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2019 Opponent Scouting Report: Jaguars Offense- Somewhere, Mike Leach is smiling

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Houston Texans v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Overview

On November 17th, 2019 the Indianapolis Colts will host the Jacksonville Jaguars. In this Week 11 match-up, I sought to understand our opponent and get a better idea of how they may attack our Colts.

The Colts lead this series with an all time record of 23 wins and 13 losses. The past few match-ups haven’t exactly been stellar for our Colts, losing 5 of the last 7 including a brutal 6 to nothing domination a little less than a year ago. 11 months later both teams are very different than they were the last time they met. Hopefully Frank Reich has the team ready to return to it’s winning ways against this group of jags.

Let’s see what we can expect in week 11.


Offensive Scheme

By now, if you don’t know the story of the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles and their impact on our Colts, I assume you became a fan within the past month or you are a very casual fan. If either of those things are true, welcome! I’m happy to have you, you probably won’t understand most of this article and that’s okay! Ask questions, I’ll be nice. But I assume most people who read Stampede Blue know the story of Frank Reich’s path to becoming the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

The story that Colts fans may not know from that Eagles Super Bowl run is that of John DeFilippo. DeFilippo was the quarterbacks coach under Frank Reich and head coach Doug Pederson and in the months following their championship win, DeFilippo seemed to be on a direct trajectory to spend a year as an offensive coordinator and then take the best head coaching offer that came his way heading into the 2019 season.

Instead DeFilippo spent a few months with the Minnesota Vikings, helping them sport a below average offense for a team that went 6-6-1 before DeFilippo was relieved of his duties. The reports of why he was let go range from poor use of the talent at his disposal to being focused on becoming a head coach rather than his job as Vikings OC. No matter the cause, DeFilippo’s path to becoming a head coach was interrupted and once teams started to hire coaches for the 2019 season, the former golden-boy was back on the market waiting for another shot at being a competent play caller.

As it turned out the Jacksonville Jaguars desperately needed a competent play caller and John DeFilippo was the guy that Tom Coughlin hired.

Because I didn’t spend much time following DeFilippo’s career, I like many others, scoffed at the Jaguars signing of Nick Foles. Now that I’m assembling all of the moving pieces that was the Jaguars 2019 off season, the Jaguars plan seems much more cohesive and dare I say... competent. So given Nick Foles and John DeFilippo’s reunion, it conjures up memories of that fateful playoff run but can the Colts expect to see an offense similar to the one they ran in 2017?

The 2017 Philadelphia Eagles offense was a high powered West Coast based system with a quarterback in Cason Wentz who was playing at an MVP level. While the 2019 Jaguars don’t exactly have that they do have schematic similarities.

NCAA Concept

The NCAA concept is a variation of the Mills concept. Both the NCAA and the Mills create a high-low read with the deep receiver running a post and the receiver running a dig route. The NCAA concept adds another high low read by adding another underneath crossing pattern. What results are three simple reads for the quarterback to make. On the play above Minshew didn’t like any of those three options and chose to check the ball down to his back.

Here the Eagles team site broke down this concept before the 2016 Season which was Doug Pederson’s first with the team:

The Eagles have to have a couple former player better at analysis than this but for now this is what they gave us. It’s not a bad breakdown, I just expected more.

Y-Cross Concept

While at Arizona, Nick Foles played under offensive coordinator Seth Littrell. Before Littrell was named offensive coordinator for the Wildcats he coached at Texas Tech under head coach Mike Leach.

That’s relevant to this play because this is one of a handful of plays that Mike Leach will call during a game. Seriously he doesn’t even have a playbook. It’s also relevant because Gardner Minshew finished his college career at Washington State under none other than, Mike Leach.

This is a take on the Y-Cross concept. Traditionally the crossing receiver would be the primary target on this play while the receiver on the left side of the field (the guy who makes the catch) would be the guy to go deep and pull the deep safety away creating space for that crossing receiver.

Instead what happened on this play is another staple of the Air-Raid. These are option routes. Tight end Seth Devalve (88) feels the zone coverage of being in the middle of three defenders. In this situation he’s taught to sit down. In the meantime Keelan Cole (84) is getting ready to run his route directly to the spot that Devalve is sitting down. Cole sees the coverage and Devalve sitting down so he cuts up field and becomes the “deep” receiver on this play.

These option routes work because had Cole crossed he would have been covered by the linebacker and DB on that side of the field and had Devalve gone deep, he would have been covered by the safety. Instead Devalve sits, Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham stays with Cole vertically for a few steps before releasing him to the deep defender, this created a window just wide enough for Minshew to fit the pass in for a first down. Had this play not had these option routes built in Minshew would have been forced to check this pass down and likely try to pick up a reasonable 3rd down.

