Friday Night Logue: Reviewing Jacksonville’s Pass Rush in Week 1

In the first edition of Friday Night Logue, Gus Logue takes a look at how the Jaguars impacted the opposing quarterback last week, along with more thoughts.
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Welcome to the first edition of Friday Night Logue, a weekly series which will focus on Jaguars film breakdowns but also include other arbitrary thoughts on Jacksonville and the rest of the league.

Trevor Lawrence’s professional debut was... weird. Jacksonville faced early deficits of 14 at the end of the first quarter and 20 at the end of the half, which never allowed Lawrence and the rest of the offense to get into much of a rhythm or stick to its script. So let’s instead focus on the defensive side of the ball in what was also Joe Cullen’s professional debut as a play-caller.

According to Sports Info Solutions, the Jaguars ranked second in the league with 19 quarterback hurries and 25 total pressures last week but came out of the game with just one sack. Tyrod Taylor was pressured on over half of his dropbacks but still ranked third in on-target rate and fourth in yards per attempt when under heat.

Simply put, Taylor played very well. Texans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly deserves credit for an impressive play calling performance with significant usage of pistol packages, but Taylor was in command all game as the offense’s point guard, as he routinely escaped pressure with ease and got the ball to where it needed to go.

There were several times throughout the game in which a Jaguars defender found nobody in-between himself and Taylor for a potential sack - whether it was via successful pass rushing reps, or a free rusher due to a designed bootleg or miscommunication from the Texans offensive line - but Taylor effortlessly avoided sacks and got rid of the ball time and time again.

While several pressures came from free rushers, Cullen schemed some up himself- most often with stunts from Josh Allen and Jihad Ward. One player would slant hard towards a side of the line while the other looped around behind, but despite finding ample space to collapse the pocket, Taylor was still able to get the ball out for completions that included a long first down to Brandin Cooks and a touchdown to Danny Amendola.

The good news for Jacksonville is that Allen is still very much so a good football player. He led the team in pressures and showed off a bevy of pass-rushing moves from speed-to-power, rips, swims, and bullrushes.

Unfortunately for Allen, he no longer plays with Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue. Other Jaguars defenders must do a better job of finishing plays- the Jaguars had the highest rate of missed + broken tackles on pass rushes in week 1, per SIS. The lack of consistent pass-rushing production sans Allen was a foreseeable problem that has yet to be solved.

This week, Jacksonville will be facing another veteran quarterback with admirable pocket presence in Denver’s Teddy Bridgewater. The Jaguars will need to get all the way home to prevent another embarrassing defensive showing.

Other Thoughts

  • Football is a very random sport, and like it or not, luck can play a large part in the outcome of games. Jacksonville didn’t show much evidence to prove they deserved to win in week 1, but it was ‘unlucky’ in several aspects of Sunday’s game- the opposite side of the stick of what occurred in last year’s season opener.
  • The 2020 Detroit Lions ranked among the most efficient offenses in the league in opening game scripts under Darrell Bevell. Untimely penalties and poor game script didn’t help last week, but Bevell and the rest of Jacksonville’s offensive staff must do a better job of starting games with a more balanced and efficient approach.
  • Lawrence has been absurdly aggressive to start his career. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’ll be something to watch this week against a Fangio defense that is built to prevent explosive plays and now fields one of the league’s best secondary units. At some point, Lawrence is going to have to take the layups offered to him and be just a little bit more lenient towards shorter throws and checkdowns. The formula to a Week 2 win against Denver likely involves heavy doses of targets to Laviska Shenault and James Robinson.
  • One of my offseason takes was that Kyler Murray would receive MVP votes at the end of the season. That’s looking good, but my biggest week 1 overreaction is that Justin Herbert might receive all of the votes.
  • General discourse on the Carolina Panthers has been focused on the offense, which isn’t surprising considering its talented skill players and The Sam Darnold Experiment. But its defense should be talked about much more, especially considering the amount of roster turnover on that side of the ball in recent years. Brian Burns has been getting more respect as a borderline elite edge rusher, but don’t sell short Haasan Reddick, whose 2020 breakout season was no fluke; Derrick Brown and Jeremy Chinn, two of the absolute best young players at their respective positions; Shaq Thompson, who plays like a man possessed after switching to a single-digit jersey; and Jaycee Horn, the eighth overall pick of the 2021 draft. Phil Snow’s 3-3-5, Cover 3 defense is better than you might think.