Sunday, December 22, 2013
Jaguars' thin defense wears down
By Michael DiRocco
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars were already banged up on defense before Sunday's meeting with the Tennessee Titans.
It got even worse during the game.
The Jaguars ended up being down five starters and it really showed up in the run defense. Tennessee ran for 182 yards and rallied from a 10-point deficit to down Jacksonville 20-16 at EverBank Field. It was the Jaguars’ third-worst performance of the season behind the 226 they allowed to Oakland in Week 2 and the 198 they allowed last week to Buffalo.
"We had some things we had to clean up, some things maybe that we counted on in the past due to some new personnel in there," coach Gus Bradley said. "We just had to tighten it up a little bit and it was hit and miss. There were some inconsistencies."
That’s to be expected with that many players playing different roles. The Jaguars didn’t have outside linebackers Russell Allen (concussion) and Geno Smith (knee) and defensive tackle Roy Miller (shoulder). That meant rookie John Lotulelei and third-year player J.T. Thomas -- mainly special teams players -- had to start at linebacker.
Brandon Deaderick, who had been inactive for the last two games, started for Miller. By the second half, Deaderick was out with an elbow injury and Jordan Miller, who was just activated from the practice squad this week, was getting snaps.
Cornerback Dwayne Gratz had to leave the game with an ankle injury but the Jaguars are much better equipped to handle an injury in the secondary than in the front seven.
The lack of depth really showed in the second half. The Titans ran for 68 yards in the first half but ran for 58 on their second drive in the third quarter. They had 114 yards rushing in the second half. The Jaguars were especially hurt up the middle, which was a byproduct of a worn-down defensive front that had just three healthy defensive tackles: Miller, Deaderick and Sen'Derrick Marks.
"We had some new guys step in but those guys, they’ve been here and they’ve practiced with us so it’s no blame on them for giving up plays," defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks said. "We gave up some plays and we weren’t as sound as we usually have been. Our thing is if a guy goes down we’ve got to have another guy to step in and make sure them we surround them and make sure he does what he’s supposed to do."
The Titans put together two long drives in the third quarter that lasted 11 and nine plays and resulted in touchdowns. The Titans ran the ball on 14 of those 20 plays, including quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 3-yard scramble on fourth-and-2.
By the time that second drive ended, the Titans had a 20-16 lead just 35 seconds into the fourth quarter. You could see the Jaguars’ defensive players were gassed.
"It always takes something out of you but it’s what we do," Marks said. "You’re supposed to be in shape. You’re a professional football player. We’ve just got to go out and get the stop and try to get off the field."
The Jaguars did that in the first meeting with the Titans. They held Tennessee to 83 yards rushing, including 30 yards by Chris Johnson. He had 90 and Shonn Green had 91 on Sunday.
Bradley understands the limitations he has with his roster, but even so he’s expecting more from the reserves when they do get on the field.
"Even though they got limited reps [in practice] when their number is called upon they have to perform," Bradley said. "I sure we will see some good things that they did on tape. It’s just the consistency. That’s what you have to battle through sometimes."