NEW ORLEANS -- Quarterbacks don’t even have to be completely healthy to torch the Jacksonville Jaguars defense.
New Orleans’ Drew Brees did it on Sunday, throwing for 412 yards and three touchdowns in the Saints’ 38-27 victory at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and he did it with essentially one foot because he tore the plantar fascia on the bottom of his right foot against Detroit last week.
It didn’t look like it limited him against the Jaguars, but the bottom line is that he wasn’t 100 percent and the Jaguars did nothing to take advantage of his injury. They didn’t get in his face to test his mobility. They rarely rushed more than five players and got burned by a screen pass when they did.
They compounded the problem by not covering or tackling well, either. Even when players were in position to make plays, like safety Johnathan Cyprien was in the end zone against tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, they couldn’t get it done.
It was, unfortunately, nothing new. The Jaguars have struggled against good -- and in some cases mediocre -- quarterbacks all season. Sunday was another example, and it just reaffirms that changes need to be made to the defense.
All indications are that coach Gus Bradley will be back in 2015 for the final year of his four-year contract, but he’s going to have to consider making changes to his coaching staff, personnel and possibly even a scheme change. Cleary, what the Jaguars are doing now isn’t working.
The defensive coaches, specifically coordinator Bob Babich, are victims of the hands they’ve been dealt in terms of personnel, but it’s time to start wondering how much of the players’ mistakes are due to lack of preparation and how much is the result of the players not being good enough to get the job done. It’s the coaches’ job to get the players prepared and the players’ job to execute.
There were several communication gaffes on the field against the Saints. An adjustment wasn’t broadcast. A check wasn’t called, or if it was, it didn’t spread to the entire defense. A coverage wasn’t communicated thoroughly.
"Communication is something that you grow with your defense throughout the year, and I feel like that’s something that hasn’t really come along with us as well as we would like as a defense," linebacker Dan Skuta said. "That’s something we were talking about early in the year and it’s still kind of lingering here.
"Guys have got to talk out there. We picked it up for a little bit there and it’s got to be something that’s all the time."
Occasional lapses are inevitable, but not to the degree that they occurred against New Orleans in the next-to-last game of the season. Are the players not prepared or do they get it in practice but struggle on Sundays? That’s a huge difference.
Another problem is the Jaguars had trouble with the little things against the Saints. Bradley explained it as a lack of precision, an example being a cornerback swatting at a ball to knock it away instead of putting his hand out like he has been coached. Or dropping a yard too deep in coverage.
The Jaguars’ personnel issues are obvious. They’re lacking pass-rushers, a rangy free safety, playmaking cornerbacks and linebackers who can run. Part of the Jaguars’ rebuilding plan was to attack the defense in the draft and free agency this offseason, but not all of those issues can be solved at one time.
Because of that, there has to be some deep discussions about coaching, personnel and scheme over the next few weeks. The Jaguars clearly don’t have the personnel to run the same defense Bradley ran in Seattle, and they’re not going to be able to fill all the holes in one offseason, so maybe it’s time to adjust what they want to do.
"You go back and look at it, you find out the guys when their number is called -- are they making plays?" Bradley said. "Then we have to find out what we are asking out of positions. Are we getting what we are asking? Hard decisions have to be made. We just have to look at it across the board.
"Guys have roles. Guys have certain traits. We’ve got to utilize their strengths. It goes on us as coaches, too. The players, when you ask them to do something and they line up and understand it, then they have to perform."