struggled all year on the offensive line. The plugging and playing of multiple different players and the continuous rotation at the guard right guard position have resulted in lackluster develop for the group.
They have been unable to establish a consistent push and protection and it has ultimately resulted in tallies in the loss column.
While every game has not been 100% on the offensive line, the struggling front five have not done much to ensure victory for the Jaguars.
The lack of holes being opened in the run game paired with the collapsing of the pocket when their quarterback drops back to pass will plague any team’s ability to win games.
For most of the year, the Jaguars have been able to hide the fact that their offensive line is subpar — for the most part — due to Gardner Minshew’s uncanny ability to escape the pocket and make plays on the run.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) September 29, 2019
But, in week six against the Saints, the offensive line was exposed for the weakness that it really is. The Saints brought pressure on Minshew but confined him to the pocket and didn’t allow him to make the plays he had been making throughout the majority of the young season.
A formula that many teams will begin to use as the season goes on. A containment pass rush to keep the star rookie quarterback in the pocket is going to be the trend as the well-oiled machine that had been running for the Jaguars throughout the first few weeks was shut down by Cam Jordan and company.
This new way to limit Minshew’s playmaking ability will be a call to action for the lackluster offensive line. One of the only teams in the league that continuously rotates players at the right guard position, with Will Richardson and A.J. Cann, will need to solidify that spot in order to gain chemistry within the offensive line.
Regardless of who is put in that spot permanently, there is very little chance it results in worse production that is currently being put out.
3.) Have the offense and defense show up in the same game.
Both sides of the ball have failed to show up for the Jaguars in five out of their first six games of the season. The number of times one side of the ball has shown up, but not the other, this season is problematic.
So far this season, the Jaguars have been unable for the offense and defense to put together consecutive games of competent play at the same time.
In weeks two, three, and six, the Jaguars’ defense decided it was their time to play. Allowing a maximum of thirteen points in those games. They went 1-2 over that stretch.
On the other hand, in weeks one, three, four, and five, the Jaguars’ offense showed up and produced yardage in a big way. They were able to go 2-2 in those games.
The team is on the cusp of winning close matchups, three of their four losses have come by seven points or less. If the Jaguars can figure out how to get both sides of the ball to play effectively down the stretch of the season at the same time, they can definitely find a way to come out victorious.
Jacksonville looks to take on the rest of the season with an iron fist. They have the ability to control their own destiny but it will be up to them whether they want to squander the opportunity at hand, or seize the moment and take the rest of the NFL by surprise.
Climbing the ladder to a playoff appearance will be no easy feat, especially as a 2-4 team. But if Jacksonville is able to execute to the best of its abilities and make the three crucial adjustments needed for success, the weak AFC conference could feature a Jaguars team within its playoff.
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