On December 3, 2017 the Indianapolis Colts will travel to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars. In this week thirteen match-up, I sought to understand our opponent and get a better idea for what we’re up against.
We last played the Jags in a week 7 dismantling of our Colts collective masculinity. Below we’re going to take a look at some of the ways they were able to do that and we’ll try, really hard, to find any positives we can glean and hope to expand on this week.
First, we’ll recap the scheme to give you a refresher on what the Jaguars like to run:
Usually when I break down an opponents scheme I look for resources online, other breakdowns that have been written prior to my compiling of information and GIFs. I do this for a lot of reasons and I would be lying if I said time wasn’t one of them. Another is the fact that I watch 16 Colts games a year (17 to 20 games when Peyton Manning was around) and if I watched tape and broke down our offensive and defensive scheme, I would do it better than a Lions fan would be able to.
Sure, I watch 2 or 3 games leading up to before I write an opponent scouting report, but the fact remains that a Jags fan that took the time to really understand what their team is doing would offer a better insight than I will be able to.
With that said, I can find exactly zero (0) articles that go over the Jaguars scheme with the kind of detail and visuals I like to include. So what follows is my best effort to give you a good insight in what they will look to do on offense.
Luckily for me, the information I did find let me know that Jags offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett runs an Air Coryell system. Neat.
Traditionally an Air Coryell system features a lot of single back sets, three wide receivers, pre-snap movement and deep looks down the field. These Jags run a lot of plays out of the I-formation giving heavy 21 personnel looks. With that said, they implement a lot of looks from the gun using 4 and 5-wide sets and, like classic Coryell systems, they look to push the ball down the field.
I fully expect to see a lot of passing concepts that stretch the field and create multiple easy reads for Blake Bortles. One of those concepts you can bank on seeing is the sail concept:
The sail concept is designed to do exactly that. A vertical route stretches the defense deep while giving the quarterback three options, one at each level of the defense, in theory leading to a safe throw.
The Jags run it from a bunch set in this example. The idea here is to confuse the defense at the snap as to who is covering who. If the defense is pattern matching each defender will essentially “switch” their assignment based on the receivers route. Coming off the line in this way makes it difficult for the defenders to declare and may force them into making a mistake. Even if the defense doesn’t pattern match, this creates a free release and a more difficult route to cover.
The outside receiver gets a free release and runs a go route. The slot receiver runs a deep out and the tight end runs a short out to the flat. Textbook.
- In Action:
Unfortunately for the Jags, the Texans DB’s “reroute” the Jags receivers so that the receiver running the 15 yard out makes contact with the receiver running the go. How this wasn’t illegal contact beyond five yards, I’ll never know.
Either way, this concept and concepts like it are staples of this offense, which will look to stretch the field and require everyone to execute on every play.
Here we see the Jags come out in another bunch set and yet again they will look to confuse the Titan defenders and make them make choices that will dictate where quarterback Blake Bortles throws the ball.
The receiver lined up nearest the bottom of the picture runs a drag route back across the formation. The receiver in the slot runs a deep dig. This combination of routes, run together, should prevent the DB’s lined up over their respective assignments from being able to cover both cleanly.
The receiver that lines up nearest the formation runs a shallow out to the flat. Which is designed to further draw attention away from the design of the play.
Meanwhile the running back runs a shallow dig of his own which should pull the linebacker in man coverage away from that side of the field.
Finally, the receiver at the top of the screen runs a go route. His route on this play is designed so that the quarterback can key on the deep safety. If the safety drops deep there will be a naturally huge hole on that side of the field. If he dives in to cover the drag route it leaves a 1 on 1 match up deep down field.
- The safety went deep:
The free safety on this play dropped (as he should) to assist with the go route on the perimeter. The running back’s route drew the linebacker where he needed to go and the DB’s couldn’t run through each other to cover the drag route.
This is a well-designed play that once again creates three levels for Bortles to attack using quick, easy reads. After showing you these plays I feel that I need to note that on occasion the Jags will drop back and run multiple vertical routes and let their QB take his shot. This offense isn’t predicated on crossing patters or creating multiple levels of options for the quarterback to throw to. Instead, in 2017 the offensive success of the Jacksonville Jaguars revolves completely around their power run game.
With the 4th overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft the Jacksonville Jaguars selected running back Leonard Fournette. We can argue the merits of drafting a top 5 running back all day (1st round, really), that’s not what I’m here to do. Instead I just want to say that the Jags had a plan when they took the 235 lb human battering ram and so far they’ve implemented it.
