Lack of sacks troubling for Jaguars
The defense has brought down the quarterback only twice in 4 games this year
The Jacksonville Jaguars are baffled by their lack of sacks.
The Jaguars have an NFL-low two sacks through four games and have failed to get an opposing quarterback to the ground the last three weeks. They sacked Christian Ponder twice in the season opener at Minnesota, but have been shut out since.
For a franchise with numerous on-the-field issues, this one tops the list.
"It's not good," linebacker Paul Posluszny said Wednesday. "It's definitely surprising. We feel like we have the guys who can get there, but we haven't had any success doing it so far. Sacks are such an important number in this game. The more you get, the better your chances of winning."
The Jaguars (1-3) hope to reverse the trend Sunday against the Chicago Bears (3-1), who have allowed 13 sacks this season.
Sacks can be overrated if defenses are affecting quarterbacks by hurrying throws, disrupting timing plays and causing turnovers. But Jacksonville has done little of that, too. The result? The Jaguars rank 26th in total defense.
Defensive end Jeremy Mincey, who signed a four-year, $20 million contract in March, has just three quarterback pressures while playing nearly every down.
Rookie defensive end Andre Branch, a second-round pick thrown into the starting lineup because of preseason injuries to Austen Lane and George Selvie, caused an interception last week but has been mostly inconsistent.
"It's frustrating because we know what we have in our room," Branch said. "But you can't keep looking back on that or else it will keep going on and on. We know what we have to do to get it done and we're going to work our tails off to get that done. We know it will turn around."
Defensive tackles Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu have the team's only sacks. Even then, Alualu's takedown didn't even lose yardage because he tackled Ponder as he scrambled back to the line of scrimmage.
"We've seen flashes of the good things we can do," coach Mike Mularkey said. "We just need to do it more."
The Jaguars blitzed considerably more than usual in Sunday's 27-10 loss to Cincinnati, hoping the extra pressure would yield better results. Instead, it left one-of-one coverage in the secondary, and speedy receiver A.J. Green burned cornerback Rashean Mathis deep several times.
Jacksonville believes the Bears could take a similar approach this week with mobile, strong-armed quarterback Jay Cutler and big-play receiver Brandon Marshall.
"We need to do everything we can to get home," Posluszny said. "We want to affect the quarterback, get to him, because so many big plays come from sacks. We need to get the sacks for the big loss, the forced fumble, the strip. Everything accompanies those big plays.
"All the turnovers and interceptions come from pressuring the quarterback. So we want to do everything we can to accomplish that."
Jacksonville's pass-rush problems have been years in the making.
The team has been searching for a premier defensive end for a decade, ever since injuries slowed Tony Brackens' career.
They gave free agent Hugh Douglas a $27 million contract in 2003, then released him after one season.
They signed Reggie Hayward to a $25 million deal in 2005. He led the team with 8 1/2 sacks and 59 quarterback pressures his first season, but wasn't the same after rupturing his left Achilles' tendon in the 2006 season opener.
Jacksonville selected pass rushers Derrick Harvey and Quinton Groves with its first- and second-round picks in 2008, but neither made an impact.
The Jaguars tried to make up for those draft-day mistakes by taking a chance on Aaron Kampman in 2010. Even though Kampman was coming off reconstructive knee surgery, the Jags gave him a $25 million contract that included $11 million guaranteed.
Kampman played eight games before injuring his other knee and never recovered. He had four sacks in 11 games over two seasons in Jacksonville.
General manager Gene Smith could have addressed the team's ongoing need at defensive end in the draft, but instead chose to go in different directions. He selected defensive tackle Tyson Alualu (10th pick) over New York Giants star Jason Pierre-Paul (15th) in 2010 and took quarterback Blaine Gabbert (10th) over Houston's J.J. Watt (11th) and Washington's Ryan Kerrigan (16th) last year.
Maybe Lane and Selvie will make a difference. Lane returned from a foot injury last week, and Selvie is close to returning from a sprained knee.
"We're not going to feel sorry for ourselves," Lane said. "Obviously, not getting any sacks for three weeks is frustrating. We're going to take accountability and hopefully get some this weekend."
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