JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars have a bright spot in the franchise's darkest season.
Coach Gus Bradley's defense ranks fourth in the NFL in yards allowed and has been at its best the last five weeks. The unit has surrendered 258 yards a game over the last five weeks and given the Jaguars (2-10) a chance to win each time out.
It clearly hasn't been enough since Jacksonville has lost seven in a row heading into Sunday's game against Minnesota (6-6), which has dropped six of seven. The Jaguars enjoyed their best defensive effort in Gus Bradley's four seasons last week against Denver. They held the Broncos to 206 yards and 1-for-13 on third down. Denver still won, though, because it forced Jacksonville into three turnovers that led to 10 points.
“Just like in our conversations with the defense I think a really good defense – when you know that you have arrived is when a defense starts dictating the outcome of the game,” said Bradley. “When you saw Denver get a pick-six, another interception and you feel like their defense really dictated the outcome of that game. That’s the mark of a really good defense. Really good defense. Right now we’re not there yet. We’re not dictating the outcome of it, but not to be confused with a talented defense that really has the arrow up. You’re really excited about this group of guys. Really excited.”
New Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash deserves a lot of credit for the improvements this defense has made from a season ago. Wash also agrees with Bradley, that the unit they’ve put together is capable of reaching that elite status.
“For us, we’re challenging [the defense] each and every week,” said Wash. “We want to play at a high standard. We’re getting closer and closer. At this point in time we want to make sure defensively we understand where we want to get to. We have to make sure that we determine the outcome of the game.”
The one thing the Jaguars need to do better defensively is create turnovers. They have an NFL-low seven takeaways and have gone eight games with an interception.
"In every other category, we're killing it," said Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson. "But we've just got to do more."
The defense has had plenty of chances to do more, including dropping interceptions against Kansas City and Denver. The unit also got robbed of a turnover against Buffalo, when officials inadvertently whistled a play dead as running back LeSean McCoy was getting the ball stripped out of his grasp.
"The ball's just not bouncing our way right way," safety Johnathan Cyprien said. "We're causing a fumble, but the referee blow the whistle and it's dead. Or maybe we drop an interception. It's just problems, weird things happening. It's plays we can do in our sleep, but it just so happens that we're not capitalizing. We've got to continue to fight through it."