JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In their continuing struggle to find some kind of consistency, the Jaguars are hit or miss when it comes to which side of the ball will show up each week. While building a strong run defense, one of the best in the league in yards per carry, the Titans took advantage of the short passing game and the yards after catch on Sunday to move the ball against the Jaguars. For Gus Bradley a former defensive coordinator and a defensive minded head coach, it’s about getting pressure on the quarterback.
“We’re trying to figure it out,” Bradley said after looking at video of the loss at Tennessee. “It’s all about rush and cover. Right now, we’re not putting that together. If we need to send more guys in pressure, it’s hard for us to hold up with the coverage. If we’re playing the extra guy in coverage, then we’re not getting the pressure that we need.”
It’s not for lack of changing things up. During the game, Thurston Armbrister was benched in favor of Jordan Tripp at the Otto (strong linebacker) position. If Paul Pozluszny can’t play because of a broken hand, it’ll be Tripp at middle linebacker. Armbrister just needs to play better.
“I think he’ll respond,” Bradley explained. “He went back in there. It’s not like he didn’t play anymore. He was in there in goal line situations. I think it’s more of a heightened awareness of what we expect out of that position.”
And while there have been opinions that Defensive Coordinator Bob Babich isn’t putting the Jaguars in the right situations for down and distance, Bradley disagreed, saying no matter who’s calling the plays, it’s the way the players execute that makes the difference.
“We ran three-man, four-man, five-man, six-man, different styles of pressures,” Gus said. “I think that we’re competing to try to figure out what works best for our guys. We’ve got some good players and right now, we’re not playing fast. I think that’s what we need to take a look at more than anything.”
In Bradley’s scheme that worked so well in Seattle, it’s what he calls the “Leo” position that can change how the defense plays. That player needs to pressure the quarterback, but also set the edge and have speed. Chris Clemons did that last year and it was expected Dante Fowler would fill that role in 2015. After he was injured in the spring, Clemons and Andre Branch took over the position by default, but haven’t produced.
“I can’t argue that fact. When we’re looking at the LEO spot, what we’re getting out of the Leo the last couple of weeks, we need to find a way to get more. Straining. You’re right. I think overall the Leo spot, what we’re hoping to get out of that position, we’re not getting exactly what we want.”
That’s pretty frank talk for a coach who usually deflects any criticism of his players. But Bradley knows it’s a glaring spot on defense that isn’t getting the job done and he can’t hide it. He’s looking for ways to get that position with more production in the pass rush to take pressure off the rest of the defense. They’ve gone to Chris Smith on occasion but because of needs at other positions, he was inactive against the Titans. He’ll get a closer look for the last quarter of the season.
“The pass game is where we haven’t seen as much production as we need out of that. To challenge them in different ways, that’s a conversation that we’ll have as a coaching staff and talk to both of them and all of them. They’re hurting just as much too. They want to try to find a way to be more productive, we were close on occasion. We have to find a way, whether it’s through games, different alignments, things like that. We have to find a way to get more production.”