JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense has been bad through the first four weeks. There’s no other way to describe it.
If things continue the way it has the rest of the season -- and with several key starters or players banged up and missing games or headed to injured reserve, it might be hard not to -- then there will be another way: Historically bad.
Though there’s still 12 games to play, the Jaguars defense is on pace to allow the most yards and points per game in franchise history. They’re at 399.5 yards and 29.3 points per game, which is worse than the 2012 defense that allowed 380.5 yards per game and worse than the 2013 defense that allowed 28.1 points per game.
“I’m always going to believe in my guys,” nose tackle Abry Jones said. “I mean, it comes down to just straight execution. We gave up some bad numbers at the beginning. I don’t know where it’s going to lead in the whole 1-32 ranking and stuff like that, but I feel like this a defense that can turn it around, execute, and take out the mistakes that we’ve been making and we can get on a nice run of some wins together and get where we want to go further in this season.
“After that, once we get ourselves in position and we get to a postseason playing, we’re going to look like a good defense.”
That seems so far away, especially after Sunday’s 33-25 loss to Cincinnati. The Jaguars gave up 505 yards – the third time in the last eight games they’ve allowed 500 or more yards – and rookie quarterback Joe Burrow completed 69 percent of his passes for 300 yards and one touchdown with one interception. The Jaguars’ biggest defensive issue was again their lack of pressure.
They sacked Burrow once, though it was defensive end Josh Allen touching him down after Burrow slid before the line of scrimmage to keep the clock running. They hit him just five times despite blitzing a season-high nine times, and Burrow completed six passes for 105 yards and his only interception against the blitz. The interception was one of the best defensive plays in the NFL this season: Myles Jack ripped the ball away from tight end Alex Erickson in the back of the end zone.
The Jaguars haven’t been very effective overall when blitzing all season. Defensive coordinator Todd Wash has sent five or more rushers 31 times in four games and opposing quarterbacks have completed 65.4 percent of their passes for 245 yards and the one interception. Only seven teams have blitzed fewer times than the Jaguars (though that number may decrease after Monday’s games).
The Jaguars have just four sacks, which is one shy of Carolina’s league low. Allen, the team’s leader with two, banged up his knee against the Bengals and his status for practice this week is unknown at this point.
“It’s not a matter of, ‘Hey are you bringing pressure?’ We’re doing it, but we’re not getting any results out of it,” coach Doug Marrone said. “So [we’ve] still got to win the one-on-one stuff and trying to rely — trying to get someone free a little bit. And it’s tough in this league.
“… We have guys that have the ability to do it. So we’ve got to coach the heck out of them -- we really do -- and give them some opportunities.”
It’s going to be hard for the Jaguars to fix their issues considering the injuries on defense. Free safety Jarrod Wilson is already on IR with a hamstring injury and the Jaguars lost three more starters against the Bengals: Cornerback C.J. Henderson (shoulder), linebacker Myles Jack (ankle), and nickelback D.J. Hayden (hamstring). Marrone said he would know more about the severity of those injuries later in the week, but Hayden had to be helped off the field.
The Jaguars were already down two other projected starters after nose tackle Al Woods opted out and defensive lineman Rodney Gunter retired because of a heart issue. So that’s seven starters who might not be on the field against Houston on Sunday – and possibly more depending on Allen’s status (he remained in the game after banging up his knee).
Marrone tried to be positive about the defensive issues, saying he’s not seeing the amount of errors and guys out of position that plagued this team the past two seasons.
“It’s not a lot errors, per se, like in the past where you’re like, ‘Holy cow, something’s bad,’” he said. “… There’s flashes of plays. Guys have made it. But the consistency of it, it’s something that we have to work on.”
If not, then the Jaguars could be a historically bad defense.