Ask any player on the Jaguars defense the past year for the one word that is used more than any other at EverBank Field by players and coaches.
The word is posted in meeting rooms, on the bottom of game plans, on every PowerPoint presentation that is shown to the unit and repeated by coaches on a daily basis. Eavesdrop on a player speaking with the media about an upcoming game and you will most likely hear, “We have to be relentless on defense.”
It’s a common theme, along with accountability, that defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has stressed to his troops.
The relentless attitude was a major point of emphasis for the club in 2011, especially when it came to creating turnovers. The Jaguars finished the season ranked fourth in the AFC and 11th in the NFL with 28 takeaways (17 interceptions, 11 fumbles), the team’s most since 2007.
One statistic sums up the Jaguars’ ability to take the ball away in 2011 compared to the last three years:
The Jaguars had 12 sacks that resulted in fumbles compared to one in 2010.
The Jaguars set a franchise record with seven takeaways (four fumbles, three interceptions) against Tampa Bay on December 11, tied for the most in the NFL in 2011. The Jaguars’ previous high was five takeaways in five different games with the last coming on Dec. 19, 2004 at Green Bay.
Passing defense finishes 8th despite injuries
What do all these players have in common?
All 16 players played at least one snap for the Jaguars in the defensive secondary last season.
The Jaguars finished the season with 10 defensive backs on injured reserve. Landry was the only member of the secondary to start all 16 games. Mathis, who has started 125 games for the Jaguars, missed the final seven games and Cox the final six games of the season.
After digesting the information, it’s hard to believe the Jaguars passing defense ranked eighth in the NFL, allowing only 200.8 yards per game through the air. Opposing quarterbacks averaged only 10.90 yards per completion, the fourth-lowest average in the NFL, and 6.93 yards per attempt, the 13th-lowest average in the league.
The Jaguars eliminated the ‘big play’ that played such a major role in 2010. The Jaguars tied for third in 2011 with 51 plays of 20-plus yards by their opponents and tied for second with only 43 completions of 20-plus yards.
Pressuring the quarterback
The Jaguars have improved their sack total in each of the first two seasons under defensive line coach Joe Cullen. The ‘Rushmen’ as Cullen likes to refer to his unit were responsible for 20.5 of the club’s 31 sacks in 2011.
The 31 sacks were the most since 2007 when the club had 37. The Jaguars had at least two sacks in 10 of 16 games including a season-high five in week eight at Indianapolis.
A franchise-record 16 different players combined for the club’s 31 sacks while only nine players were credited with a sack in 2010. Defensive end