Three things I learned: Jacksonville

ASHBURN, Va. -- What I learned after watching the Jacksonville Jaguars against the Philadelphia Eagles:

  1. The Jaguars like running misdirection. Or, at least, do a good job offensively of trying to fool a defender’s eyes and putting receivers in favorable spots. Saw it on their first two touchdowns against the Eagles. On the first, a 34-yard touchdown pass to rookie Allen Hurns, the Jaguars aligned he and tight end Marcedes Lewis were aligned on the same side. Hurns ran a deep post against corner Cary Williams, who played him to the outside and clearly anticipated safety help. But when Lewis ran a deep out, the safety ran to him, leaving the tight end doubled and the middle wide open. The Jaguars’ second touchdown occurred when the Jaguars ran a bubble screen look – they’re big on screens so a defense will be on alert. The two defenders to that side froze and eyed the receiver running the bubble. That left Hurns, wide to that side, running free to the inside for an easy score. By the way, Hurns was an undrafted free agent who was passed over by four other teams after tryouts.

  2. The Jags’ defense is tough but vulnerable. They play relatively fast and are not a bad unit. They have elements of Seattle’s defense without the Seahawks talent: they’ll stunt their ends inside wider than most teams; they’ll use a lot of eight-man boxes. One note: The Redskins ran well vs. Seattle in the playoff game; they feel good about their run game entering this one. Against the Eagles, the Jaguars were determined to stop the run and LeSean McCoy. But the Eagles hurt them a couple times on zone read play-action passes – and other times quarterback Nick Foles failed to see or connect with wide-open targets downfield off such action. There also were miscommunications with the safeties, notably on a 68-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin. That, of course, is a correctable mistake. The Jags also allowed a touchdown when middle linebacker Paul Posluzny was not on the field, leading to more communication issues and a touchdown run by Darren Sproles. The Eagles’ offense scored 27 points; a lot more was available.

  3. They have a capable offense. That is, if you give quarterback Chad Henne time to throw. They executed the misdirection plays well and they will be aggressive. Hurns ran a nice double move for one big catch. Henne nearly connected on two big plays downfield in the second half, but one went just off Hurns’ fingertips and Marqise Lee dropped another (they create good matchups with their route concepts and, again, test the defenders' eyes). The window was small but Henne found the targets. Running back Toby Gerhart has good vision – they’ll run him to the edges, creating cutback lanes and they will run some power-I. They ran a series of no-huddle vs. the Eagles, which was also one of their best drives.