JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars had a lot of issues to address on Monday when coach Gus Bradley brought the team together for what he called a State of the Union message.
One of the biggest was missed tackles.
The Jaguars have missed a lot, especially in the past two games, and it’s one of the reasons they’re last in the NFL in rush defense and scoring.
"We’re missing far too many tackles, and it’s leading to explosive plays," Bradley said.
Defensive coordinator Bob Babich said tackling was emphasized on Monday and Wednesday and he has seen an improvement in practice. The problem is a lack of fundamentals, not only in terms of wrapping up -- which seems to be a problem throughout the NFL -- but taking proper angles and good positioning.
The Jaguars’ tackling woes were most visible against San Francisco on Oct. 27 when they missed 12, including three on Kendall Hunters' 41-yard run. Safety Josh Evans whiffed, safety Johnathan Cyprien didn’t wrap up, and cornerback Alan Ball went along for a ride. Had Evans been able the make the tackle, Hunter would have only had 11 yards.
Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks said the defensive front isn’t doing a good job of staying in assigned gaps, which leads to longer runs where the running backs get into the open field and are able to make a move to juke potential tacklers.
"We went in and saw that we need everybody to be accountable," Marks said. "That’s our main thing, because we’ll play games and there’s only three runs that get out on us for 30, 40, 50 yards. We take those runs away where we make contact at 8 yards, 9 yards then the rushing yards average will go down.
"We’ve got to be accountable and make tackles. That has been our biggest thing. Tackling hasn’t been emphasized as much as it should. We’ve been doing that a lot this week. Guys making sure we are where we’re supposed to be and we make tackles."
That’s especially important against the Titans and Chris Johnson on Sunday. He’s one of the most dangerous backs in the NFL. With his speed and elusiveness, he needs only a small crease to break a big run -- and he’s done that a lot. He has six touchdown runs of 80 or more yards, the most in NFL history. No other player has more than three.
Johnson also has 11 career rushing touchdowns of 50 or more yards, and three career touchdown receptions of 50 or more yards.
He had been pretty quiet this season until last Sunday’s game against St. Louis, when he ran for a season-high 150 yards and two touchdowns. The Jaguars are giving up a league-worst 161.8 yards per game rushing. That’s two reasons the Jaguars can’t afford to miss tackles at LP Field.
"We put a big emphasis on it the first two practices of this week and it seems to have gotten a lot better, but we’ll see Sunday," Babich said. "It’s a problem. It was a concern and we addressed it. We need to get it right, period."