I’m not a huge fan of “box score scouting” because there’s a lot that you can’t gather from simply looking at stats. You have to watch the games to fully understand what’s happening. The numbers I’m about to throw at you, align with what I’ve noticed on the field.
In their week 5 game against Pittsburgh Leonard Fournette ran the ball 14 times for 39 yards with a long run of 12 yards. Good for an average of 2.78 yards per carry.
The second half? The second half saw Fournette run the ball 14 more times for 142 yards, good for more than 10 yards per carry. I know, I know, he had a 90 yard run in there, but you can’t take it away from the guy, but for kicks, if we took that 90 yard TD out his numbers he still averages 4.0 yards per carry, an improvement of more than a yard per carry.
His entire game is based on wearing out a defense, in the 8 runs before he outran everyone, he totaled 12 yards. This isn’t graceful football. This isn’t pretty. This isn’t the type of game that the NFL has been steering its teams to play for the better part of the past 20 years. This is old school, down hill running and for the first time since Maurice Jones-Drew gouged our defense consistently, I wish we didn’t have to play these guys.
I’m only going to go over one run because it gives you a good idea of what the Jags really want to do. This play features the backside guard pulling, a fullback as the lead blocker, and tough man-to-man blocking across the line.
Fournette is running a designed counter where he will take a step to his left and cut back to where his blockers are on the right. Basic misdirection. While I don’t know the called play, I believe this to be accurate. I may have chosen the wrong gap, but bottom line it was designed to be an inside the tackles run.
- Why outside contain is important:
Even though Ravens DE Carl Davis stalemates his double team and fills his gap perfectly, the combination of the pulling guard and block from the H-back are enough to allow Fournette to turn the corner and get something out of nothing on this play.
Like I said, this play wasn’t blocked well but it is the heart of what the Jags want to do and not only in the run game but on offense. They want to hit you in the mouth and they don’t want to stop until the other team just gives up.
This isn’t a normal offense for 2017. They only pass the ball 44% of their offensive plays and according to their head coach Doug Marrone, 44% is far too often. For reference, the Kansas City Chiefs have thrown the ball 54% of their offensive snaps, and they’re in the top 10 for rushing attempts on the season.
The article I linked above quotes Marrone stating that he wants to change the way the game is played. If this Jags team continues to find success, he may not change the league completely, but he might have a huge influence on how AFC South general managers choose to build their teams.
What Happened Last Time:
Normally I give you reports on the QB, RB’s, pass-catching threats and offensive line. Instead of going back over those same details I’ve decided to go back over how the Jaguars attacked our Colts earlier in the year.
If you missed the scouting report from week seven and you want to see more detailed information on the Jaguars personnel you can do so by clicking here.
I’m going to sample heavily from Brett Mock’s week 7 recap of our last matchup, if you would like to read the entire thing click here.
We’ll jump right into the first quarter of the game:
The game started off about as bad as Jacksonville could have imagined when left tackle Cam Robinson suffered an injury. That didn’t stop Bortles from getting a first down to Allen Hurnson third down but it was something to keep an eye on as the game moved forward.
Many people assumed that this week 7 game was going to be all running, all the time from the Jags but this clip sets the tone for the remainder of the important snaps of the game.
On a key third and short play, the same kind of penalties and mistakes I mentioned in the keys to the game started to rear their ugly head. Instead of a first down close to midfield, Antonio Morrison was called for a face mask penalty that awarded the Jaguars with a spot well into Colts territory.
I choose to believe he was trying to rip the ball out, not his head off.
As so often happens, this mistake led to a big play to Marcedes Lewis
followed by a completed pass to Marqise Lee that was dangerously close to being fumbled out of the end zone.
Chuck Pagano chose to not challenge the call. The Jags used Chris Ivory to punch the ball in for a touchdown. Jacksonville led early 7-0.
This drive really set the tone for the rest of the day. The Jags used their power run game to set up play action passes and Blake Bortles took advantage of the Colts complete inability to rush the passer in this game.
Jacksonville used the comfort of their lead and reasonably good field position to take a shot over the top to Keelan Cole for 52 yards. Notably, Chris Milton was in the game to cover the deep receiver instead of Rashaan Melvin — who suffered a concussion.
Guess who isn’t playing against the Jags, again, this week?
The Jags were setup on the Colts 18-yard line with a wide open playbook. Milton was quick to make his presence felt again by getting called for a penalty for illegal contact that setup Jacksonville with a first and goal on the five yard line. With Indianapolis back on its heels, it was easy for Bortles to take another shot to Mercedes Lewis on a corner fade who used his height advantage over Matthias Farley to put the Jaguars up 14-0.
