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Jaguars’ creative pass rush will be big test for the Eagles

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How the Jaguars’ like to attack on money downs...

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles face a unique challenge in their match-up with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Beyond the body clock issues of playing in London, they’ll also have to deal with a pass rush that, at it’s peak, can be an absolute wood-chipper. The Jaguars have struggled to get home recently, but the Eagles will need to be prepared for a creative pass rush.

During the Jaguars’ three game losing streak, the defense has given up an average of 30 points. Part of this is due to the offense putting them in bad situations. In the last three games, 8 of their 17 conceded scoring drives starts at their opponents 40-yard line or worse. For example, in Week 6 against the Dallas Cowboys, they forced a field goal on a drive that started on their own 8-yard line after a Blake Bortles interception. They had their collapses too against Dallas, but not all scores are created equal.

This doesn’t absolve the defense entirely, but it is important context to note that their defense averages the 3rd worst starting position in the league. Overall, they still rank 9th for points allowed per game despite their rough stretch, highlighting just how dominant they can be when they’re firing on all cylinders.

One way they can find their groove against the Eagles’ offense is getting pressure that they convert into sacks. The Eagles have allowed the 7th most sacks this season (22), while the Jaguars have only registered 15 sacks. This is despite them registering over 30% pressure in 6 of 7 games and being on a four-game streak where they’ve tallied a pressure on over 40% of opposing dropbacks. Stop me if this sounds familiar.

Over half of their sacks have come on money downs, and as such, I charted every 3rd and 4th down pass rush they’ve had this season to see how they deploy their money down defense.

SENDING EXTRA...

The Jaguars send a blitz on 28% of money down passing situations. When they do, they’ve notched 4 sacks and are allowing a 43% success rate, which is higher than league average in both regards.

One of the strategies the Jaguars will utilize is overloading one side, especially to the ball-hand side of the quarterback. I wrote about this method regarding how Jim Schwartz would attempt to attack/contain Cam Newton as a scrambler based on charting Newton’s typical escape route.

In this case, Dak Prescott is able to step up away from the clean pressure of safety Tashaun Gipson. Calais Campbell quickly cleans this up after entering a quasi-spy role once he does his job of occupying the center-guard slide. The Eagles have had issues not allowing clean blitzers coming from off the line and will have to be cognizant against this overload. They’ll also have to be aware that the Jaguars will send all three of their safeties (Gipson, Barry Church, and Ronnie Harrison comprise their big nickel) on various packages.

MUGGING THE A...

The Jaguars’ have put at least one linebacker in the A-gap 27% of the time and double mug 8%. The double mug concept is largely credited to late, great Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. The idea is to confusing the offensive line and create individual match-ups that the defense finds favorable when isolated. The downside is the middle of the field is vulnerable, even if they drop into coverage, because they’re going to be inherently late to their spots.

On this play, the Jaguars bring the house.

I highlight this play not because it worked for the Jaguars, but because there will be times where the Eagles are going to have to block up a similar look and win in a similar fashion. Against this look, the Eagles will have to leave in extra protection, and this is the type of play Alshon Jeffery will have to make on the outside against Jalen Ramsey.

NUT TWISTS...

It’s no secret that the Eagles have struggled mightily, dating back to last year and probably further, with defensive line “games”.

This is bad news for the Eagles, because the Jaguars run stunts at a 48% clip. They bring it it left, right, inside and on both sides, they bring it with blitzes and without blitzing, they’ll do it from an overload and traditional alignment, and they’ll throw in cross-fires from their linebackers for extra confusing blitz pick-ups. The variety in which they deploy these games shows just how much they believe in this concept.

The most effective manner in which the Jaguars’ run these games comes without the blitz. They do this 36% of the time and are allowing a stifling 20% success rate. They utilized it for a sack on a 3rd & 12 against the New York Jets in Week 3.

I’ve gone back and forth on what to call this.. the action between the defensive tackles would be called a “NUT Twist”, which is to great of a term to not reference. It also attacks the center, which is the purpose of a NUT.

“We try to identify in film study where the center will turn in the protection so that we can attack with the nose tackle crossing his face. The nose tackle is our penetrator and will attempt to “break the nose” of the center. This means we want him to run as tight across the face of the center as possible. If the face mask was not there, he would break his nose.” - Ben McKaig, Defensive Line Coach, Utica College

The alignment makes the angle more like a “TEX Stunt” (tackle-end exchange). This is due to having 1-tech Calais Campbell to the left of the center and defensive tackle Malik Jackson and defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. lined up outside of the right tackle. But a rose by any other name still got a sack.

Campbell acts as the smasher/penetrator, taking the center and guard with him. With the other side of the line widening to combat the rush of Yannick Ngakoue, there’s a clear runway for Jackson to attack.

Since Carson Wentz has returned to the line-up, the Eagles offensive line have given up 17 sacks at an 8% rate. That has to improve. It’s also important to protect Wentz so he doesn’t get murdered, as seen below.

The Jaguars pass rush will throw a lot of complex looks and designs at the Eagles; so whether or not it will improve relies heavily on the offensive line’s ability to provide Wentz with time on third down. If they can’t, it’s going to be a long day for an offense that has shown a propensity for shooting themselves in the foot.