Not long ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars had an elite defense and leaned on the unit to win games week in and week out. But that was then and this is now, and today’s defense pales in comparison to the past.
For the third consecutive game, Jacksonville’s defense allowed 200+ yards rushing to an AFC South opponent, allowed over 20 first downs, allowed more than 387 total yards and allowed more than 6.2 yards per play.
But in today’s 40-22 loss in Nashville to the Tennesee Titans, a debacle from top to bottom, Jacksonville found new lows. The defense allowed 471 yards on only 52 plays, a surreal 9.1 yards per play average.
For context, Jacksonville allowed 6.5 yards per play in Week 9’s 26-3 loss to the Houston Texans and 6.2 yards per play in last week’s 33-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Explosive plays doomed the Jaguars’ defense from the start. Jacksonville allowed nine plays of 19 yards or more, with two of those going for 65+ yards with a 74-yard Derrick Henry touchdown run and a 65-yard A.J. Brown touchdown catch.
Jacksonville allowed two 20+ yard runs to Ryan Tannehill, so it is not like it was just Henry and Brown beating Jacksonville’s defense. Four different Titans caught a pass of 20 yards or more, so everyone ate vs. the once lauded Jacksonville defense.
Tannehill shredded defensive coordinator Todd Wash’s unit with bootlegs and play-action passes, going 14 of 18 for 259 yards passing and two touchdowns. He threw a staggering 14.4 yards per attempt and was only sacked once, giving him a gaudy 155.8 passer rating.
Head coach Doug Marrone said following the game that he has not considered making a change at defensive coordinator, but the proof is in the pudding; Sacksonville this team is not. Its defense has put up good sack numbers in a few games but overall allows too many explosive plays through both the air and the ground.
Wash’s unit has allowed 99 points in the last three games. It has both bent and broke too often for a team still trying to find its winning identity. Wash and Marrone have tried to make changes, such as letting rookie defensive end Josh Allen see the field more and letting rookie linebacker Quincy Williams start over veteran Najee Goode at weakside linebacker. But so far, nothing has changed their fortune.
Each of Jacksonville’s last three games has essentially been must-wins, but its defense has yet to meet the challenge. Instead, it has often faltered down the stretch despite allowing less than 10 points in the first half of each game.
It comes out strong, albeit while allowing a lot of yards, and then the dam breaks in the second half and it becomes an offensive feeding frenzy. For a team that used to rely on its defense to win games, Jacksonville has fallen a long, long way down.