JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Seattle Seahawks had one of the NFL’s best defenses in 2013 when they became the first unit since the 1985 Chicago Bears to lead the NFL in points allowed, yards allowed and takeaways.
Not coincidentally, both teams went on to win the Super Bowl.
The defense the Jacksonville Jaguars have put on the field this season might be better.
Though some of the numbers are similar to the 2013 Seahawks, the Jaguars have more sacks and are on pace to allow fewer passing touchdowns, a lower completion percentage, and fewer passing yards. The Jaguars also already have equaled the number of times the Seahawks held opponents to 10 or fewer points (seven) and have one fewer 20-plus-point victory (five) -- and there’s still a month remaining in the regular season.
“It’s very flattering,” defensive tackle Abry Jones said. “It’s cool to be compared, but if you get caught up behind that, then you forget that that defense won a Super Bowl. You can’t really compare to that team if you didn’t win the Super Bowl like how they took over the Super Bowl.”
The Jaguars have an NFL-high 45 sacks, which is one more than the Seahawks had in 2013. They’ve given up only 10 TD passes, are allowing 167.1 yards per game passing, and hold quarterbacks to a 57 percent completion rate. That’s all better than what Seattle did in 2013: 16 TD passes, 172.0 passing yards per game, and 59 percent.
Per ESPN Stats & Information, the Jaguars also are generating pressure on quarterbacks at a nearly identical rate as the 2013 Seahawks (32 percent of dropbacks vs. 33 percent) but are blitzing significantly less (19 percent of dropbacks vs. 27 percent).
The 2013 Seahawks gave up 14.3 points per game. The Jaguars are giving up 14.8.
The area where the Seahawks have the big advantage is run defense. They gave up 101.6 yards per game (seventh in the NFL that season); the Jaguars are allowing 115.4 yards per game (20th). Since trading for nose tackle Marcell Dareus, though, they are allowing just 83.0 yards per game.
“[We don’t like] comparing ourselves to somebody else,” Jones said. “It really just comes down to wins and losses and we really just say that we’re one of the best defenses because of the standard we [set]. We see the standard that we set and when we reach it what we can do as a team, and then we see what happens when we don’t reach it.
“When we really compare about how good we are, it’s really just comparing it to our standard. We’re not really worried about anybody else because at the end of the day, whether you win or lose, other people are going to do all that for you.”
The Seahawks built their 2013 defense mainly through the draft from 2010 to 2012. Safety Earl Thomas (2010) and linebacker Bruce Irvin (2012) were first-round picks, and the team added safety Kam Chancellor (fifth round) and cornerback Walter Thurmond (fourth) in 2010 and linebacker K.J. WrightRichard Sherman (fifth) and cornerback Byron Maxwell (sixth) in 2011.
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner was a second-round pick in 2012, and the Seahawks supplemented those drafts with free-agent cornerback Brandon Browner in 2011 and defensive end Cliff Avril in 2013. They also added defensive lineman Michael Bennett as an undrafted free agent in 2009.
The Jaguars have constructed this year’s defense mainly through free agency, though the four starters who were drafted are studs: defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (2016), linebacker Telvin Smith (2014), linebacker Myles Jack (2016) and cornerback Jalen Ramsey (2016). The rest of the starters were acquired via free agency or signed as an undrafted free agent, including defensive tackle Malik Jackson, defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Tashaun Gipson.
Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash was the defensive line coach in Seattle for two seasons before coming to Jacksonville when the Jaguars hired Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to be the team’s head coach. Bradley and Wash brought the defensive system that Pete Carroll began developing in 2010.
The scheme has changed a bit -- there’s no Leo (pass-rushing end) and big end -- but the principles are the same.
“Obviously we had a good front four [in Seattle],” Wash said. “We had really good linebackers. And we had a really good secondary. That definitely helps you, and I think that was kind of a model that we decided to start building here four or five years ago. It starts up front and then move yourself back.
“They had some good success drafting great players there and we’re having some great success drafting and getting some free agents here. It was the blueprint, and we’ve both been very fortunate that it’s working out for us.”
Maybe even better than it did in Seattle.