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2018 opponent scouting report: Jaguars offense—we should all be thankful for Cody Kessler?

NFL: Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports


On December 2nd, 2018 the Indianapolis Colts will travel to face the Jacksonville Jaguars. In this week thirteen match-up, I sought to understand our opponent and get a better idea of how they may attack our new-look Colts.

The last time these two teams faced off was just three weeks ago when our Colts came away with a close victory. Since that day the Jaguars have fired their offensive coordinator, benched their starting quarterback, they’ve placed a $13,000,000 per year guard on injured reserve and they are seriously starting Ereck Flowers at left tackle. What a magical time to be alive.

Let’s figure out what we can expect in week thirteen.

Offensive Scheme

Disclaimer: This scheme breakdown is going to look a lot like the breakdown from week 10. A lot has changed for these Jags in a few short weeks and I’m going to cover that, but by and large what the Jags will look to do this week can’t be that much different from week 10.

Nathaniel Hackett runs an Air Coryell system. And Nathaniel Hackett is now the former offensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Scott Milanovich will call plays this week and while he’ll be using Hackett’s system we have no ideal what to expect.

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. If Blake Bortles was playing that’s exactly what I would expect to see, granted they may still use some of those concepts, I just don’t expect to see many deep throws. One of those concepts you can bank on seeing is the sail concept. The Jaguars like to give their quarterback simple reads and do so by stretching the defense and creating levels. Something else we can plan to see is the drive concept.

Stretching the defense to create a hole in the zone:

Blake Bortles Cody Kessler needs quick and easy reads. This play was designed to attack zone coverage and it worked like a charm. If I had to guess I would say the receiver who caught the ball was his first option on the play. When the slot receiver came to the middle of the field and sat down, it kept both linebackers inside and out of his passing lane. The cornerbacks and safety are playing a cover three and aren’t going to get beat deep and the other defensive back who covers the tight end in the flat, create the perfect throwing lane and an easy completion.

Every now and then they hit something like this:

Here the quarterback gets a look he likes in man to man coverage, otherwise the smart money is on hitting one of the underneath crossers. Instead they got a matchup they liked and the quarterback made a great throw. Cody Kessler will 100% hit one of the underneath crossers.

You can call it a pick if you want:

Donte Moncrief was wide open on this play. If you notice, there were more crossing routes and a quick release for Bortles. The crossing routes create confusion and give Bortles an easy read on a short pass. Once again, every NFL quarterback should complete this pass.

There it is:

The old Air Coryell in full effect. The Jags run a play action fake and give Bortles a max protect look sending two receivers deep down field, the receivers cross paths and given the safety playing deep, neither of the receivers are able to separate from their defenders leaving Bortes standing in the backfield as the pocket collapses. He is able to get this pass off but it wasn’t a good looking over-throw.

Cody Kessler probably would have thrown the exact same pass, maybe a little further off.

The Run Game:

The Jags will run a lot of man blocking schemes but will throw in a zone scheme from time to time as well.

I included this clip because the Cowboys play nearly the same defense we do and while the Cowboys defense has been good this season, this is what happens when someone fails to fill their gap assignment.

The Jaguars offense is a good one. It’s using the talent they actually have instead of talent they wish they had. With that said the entire offense lives and dies with a single person.


Blake Bortles was benched in favor of Cody Kessler. Here are some facts about Kessler from his 2018 season:

He has seen action in one game, week seven against the Texans. Kessler went 21 for 30 with 1 touchdown, 1 interception and 156 yards passing. He also took four sacks in a quarter and a half.

Here are the things I saw on tape when watching Cody Kessler: He only completed a few passes that went for more than 10 yards. And I don’t mean a few as in five or six, I mean two or three and three may be generous. If you thought Tom Brady was the king of the dump off it’s because you haven’t seen Cody Kessler in all his glory. 1st and 10? How about a 3 yard dump off. 2nd and 7? How about a 5 yard dump off? 3rd and 8? How about a 4 yard dump off?

The few plays I saw Kessler go deep they were either very bad misses or just thrown away. I pulled a few plays to give you guys and girls an idea of some of what we can expect:

This was, by my count Cody Kessler’s second longest pass play this season. It was a quick hitter where the tight end just down in the middle of the two linebacker’s zones. This is the type of play I expect to see from Kessler.

His longest completed pass:

That’s it folks. That’s all the interesting throws I can find. The rest are short dump offs or guys in the flat, on occasion he shows good movement escaping the pocket and then finds a crossing tight end or wide receiver 3-5 yards down field. Otherwise, we have this play, a dig against man coverage that shouldn’t excite anyone.

