JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to try to do the same thing that every other team tries to do when they play the Seattle Seahawks: keep Russell Wilson from escaping the pocket and making big plays.
It’s almost an impossible task, as the Philadelphia Eagles found out last Sunday night.
Wilson escaped the Eagles’ pass rush and hit big throws down the field all night long. Or he kept the ball and scrambled for positive yardage (31 yards on six carries). The Jaguars (8-4) have to limit those kinds of things on Sunday at EverBank Field to beat the Seahawks (8-4).
“He’s doing a really nice job of extending plays and staying alive in the pocket,” defensive coordinator Todd Wash said. “It’s maybe not so much the scrambling of gaining yards. It’s the scrambling of staying alive, letting his receivers really outwork DBs on the back end and making explosive plays happen because of the extension of plays.”
Wilson is second in the NFL in pass attempts of 20 or more yards (64), per NFL Stats & Information, and that’s related to his ability to escape pressure. When he scrambles he’s keeping his eyes downfield and thinking pass first.
Wilson is an effective runner when he has kept the ball, though. He leads the Seahawks in carries (71), rushing yards (432), yards per carry (6.1), and rushing TDs (three).
Rush discipline is imperative, defensive tackle Malik Jackson said.
“I understand the game has ebbs and flows. He’s going to get out,” Jackson said. “We have to make sure we get him down and get ready to make the next play. As long as we don’t get out of hand and have him doing it more than once, three, four times, especially getting a big 20- or 30-yard run, we’ll be OK.”
The Jaguars rank 15th in rushing yards allowed by opposing quarterbacks (154 yards) but they’ve given up the fewest rushing first downs to a quarterback in the league (seven), according to ESPN Stats & Information. They’re one of five teams that have not allowed a quarterback to rush for a touchdown.
“We’ve talked about it all week long but the last thing we want to do is see our D-line go out and start playing hesitant and worry about him scrambling,” Wash said. “We just want to be able to rush smart, do the best we can, and keep him in the pocket and when he does then we’ve got to be able to run him down.”
That’s where potentially not having weakside linebacker Telvin Smith (concussion) could really hurt the Jaguars. He has been cleared for practice work but has not yet been fully cleared, but there’s still a chance that could happen Friday or Saturday. Smith is the team’s fastest linebacker and the task to contain Wilson, spying him in some instances, would likely fall to him.
If Smith can’t play, then that responsibility likely would fall to second-year linebacker Myles Jack, who was regarded as one of the most athletic players in the 2016 NFL draft.
“I don’t know if you can ever stop him. I think you just hope to contain him and limit some of the big plays that he’s been making,” coach Doug Marrone said. “I put the film on and, again, I said I’ve never studied him until this week and I was like, ‘Whoa, this guy is special.’”