Jacksonville Jaguars: 2013 Week 3 JAC at SEA

Changes may come in Jaguars' run game

September, 23, 2013
SEATTLE -- Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said his team has to find out what it does well offensively and concentrate on that in order to improve.

Right now, it’s not much.

It’s understandable that the passing game is struggling considering two of the top playmakers -- tight end Marcedes Lewis and receiver Justin Blackmon -- have yet to play this season. But the fact the running game struggling is surprising.

[+] EnlargeMaurice Jones-Drew
Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesMaurice Jones-Drew and the Jaguars' running game have struggled to get going.
The Jaguars are averaging just 2.4 yards per carry and have rushed for only 156 yards in three games. Maurice Jones-Drew, the NFL’s leading rusher in 2011 (1,606 yards), has 115 yards on 44 carries.

Part of that is because the team has fallen behind and has had to pretty much abandon the run to try and catch up. But it’s also because of the struggles of the interior of the offensive line. Guards Uche Nwaneri and Will Rackley and center Brad Meester have not gotten the push they did two years ago.

The solution, Bradley said after Sunday’s 45-17 loss at Seattle, might be to change the way the team blocks. Instead of the zone-blocking scheme installed this year by offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and offensive-line coach George Yarno, the Jaguars could switch to a man-blocking scheme.

"We saw some gap schemes open up that we executed [against Seattle]," Bradley said. "But again, we have to go back and find out who we are. Are we a better gap team than a zone team right now? It doesn’t matter where we want to go. It’s what best fits the personnel we have at this stage."

A zone-blocking scheme requires that offensive linemen create movement along the defensive line rather than opening a specific hole. In a man-blocking scheme, players are assigned certain defenders according to the play called and defensive adjustments, and the running back is assigned to hit a particular gap.

The Jaguars are apparently having trouble adjusting – and not just along the offensive line.

"Obviously we want to be a zone team and that’s new for everybody," Jones-Drew said. "The first week I didn’t do well with it and they were doing a very good job. So we just have to keep working on it. We’ll figure it out."

The ground game has been hampered by knee injuries to Rackley and Nwaneri. Jones-Drew left last week’s game with an ankle injury and was questionable for the Seahawks game. He tested the ankle in pregame warm-ups and was cleared. He ended up with 43 yards on 19 carries. His longest run was 8 yards.

Bradley didn’t say the Jaguars were definitely going to scrap the zone-blocking scheme they have worked on since minicamps and OTAs in the spring. But it’s something he will examine, because the offense has to improve, and that starts with the running game.

Jones-Drew is the team’s best player and he’s averaging just 2.6 yards per carry. That’s resulting in a lot of third-and-long situations, which is allowing opposing defenses to tee off in the pass rush. And since teams are rolling coverage toward wide receiver Cecil Shorts, the quarterbacks are trying to make plays by throwing to rookie Ace Sanders, first-year player Jeremy Ebert and a group of tight ends that includes two waiver-wire pickups (Clay Harbor and D.J. Williams) and Allen Reisner, who has played in just 13 games.

That’s not working. The Jaguars have to find something that will.
Observed in the locker room after the Jacksonville Jaguars' 45-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Shortage: For the second time this season, receiver Cecil Shorts didn’t touch the ball until the game was well in hand. Shorts didn’t make his first catch until inside the two-minute warning of the second quarter with the Seahawks ahead 17-0. In the Jaguars’ season-opening loss to Kansas City, Shorts didn’t catch his first pass until the fourth quarter. “That’s not my position to talk,” Shorts said. “I go out there and run what the play is called. That’s just how it played out, I guess.”

Calmer Jones-Drew: In the days after the Jaguars' 41-0 loss in Seattle in 2009, Maurice Jones-Drew ripped the play calling and lack of offensive identity. He was much calmer after Sunday’s game despite the team having some of the same issues. “I kind of went crazy,” he said. “That can be something that ripples through the team, so we just want to stay positive.”

Muddy waters: Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said he’s not sure if the players completely understand the defensive principles the staff is trying to teach. The blame for that is shared by the coaches, he said.
SEATTLE -- It was already not an ideal situation in the secondary for the Jacksonville Jaguars. But it got much worse -- and there was nothing the team could do but suffer through it.

One starting cornerback (Dwayne Gratz) was already out with a high ankle sprain. Then the other starter, Alan Ball, was ruled out in pre-game warm-ups because of a groin injury.

[+] EnlargeDemetrius McCray
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsStarting in his first NFL game, rookie cornerback Demetrius McCray had seven tackles in the Jaguars' Week 3 loss at Seattle.
Starting safety Dwight Lowery -- the team’s most experienced defensive back -- left the game with a head injury in the first quarter. That left the Jaguars with three rookies and a waiver-wire pickup in the defensive backfield.

