So for this week’s amateur adventure film I took a look at the self-appointed Sacksonville Jaguars defensive line going up against the Seattle Seahawks in Jacksonville.
There is always an interaction between a defence’s pass rush and their ability to cover, and it has to be said that there were not a huge number of plays where the defensive line got straight through the Seahawk’s offensive line. Considering the reputation of both units this is a little surprising, but clearly the offensive line has improved over the season and with the addition of Duane Brown. However, the Seahawks also worked round the defensive line with screen plays, outside runs as well as relying on the manoeuvrability of Russell Wilson to escape pressure and make plays. That Wilson very much did, although whilst the Seahawks were only recorded as giving up two sacks, they gave up another pair of sacks that were negated by penalties against Dante Fowler for illegal use of hands.
So before people begin to wonder where all the focus on the Jaguars has got to, let’s get on with looking at their defensive line. Going back to my comment on the interaction between coverage and pass rush, part of what makes the defensive unit of the Jaguars successful is that they can get enough pressure whilst regularly only rushing their four linemen. On the majority of the defensive snaps the defensive line are the only ones rushing the passer and this allows them not to take risks in coverage. Now this is not to say that this is a static group of players as they lined up with a number of different alignments to stress pass protection and there was also an impressive rotation of players with several catching the eye.
The obvious place to start is with Calais Campbell who friend of the pod Nick Ferguson suggested to Dan this week was one of the top five defensive players of the season. Campbell lined up at both end and inside at tackle and was consistently able to cause disruption even if he did not get any sacks in this game.
Another of the line players who leapt out to me was Yannick Ngakoue who played mainly at end, but on several snaps was stood up as part of moving front and who rushed the passer like a blitzing linebacker although on one play he dropped into coverage from defensive end. He may have only got one tackle but he should have had two sacks if one of them had not been cancelled out by one of the previously mentioned Dante Fowler penalties.
The final single player I wanted list was Malik Jackson who was the other player to get a sack that stood as he got Russel Wilson on what turned out to be the Seahawks’ final drive. This was the third consecutive play on which right guard Ethan Pocic gave up pressure and was really the only time that the Seahawks line looked as bad as has been discussed throughout the season but it was a good inside move that Jackson used to get pressure for a second consecutive play that resulted in a sack. This did not surprise me as he had got penetration throughout the game.
I think it is likely to be hard to separate the pass rush from coverage for most good defences unless the pass rush is incredibly quick to the quarterback, but it is clear to me that the Jacksonville Jaguars are number one in pass defence by DVOA for a reason, and whilst their secondary clearly plays a part, this line is not one to be taken likely and their ability to rush four and still get pressure makes a huge contribution to the collective whole.