JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars' 2017 defense is good. That's no longer a question.
But how good it can be?
That's a question defensive tackle Malik Jackson answered in intriguing fashion Tuesday, comparing the 2017 Jaguars defense to the 2015 Denver defense that led the Broncos to the Super Bowl 50 Championship.
"That 2015 [Broncos] defense was awesome and will be remembered, but I think we're on the pace of trying to be a lot better," Jackson said as the AFC South-leading Jaguars (7-3) prepared to play the Arizona Cardinals (4-6) at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, Sunday at 4:25 p.m.
"I knew what we had when I first got here [in 2016]. I'd be lying to say, 'Oh, we're going to be No. 1.' We had a lot of work to do. But coming in this offseason, I told everybody 'We have a chance to win the Super Bowl.' I saw what we had and what we'd be able to do. I believe in this group."
Jackson, a starter on the '15 Broncos, noted the ability to score points as a strength of this Jaguars defense compared to Denver's Super Bowl champions. The Broncos in 2015 had one defensive touchdown; the Jaguars this season have five defensive touchdowns.
The Jaguars scored a defensive touchdown in 19-7 victory over the Browns this past Sunday when linebacker Telvin Smith recovered a late fumble in the end zone; they had a defensive score on a fumble return by defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. negated when an official mistakenly ruled the play dead.
They also had a fumble return by Tashaun Gipson for a touchdown negated the week before when officials ruled Gipson down by contact.
"The biggest difference that this team does that that team (the '15 Broncos) didn't do was score points as a defense," Jackson said. "When you start doing that, it turns into a whole different category."
The 2015 Broncos finished first in yards allowed, first in passing yards allowed and first in sacks.
The Jaguars through 10 games this season rank first in the NFL in yards allowed, first in points allowed, first in sacks and first in passing defense. They are tied for the NFL lead in takeaways and third in the league with 13 interceptions. Baltimore has 16 interceptions and Philadelphia has 14.
Of the third-place status in interceptions, safety Tashaun Gipson said, "That's not OK."
"We feel like collectively we want to get on that run where we're getting our hands on balls on the back end," Gipson said. "[Cornerback] A.J. Bouye (team-high four interceptions) has been coming up huge the last couple of weeks. We really feel like there are opportunities out there."
Notes and observations from around EverBank Field Tuesday:
*The Jaguars adjusted their practice schedule this week, with practice scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday compared to the normal schedule of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Players will be off Thursday for Thanksgiving. No official injury report was released Tuesday, but the Jaguars announced that the following players weren't expected to practice: right tackle Jermey Parnell (knee), left guard Patrick Omameh (quadriceps), wide receiver Allen Hurns (ankle), linebacker Blair Brown (hamstring) and linebacker Donald Payne (hamstring). Parnell has missed the last two games and Omameh and Hurns missed this past Sunday. Parnell worked on the side early in practice Tuesday. The first official injury report of the week will be released Wednesday. …
*While many players plan to eat traditional Thanksgiving fare Thursday, Gipson said he takes another approach. "I don't like Thanksgiving food; I'm a bit weird," he said. "Me, I'm going to grill. I don't really like the turkey and all of that. Hopefully, one day we get to play on a Thursday, or a prime-time game or something like that around here. We deserve it. Until then, I'm going to eat my barbeque. You all are invited. We'll watch some football." …
*The Jaguars, after winning in one-sided games in the season's first five victories (29-7 over Houston, 44-7 over Baltimore, 30-9 over Pittsburgh, 27-0 over Indianapolis and 23-7 over Cincinnati), have won two closer games the past two weeks. They beat the Los Angeles Chargers, 20-17 in overtime two weeks ago and scored late to clinch a win over the Browns this past Sunday. "It's kind of been a big topic here in the past, that you have to figure out how to learn how to win," quarterback Blake Bortles said. "I don't know if that's a real thing or not. I think you either win or you lose and you just go do it. We've won games running the ball, we've won games throwing the ball and we've won games not really doing anything on offense and the defense played really good. It's kind of been a little bit of everybody. Anytime that you can win games ugly, win games without all three phases playing well, I think that's huge." …