“Kessler Magic” probably won’t become a thing but...:

Like I said, every now and then he shows good mobility and this time he did this silly thing and it worked out for him. If he can make plays like this consistently then the Jags might have something, sadly for them, that’s not what I saw on tape.

The tape wasn’t bad:

In what should have been a classic Kessler check down, it went off of the running backs helmet after going through his hands and the ball went right into the waiting hands of a defender. Sure this pass could have been better, but this one wasn’t on Cody Kessler.

Cody Kessler could come in and play lights out with Scott Milanovich calling plays, but based on what he’s done this year when he’s been asked to play, I just don’t know if he’s got it in him. To be completely fair, 30 pass attempts in a single half of a single game is hardly enough to accurately assess any player. Ultimately we don’t know what we’re going to get, but I don’t expect it to be great.

Running Back:

Well, this is still a mess.

When the Colts and Jags played in week 10, I didn’t know what to expect. Leonard Fournette was returning from injury and I had no idea if he would look like his old self again. Here are the numbers he put up in his first game back from injury:

24 attempts, 53 yards, 1 touchdown with a long run of 11 yards.

Yep, Leonard Fournette was back and at full strength. He did chip in 5 catches for 51 yards and another touchdown, but that was before he ran across the field to punch a guy he had no business punching. As of the writing of this amazing breakdown, Fournette is appealing his one game suspension and may or may not play on Sunday. It won’t matter either way:

Our Colts limited Jacksonville to 91 rushing yards on 34 attempts, which is what you would expect from a Leonard Fournette led attack. Shades of Trent Richardson (okay maybe not that bad but it feels good to pile on a fanbase who was so insufferable after their first playoff appearance in a decade). I don’t know who will be getting the carries but I’m not worried about T.J. Yeldon or Carlos Hyde either.

Pass Catchers:

Donte Moncrief, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, D.J. Chark and James O’Shaughnessy are the names you need to know.

Donte Moncrief had a very nice game against our Colts in week 10:

As a Colts fan the most amazing part of this play was that at no point during the play did Donte Moncrief get hurt, miss five weeks and celebrate a first down despite the fact his team was down by 30 points. Truly amazing to see how far he’s come as a player and a person.

Once again, I’m just not sure what to tell you here. I expect T.J. Yeldon to be targeted heavily but outside of that no one can know who Kessler is going to have chemistry with off the bat but my guess is, it’s whoever is within five yards of the line of scrimmage.

Offensive Line:

Starters from left to right: Ereck Flowers, Chris Reed?, Brandon Linder, A.J. Cann and Jermey Parnell.

The Jags were so decimated by injuries and desperate for help at tackle they went out and signed Ereck Flowers. The same Ereck Flowers that may be the worst tackle draft bust of the last ten years, he’s now the Jaguars starting left tackle. Amazing.

Andrew Norwell. Ah the free agent nearly all Colts fans agreed on. I won’t lie, I wanted Norwell in Indianapolis. The former all-pro signed a five year $66.5 million contract with the Jags. Now I won’t tell you that he’s played poorly. However, he hasn’t he’s played like an above average guard. He hasn’t played like an All Pro who earned a bigger payday than anyone at his position ever had before. He has given up sacks this year looking slow-footed and over-matched. Andrew Norwell has, so far, been a free agent bust and as of this week he’s now on injured reserve. Filling in for him Will be Chris Reed or Josh Walker or really anyone they have who is under contract and still breathing. It won’t matter.

Brandon Linder, by all accounts has played well but a good center doesn’t fix the other issues. A.J. Cann is at absolute best an average guard. He isn’t great but he’s better than Jeremy Vujnovich.

At right tackle is Jermey Parnell. Parnell might be the Jags best offensive lineman this year. He had a really rough game against the Chiefs but has otherwise been consistently solid.

This line was in tatters when the Colts last played them three weeks ago, today somehow, it’s much worse. I would be very surprised if Matt Eberflus didn’t send a lot of pressure Cody Kessler’s way to try to get him to make a mistake.

What to Expect from the Colts Defense:

Blitzes and man coverage. Seriously, I don’t think there’s any way around it. Cody Kessler isn’t an NFL quarterback and if you get after him while he’s standing behind that poor excuse of a patched together offensive line, well it’s only a matter of time before the defense causes a couple turnovers.

I’m confident after watching Cody Kessler and considering the turmoil the Jags are facing. With that said if you thought week 12 against the Dolphins was a trap game, this has all the makings of the perfect trap. I’m confident the Colts are the better team but the Jags have to win another game eventually, right? Maybe it won’t be this week but it’s possible the team rallies around anyone not named Bortles playing quarterback and maybe they all hated Nathaniel Hackett enough to go out and play beyond their ability, I don’t think that will be the case, but stranger things have happened.