Jags levels play

This is just a simple levels play. To Minshew’s right both receivers run dig routes but the Texans are in quarters coverage. This is just what the Jags do. If you play quarters coverage they will take 4-7 yards every time without thinking about it. Minshew was good at recognizing it and had the discipline to do it each and every time.

Dagger Concept

This play isn’t unlike the NCAA concept. There is a post and a dig route but this time the outside receiver runs the dig while the receiver in the slot runs the post (post corner here but that might have been another option route given the coverage).

The Texans show a Tampa 2 defense with an inside linebacker running deep down the field. The slot receiver pulls both the linebacker and the safety on that side of the field deep with him, which leaves the middle of the field wide open for the outside receiver to roam.

For the quarterback, after he sees both the linebacker and the safety bail out on the play he has to decide if he is going to throw to the receiver running the deep dig or if he needs to dump it down to the drag route, coming from right to left. This is known, once again, as a high-low read. The QB will look deep first to see if he can pick up a big chunk of yards and if he can, safely, he will throw the ball for a big gain just like he did on this play.

Spot Concept

The spot concept can be useful in a lot of situations and it can be run out of nearly every formation. Here the Texans anticipate having three receiving options on this side of the field and they treat them as if they were a bunch formation of three receivers. Generally this is what a spot concept looks like:

Locked on Eagles

Instead the Jags have all of the components they just mix up the roles a bit. Oh and that corner route, that’s an option route now! D.J. Chark sees that the zone defender is going to take away any success he might have running the corner route. Instead he plants his foot in the ground, turns around and makes a catch between four defenders.

You know who else likes to use the spot concept in exciting (it is for me) new ways? The Eagles:

I got that clip in this article from Michael Kist of Locked on Eagles. It’s a good piece and worth your time if you want to learn more about the concept and see another variation.

This Jaguars offense looks like any modern offense and given the fact that Air-Raid concepts are taking over every level of football, that’s true. This is a modern pro-style Air-Raid heavy offense. It’s the kind of offense that both Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew III were made to run.


Quarterback:

This week the Colts are in the odd position of playing a week 10 game against a teams week one starting quarterback, without being able to study any valuable film of him in this system. Once I really dug into who Gardner Minshew III and Nick Foles are as quarterbacks I decided to do something a little different this week. I did a video breakdown of the Jags QB’s and while I didn’t realize I could make two and a half minutes worth of video take almost 19 minutes, here we are.

No one will confuse me for Scorese, but the video has a lot of information about both Foles and Minshew. If you’re at work and you can’t watch videos the long and short of the video is this:

  • The Jaguars offense isn’t going to change for Foles.
  • Largely due to the fact that Foles and Minshew are so similar as players.
  • Minshew is a better athlete. Foles has a bigger arm and processes down field reads more quickly.
  • The biggest difference between the two comes down to experience. If I’m Doug Marrone and neither guy is heads and shoulders above the other, I would probably pick the former Super Bowl MVP as well.

The Jaguars finally seem to have competency at the quarterback position for the first time since Mark Brunell and that could change at any moment, injuries, mental breakdowns (lookin’ at you AB) and surprise retirements are the things that the NFL in 2019 is made of. Those things are unpredictable so for now it seems the AFC South’s historically worst franchise is... on the right path... ugh.


Running Back:

Leonard Fournette is having a career year. After a suspension last season voided his guarantees Fournette came into this season ready to go to work. Am I being cynical? Could it be that Fournette was just ready to play his best football since his 20th birthday for the love of the game? Maybe, but after this season the Jags will have to decide if they want to pick up his 5th year option. You have your theories, I have mine.

Either way it makes sense that Fournette came into the season in shape and focused as he’s having the kind of season you expect from a top five pick. He’s averaging 4.8 yards per carry which is the first time in his career he’s averaged more than 3.9 yards per attempt and while all you stat nerds out there will tell me how bad of a metric yards per carry is, there’s a reason no team is ever happy with a back averaging 3.3 yards per carry like Fournette did a year ago.

He’s big and fast

Here Fournette just runs straight ahead after avoiding the sixth lineman who reported as eligible and lined up as a tight end. I mention that because the Jags do it a lot.

The Jags love to use gap running schemes

And they’re not always very good when they try to go with zone looks. They don’t do it a ton, it’s really not what they’re built to do.

This will be huge on Sunday

These Jags will check the ball down to Fournette. As of right now he is second on the team with 40 catches, which is three fewer than team leader, D.J. Chark. They will dump it off all day long if the Colts don’t work to take it away.

Johnathan Joseph should probably hang ‘em up

Not because he’s old (he is) but because Leonard Fournette just ran him over like a Great Dane runs over a toddler who is standing too close to where his ball landed.

Also did you notice the 6th lineman in there?