Starting on their own 9 yard line, the Jaguars ran up the middle for one yard, completed a pass for 7 and then Bortles targeted Cole for a first down. Another big play ripped up the Colts defense off of a Bortles screen pass. Luckily for the Colts, some ridiculously unnecessary play-calling by the Jaguars — clearly had no respect for the Colts defense — led to a field goal. Jaguars lead 17-0.
The Jaguars gave Indy’s special teams a gift with a block in the back on the punt. Then, Jacksonville made a mistake and were called for a holding penalty put them inside their own 10-yard line. T.J. Yeldon ripped off a long run to create a third and eight.
Blake Bortles used the comfort of his 17 point lead to stand tall in the pocket and fire to Allen Hurns for another huge play.
This is, in my opinion, the worst defensive down of the Colts 2017 season. It is on this play that Malik Hooker had his knees taken out. I hate this play.
The Jaguars stalled out in the red zone and had to settle for a field goals. Jags lead 20-0.
It was at this exact moment, I realized that this game was going far worse than I ever expected.
The last thing the Colts could afford is to allow another score. The first play was an easy completion for 20 yards.
Blake Bortles looked like Dan Marino in this one.
...Henry Anderson picked up a sack fumble to gain possession and save the extra first half score. This was the only meaningfully positive defensive play of the entire half.
Like Brett said immediately following the game, this was the best defensive play of the first half and Rob Chudzinsky isn’t a guy to break tradition, so he didn’t let our offense get in position to score before the half.
After the intermission and yet another Colts punt the Jags got the ball back. Jon Bostic got called for the horse collar and the Jags were moving the ball again. They completed a pass to T.J. Yeldon who picked up nice yardage, only to fumble... well it wasn’t actually a fumble it got overturned. So after putting that behind them the Jags hand the ball off to Chris Ivory:
The Jaguars blew their extra opportunity when T.J. Yeldon tried to pick up extra yards on a run and Matthias Farley forced a legitimate fumble that gave the ball back to the Colts offense.
After Sanchez continued his claim for Colts MVP for the day, pinning Jacksonville back inside their own 10-yard line, another key third down and long situation for the Colts defense fails with not enough pressure on the quarterback and another crossing route that goes for extra yards. Then, even when it is obvious that the Jaguars are going to run the football to keep the clock moving, a huge touchdown run by T.J. Yeldon pushes the Jacksonville lead to 27-0.
Mattias Farley wasn’t the first guy to fail on this play but his bad angle sealed what is likely Yeldon’s best run in the NFL.
Good news! The defense did something positive their next trip out:
With horrible starting field position, the Colts defense is able to shut the Jaguars down on a three-and-out.
There were a couple bright spots for the defense as they kept fighting:
Another defensive stop, highlighted by rookie defensive lineman Grover Stewart busting through the line to stuff a run shortly after the hand-off, setup a third a long. Jacksonville failed to get the first and had to punt the ball back to the Colts
Predictably, the Jaguars went run heavy on offense to chew up as much clock as possible. Not that it would make a difference in the outcome of the game, but the Colts defense was in a position to stiffen up from a pride perspective — if nothing else. On fourth an inches the defense came up with a stop and put Brissett back on the field.
This play was the exception to the performance of the rest of the 4th quarter for the defense. It is troubling that we continue to see no one setting the edge late in games each and every week.
When you hear old football coaches talk about a team they coached physically dominating their opponent, they tend to get worked up remembering the physicality and the “killer” instinct their guys played with. Watching NFL Films interview old coaches is one of my favorite things. If and when Doug Marrone is ever interviewed in his latter years, this is going to be one of the games he looks back on. He’s going to talk about the physical domination from the opening kick to the final whistle.
He has every right to get excited when he watches the tape from week 7, the Jacksonville Jaguars dominated the Colts on offense until the game was over and the Jags were more interested in killing clock than scoring points.
The Colts were often exposed because they dared Blake Bortles to throw. That’s normally a good idea, but Bortles had our number all day throwing for 330 yards, 1 TD 0 INT’s and completing nearly 70% of his passes.
This week we will have to face Leonard Fournette for the first time since LSU stopped paying him and the Jags started (small joke). That in and of itself is a daunting task, but if they don’t manage to put some pressure on Bortles, this one is going to be ugly.
If we’re looking for positives it’s tough to do, it was nice to force a couple turnovers but what we did with those opportunities was less than inspiring. Here’s to hoping we fare better on Sunday.