The first NFL Sunday was a dud. The most exciting game might have been the Steelers at Browns. There was lots of bad play, highlighted by the Bengals and Giants offenses, and the entire Colts team. However, there were some positive surprises, none more so than the Jaguars’ total beatdown of the Texans in Houston. It was a completely one-sided game that no one saw coming.
It’s best not to overreact to Week 1 results, but when an entire unit plays to its capabilities, you have to take notice. The Jaguars, under new head coach Doug Marrone and “head coach” executive vice president Tom Coughlin, want to win games by running the ball, avoiding mistakes and a dominating defense. The last part, the defense, was on full display Sunday.
The Jaguars have put an enormous amount of equity into their defense. Since 2015, they’ve drafted Dante Fowler and Jalen Ramsey in the first round and Myles Jack in the second round. They added high-priced free agents like Malik Jackson, Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye, Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church. The defense has the potential to be excellent.
However, that defense, with some of these same players, didn’t play excellently in 2016 and didn’t play all that well in the preseason.
This might be a good time to remind everyone that the preseason is often not an indication of the regular season. The speed, tempo, and level of give a shit in the preseason is nowhere near that of the first few weeks of the regular season. When I was a rookie, my offensive line coach told us young cats about the different speeds of the season. The tempo of play picks up significantly at each step.
There’s preseason, the first few weeks of the year when everyone is jacked up, the middle of the year when guys get into a good work flow, the playoff push, the playoffs, and the Super Bowl.
Back to Jacksonville against the Texans. Its defense dominated the Texans, sacking Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson a combined 10 times.
It was a clinic of individual pass rush moves, hustle plays, poor quarterback pocket awareness and great coverage.
Great coverage and individual pass rush
Here is the first of Campbell’s 3 1/2 sacks in the first half. There is nowhere to throw, but the Jags’ defensive line wins up front. The right tackle is setting straight back against a 300-pound defensive tackle and has no chance at all when Calais decides to bull rush him, which is very predictable with Campbell’s alignment and the three-step drop by Savage. Offensive linemen must know where the quarterback is dropping to and set your depth on the set accordingly.
Great coverage, hustle and terrible pocket awareness by the statue, Savage
I know it’s third-and-long, but with no one open, Savage needs to know where his checkdown is located. His checkdown is actually open and the protection is decent.
Great coverage, bad pocket awareness
Again, no one is open. The Texans block up this end/tackle stunt well. The defensive end is trying to pick the left guard here, which would allow the defensive tackle to run free on the twist. However, the left tackle does a good job of stopping penetration. The left guard gets slightly picked by that block. Savage must step up, climb the pocket and run the ball.
Ngakoue’s hip swivel on the pass rush
Terrible pass set by the left tackle. No punch, feet stop moving, leaning at the waist. Excellent pass rush by Yannick Ngakoue. He knows it’s one-on-one here with the back to his side and the pressure coming from the right. Defensive linemen work constantly on turning their hips quickly and this is why.
Ngakoue looks like he’s going to run directly into the left tackle, but look at the hands combined with the hip swivel to avoid contact. Jared Allen was so good at this. Make it look like a bull rush coming at you, chop your hands and avoid around.
The Calais Campbell special
This is his go-to move with his long-ass arms. Swim move. If a pass rusher gets his hand on the back of your shoulder, you’re done. That’s one reason we are taught to punch with our head and shoulders back. That’s how Campbell starts this move and finishes with a swim.
Strip sack by Ngakoue
This is hard to watch as a former offensive lineman. The very next play, Ngakoue gets a sack because the left tackle just loses his technique. Same move by Ngakoue. Looks like he’s going to bull, the left tackle leans to stop that, boom, strip sack.
The vertical set
Houston almost went an entire quarter without allowing a sack. This is just a terrible pass set.
I dislike a vertical set because tackles often end up doing this. They kick so vertical and start to slow move that post foot (the back one) behind themselves by opening up that hip. Then, at the point of contact, you have zero power. When a guy is in a wide 9, I get the need to use vertical set, but you can vertical set and then wait for him instead of continuing to kick.
Young offensive tackles can often make this mistake. It’s a zone pressure from the right. The defensive end drops, and the three-technique defensive tackle is looping out for contain. Not every team loops the three-technique all the way out for contain; some of them allow the three-technique to do this. If they have a chance to go inside for a sack/pressure, take the lane.
All the left tackle had to do is set a tad more inside and allow the three-technique to rush himself wide. Instead, he either wasn’t aware of what was happening or was lazy not getting back inside.
“Do something about it”
I’m not happy when I have to write negatively about offensive linemen. We are a brotherhood. Instead, I’ll use an offensive line coach’s quote that he said in our room on a similar play. He said it in a hushed tone and it was the most devastating line I’ve heard a coach say to a player in our room. “Everyone in the building will remember this play unless you do something about it.”
For good measure, a sack to end the game.
The Jaguars’ defense dominated this game on Sunday. Credit the defensive line, but NO ONE was open for the Texans. Excellent all-around effort by the entire unit and this is something Jaguars fans can be excited for.