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D.J. Hayden Feels Jaguars' Defense Will 'Play Fast' in Week 4 After Recent Struggles

After allowing nearly three touchdowns in each first half, the Jaguars' defense needs a major early start against the Bengals on Sunday.

Editors note: we have corrected the title to match the exact phrase on being fast. 

Sluggish. Slow. Lackadaisical. Whatever you want to call it, the Jacksonville Jaguars know their play at the start of games hasn't been good enough. In fact, it is the biggest reason the team is 1-2 and three-point underdogs entering a Week 4 battle against the winless Cincinnati Bengals. 

The primary culprit behind Jacksonville's struggles early in games has been a defense that has allowed a touchdown on the opening drive of every game this year. The Jaguars are allowing 20.6 points per first half this season and despite the small sample size, that has to be overly concerning. 

"I say a slow start. The first couple drives of the games, it’s really slow for us. I think it’s taken us a little time to get the blood flowing and everything, but it’s a young team and we’re still growing," cornerback D.J. Hayden said in a media conference on Monday. 

Aside from allowing almost three touchdowns per each first half, the Jaguars' defense has also allowed 46 first half first downs (15.33 per first half), 718 net yards (238.33 yards per first half) and 515 first half passing yards (171.66 yards per first half).

The hope inside TIAA Bank Field this week, though, is that this will be the week the Jaguars can finally put their foot on the gas pedal and never let up. Jacksonville's defense has pieces, but they have yet to put together an entire game defensively. 

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"Some guys [are] still learning, but I’m excited about this next up and coming week because I feel like we’re going to play a lot faster," Hayden said Monday.

"[There’s] a greater sense of urgency, body language. You know I’m a real superstitious type of guy and I just get feelings. It’s just something I can’t explain," Hayden would elaborate. "There’s no textbook of how to explain that. I just get good feelings.”

Other than Hayden simply feeling like this is the week the Jaguars' defense will put the end to their slow starts, there is some reason to believe the Jaguars are walking into their most favorable matchup of the 2020 season. 

While the Jaguars have a defense that has been more or less shredded over the first few weeks of the season, they are entering a game against a Bengals defense that allowed eight sacks in Week 3 and has allowed 14 sacks overall this season. The Bengals also have gained the worst yards per play gained (4.23) and the worst average rushing yards per carry (3.40). 

Meanwhile, Jacksonville's defense ranks 28th in passing yards allowed per attempt (8.28), and has managed just three sacks and two interceptions in the season's first three weeks. But even with that in mind, Hayden is confident in the work the Jaguars are doing to improve. 

“I would say that we’re focusing kind of more on the technique because I feel like some of the issues we’ve been having it’s been technique involved," Hayden said.

"So, I feel like we’re focusing on just back to the basics, back to the square one, technique, just have your eyes in the right spot where you’re supposed to be. It’s just basic football, that’s all there is.”