Pass Catchers:

Scouting wide receivers is something of a mystery to me and seemingly the majority of NFL teams as well. Seven receivers were taken ahead of D.J. Chark in the 2018 NFL Draft and only two of them could be reasonably argued as deserving selections as D.J. Moore and Courtland Sutton have both been very good as well. Chark was considered by most to be a huge projection due to a lack of production. As it turns out Chark has obviously put in the work he has needed to do to become a very capable wide receiver.

Standing at 6’3” and running a 4.3 second 40 yard dash Chark is dangerous all over the field. Chark has been targeted 70 times catching 43 passes for 692 yards and 6 touchdowns. DJ Chark looks like a very good WR1.

The other guys you need to know are Dede Westbrook who has caught 32 passes of his own for another 383 yards, but he has been dealing with a neck injury and it’s unknown if he will be able to play this weekend.

If he isn’t able to go Chris Conley will be ready to fill the void. Interestingly Conley is who many people compared Chark before the 2018 draft. As it turns out Conley never developed into the kind of player Chark did but he is a fantastic deep threat catching 23 passes for 461 yards, good for an average of 20 yards per catch.

After Conley the only guy worth mentioning who isn’t on injured reserve is tight end Seth Devalve. Devalve will line up all over the offense so you can expect to see him a lot, even if he isn’t catching a lot of balls.

He missed an open receiver down field

This play does show that Minshew had a tendency to take his eyes off of his receivers as he danced around avoiding pressure. He is very good at extending the play and here he is able to find a running back who picks up a ton of yards. I know this is a section on pass catchers but the Jaguars will use their backs in every aspect of offensive football if they can.

Westbrook

Dede Westbrook averages 4 catches per game and 12 yards per reception but only has a 58% catch rate. If he is able to play I don’t expect him to be a guy that breaks the game wide open with big plays but he is exactly the kind of guy you’ll forget about only to have him catch a pass on third down and somehow manage to frustratingly fall forward to pick up a big first down.

If you want to see some DJ Chark go watch that video

This play doesn’t show all of what makes him special but it’s a nice gain all the same.

This is part of what makes him special

You don’t see a lot of 6’3” guys walking around who can run 4.3 second 40 yard dashes who can also move laterally the way Chark can.

The Colts will have their hands full with a surprisingly talented group of receivers led by the electric second year pro from LSU.


Offensive Line:

First I’ll give you the names to know and then we’ll go over what to expect up front. From left to right:

Cam Robinson, Andrew Norwell, Brandon Linder, A.J. Cann, Jawaan Taylor.

Tackle Cedric Ogbuehi is the sixth man on this line, he tends to be brought in as a tight end when the Jags are looking to run the ball north and south.

As a unit the Jaguars have given up 20 sacks this season, which is three fewer than the Colts have allowed. With that said many of those sacks haven’t been the fault of this line. For all of the entertainment that Gardner Minshew has provided the young passer also had a penchant for running himself into sacks he shouldn’t have taken. We’ll see how Nick Foles fares moving forward but as a pass blocking unit, these Jags are pretty solid.

The ground game is another story. Most of the time when I noticed Leonard Fournette picking up big chunks of yards it wasn’t because the line was opening big holes, Fournette was acting like a top five pick and creating yards that weren’t there. This line doesn’t open many holes but Fournette has been good this year finding the creases.

Linder gets destroyed

Norwell and Robinson are able to move Leonard Williams well while Ben Koyack (TE #83) shows why you’ve never heard of him.

Minshew counted to 6-watermelon here

Everybody knows after 4 watermelon it’s a sack.

Or “Mississippi” if you prefer

Cam Robinson just casually jogging up field at the end

This is a perfect example of what I mean. Fournette is having success this season and while the line has its moments where they work together and execute well, they aren’t consistent. If the Colts defenders don’t contain the backside of every run this Sunday, I’m afraid Fournette could have a big day in spite of this line.

Everyone likes playing the Bengals

This hole will probably make the 2019 Jaguars offensive line highlight reel. It probably won’t be that long of a video.


Final Thoughts:

This Jaguars offense is talented but not overly so. Their statistical ranks are pretty average across the board, only falling below out of the teens for points scored, they rank 24th. They’re only in the top ten for rushing yards and yards per attempt, landing at 9th and 6th respectively.

The return of Nick Foles is going to do one of two things; it’s either going to give this offense the spark it needs to start converting more drives into points and ultimately wins, or at worst, I believe it stays exactly the same. Given what I’ve seen from John DeFilippo this season I do believe he has the ability to lead these Jags on a hot streak on the back half of the season with a quarterback like Nick Foles.

It isn’t that I think Nick Foles is that good. He isn’t, but DeFilippo was his position coach during the most impressive stretch of his career. He understands how to get the most out of him and “the most” is pretty good.