JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars certainly have issues on offense, but their pass protection isn’t one of them.
The Jaguars have allowed just 23 sacks -- which puts them on pace for 33, the fewest since 2007 (31) -- and have given up just six in the past four games. Good numbers, but now comes the Denver Broncos and linebacker Von Miller.
Miller leads the NFL in sacks (12.5) and is the leading candidate for defensive player of the year, and the Jaguars will have to minimize his impact if they want to snap a six-game losing streak on Sunday at EverBank Field. It won’t be an easy task for offensive tackles Kelvin Beachum and Jermey Parnell.
"He is explosive," offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said of Miller, who is coming off a three-sack performance in the Broncos’ overtime loss to Kansas City last Sunday. "The way he comes off the line, his speed, his speed to power, his ability to counter, he is a dynamic player. He’s special."
The Jaguars say Miller spends the majority of his time on the right side of the offensive formation, but he does move around some. What’s more of a problem than Miller flopping sides is that he will drop into coverage, and that means the blocking scheme can get overloaded to the wrong side, which leaves Denver's DeMarcus Ware with a favorable matchup on the opposite side.
"What presents the challenges is that they mix it up just enough that you don’t know he’s dropping at times," head coach Gus Bradley said. "I think what also makes him special is that he’s a Leo-type [hybrid end/linebacker] player like that, and he’s one of the best open-field tacklers I’ve seen. He’s very talented, so when you drop a guy like that, sometimes it’s a mismatch, but not with him."
Beachum will draw Miller most of the game, and he’s played against him before when Beachum was with Pittsburgh. He said the Jaguars have to be cautious to not put too much emphasis on Miller, because the Broncos lead the NFL in pass defense and it’s not only because of Miller.
"I think he has a great combination of explosiveness and speed that really can put offensive tackles and offensive linemen in bad situations," Beachum said. "When you have a back end like they do, that’s able to make the quarterback hold the ball, rush and cover is working together, so it’s not just one person that makes that defense. It’s the whole defense that’s working together, and they have some great players over there."
This is the game where the loss of tight end Marcedes Lewis (on IR with a calf injury) really hurts, because the Jaguars could have lined him up next to Beachum to give him some help. Running back Chris Ivory (hamstring) is unlikely to play, too, so the Jaguars will rely on T.J. Yeldon and Denard Robinson to chip Miller.
Not that double-teaming and chipping is always effective against Miller.
"It is funny, a lot of people have tried to do all kinds of different things," Hackett said. "Some have chipped. Some have spread it out. Some have gone empty. Some have done all kinds of different things. Really I think when you really try to look at it, I don’t think there is a perfect way to contain him. I think you just have to understand where he is and everybody has to make a conscious effort to try to affect him some way or the other."