So it wasn’t surprising that Seattle quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Tarvaris Jackson combined to throw for 323 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-17 victory or that outside receivers Sidney Rice and Golden Tate combined to catch 10 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns.

"In this style of defense you have to be able to play on the perimeter and be able to handle those shots that they took," Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. "There’s some inexperience back there and they’ll grow from what they had happen to them today."

It certainly wasn’t pretty, especially for corner Demetrius McCray. The Seahawks obviously targeted the Jaguars’ seventh-round draft pick early and often. He made a nice play on the first deep ball Wilson threw to Tate down the sideline, but he struggled after that.

It wasn’t surprising that he’d have trouble against veteran receivers or that the Seahawks would keep going after him. The only thing quarterbacks like better than rookie cornerbacks are limping pass rushers.

"I kind of expected it," McCray said. "Being a rookie out there, a first-time starter, I kind of had it in the back of my mind.

"There’s always going to be good and there’s always going to be bad. You’ve just got to learn from it. I’m still young. I still can learn from it. That’s the positive, because I can still learn from this game."

Lowery is in his sixth season. His replacement was Josh Evans, the Jaguars’ sixth-round draft pick. He had played mainly on special teams until Sunday. His inexperienced showed, particularly on Rice’s second touchdown catch.

Evans drifted back in coverage into the end zone and Wilson fired a pass straight at him -- in fact, replays showed Wilson reacted as if he had made a mistake by throwing the ball -- and Evans put up his hands for an easy interception. He didn’t attack the ball, though, which allowed Rice to slide in front of him for a 23-yard touchdown.

Bradley said he needed to be more aggressive going after the ball at this level than he did at Florida.

"You get put in there and you learn new things," Evans said. "That’s something that you take back and study and work on how you could make it better. I should have attacked it instead of waiting for it to drop but he made a great play on the ball and I moved on and played the next play."

The Jaguars became even more short-handed when defensive back Will Blackmon, whom the team signed on Aug. 28, left the game in the fourth quarter with a head injury. That put second-year pro Mike Harris on the field.

It wasn’t all bad from the rookies, though. Safety John Cyprien, the team’s second-round draft pick, sacked Wilson on a blitz and forced a fumble the Jaguars recovered.

But he was inconsistent, too, which is what you expect from rookies. The problem is with having too many of them on the field in the secondary at one time. You can overcome that along the defensive line and at linebacker because there are players behind them to cover their mistakes. That’s not the case in the secondary and that’s what burned the Jaguars on Sunday.

"We like our youth," Bradley said. "We like their speed. But their inexperience at times comes back and at critical times can bite us."

Which it did Sunday. Over and over again.
SEATTLE -- A few thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 45-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks:

What it means: This was another dismal offensive performance for the Jaguars. Granted, it came against the league’s best defense, but the Jaguars never gave themselves a chance. They turned it over three times -- including once when Chad Henne's pass bounced off center Brad Meester's helmet -- and managed just 52 yards and four first downs in the first half. The offensive line continues to be pushed around, and the receivers, other than Cecil Shorts, are not able to get separation. It is probably a little unfair to pile on the lack of production in the passing game considering Henne is throwing to guys named Allen Reisner, Clay Harbor, Ace Sanders and Stephen Burton. That’s not exactly a formidable list. Things should get a little better in the next few weeks because Marcedes Lewis (calf) should return next Sunday and Justin Blackmon will finish his four-game suspension and return in two weeks.

Stock watch: By the middle of the first quarter, the Jaguars secondary was comprised of three rookies -- safety Johnathan Cyprien, cornerback Demetrius McCray and safety Josh Evans -- after safety Dwight Lowery left the game with a head injury and did not return. That was a huge blow because he was the most experienced player in the secondary. The Seahawks took advantage by picking on McCray, a seventh-round pick forced to start because of Alan Ball's groin injury. Golden Tate and Sidney Rice combined to catch 10 passes for 187 yards, and Russell Wilson and Tarvaris Jackson combined to throw five touchdown passes. Evans got burned on one because he stood waiting for the ball instead of going to get it and Rice slid in front of him to make the catch. Cyprien did force a fumble for the second consecutive week.

Unloaded weapon: The Jaguars had hoped to get Denard Robinson more involved on offense today. He carried once for minus-2 yards and also fumbled when he tried to pull the ball out of Sanders’ stomach on a read-option play. That is an inexcusable turnover, especially since Robinson ran the read-option countless times in his career at Michigan.

What’s next: The Jaguars play host to Indianapolis and the Seahawks play at Houston next Sunday.