Quite under the radar, the Jacksonville Jaguars have assembled a 8-3 record, and they’re currently the AFC’s three-seed, behind the Baltimore Ravens and the Kansas City Chiefs. The prime mover for this improvement for a team that finished 9-8 last season, snuck into the playoffs, and lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round, is a defense that currently ranks fifth in the NFL in DVOA — eighth against the pass, and first against the run.
And the prime mover in that defense is clearly EDGE Josh Allen — the Josh Allen who’s having the better season of the NFL’s two Josh Allen’s. The 2019 seventh-overall pick out of Kentucky has the league’s fifth-most pressures among edge-rushers, and his 13 sacks ranks third.
Against the Houston Texans last Sunday in a 24-21 win, that defense and Allen in particular made rookie phenom C.J. Stroud as uncomfortable in and out of the pocket as he’s been in his professional career. Per Pro Football Focus, Stroud was pressured on 28 of his 46 dropbacks, and that’s exactly what it looked like on tape.
“They really didn’t do too much,” Stroud said after the game of Jacksonville’s pressure looks. “They sent some pressure, but not as much as they did early on [in Week 3, when the Texans beat the Jaguars, 37-17]. They got us a couple of times in some weird fronts with some pressure looks. I’ve got to be better with throwing the ball high and things like that, but they really didn’t do much different. They’re a sound team. They’re up front. Josh Allen and [fellow EDGE Travon] Walker set the tone.”
Allen’s two sacks in this game showed how defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell and defensive line coach Brentson Buckner are dialing things up in subtle ways to affect and upset opposing quarterbacks.
The first sack came with 3:14 left in the first quarter. Linebackers Foyesade Oluokun and Devin Lloyd mugged left guard Juice Scruggs. This made it a six-man pressure look with Olokun dropping and Lloyd occupying left tackle Laremy Tunsil, while Allen came off the left edge unblocked — not a great idea. At the same time, safety Tre Herndon blitzed from the other side on a delay from slot depth.
Allen’s second sack came with 2:24 left in the fourth quarter. Here, Allen was to Tunsil’s outside shoulder, and defensive tackle Angelo Blackson was to Scruggs’ outside shoulder. Blackson occupied Scruggs, and then Allen just made a great play, slipping through Tunsil and Scruggs and chasing Stroud down. This is a defense that can get after your quarterback in multiple ways.
In this week’s “Xs and Os with Greg Cosell and Doug Farrar,” the guys go deep on this Jacksonville defense, the secret stars that make it work, and how this can set the Jaguars up for success as the season continues.
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