JACKSONVILLE – At its core, the defense is the same.
But Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash on Thursday said there have been subtle changes this season to a defense that leads the NFL in sacks and takeaways through five games.
"We've been able to expand the package; I think that's a lot of it," Wash said Thursday as the AFC South-leading Jaguars (3-2) prepared to play the Los Angeles Rams (3-2) at EverBank Field Sunday at 4:05 p.m.
The Jaguars, who rank No. 3 in the NFL in passing defense and No. 14 overall, run essentially the same hybrid 4-3, 3-4 scheme they have run since the arrival of former Head Coach Gus Bradley in 2013.
It's basically the scheme run by Seattle under Head Coach Pete Carroll and Atlanta. Bradley and Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn both served as the Seahawks' defensive coordinator before becoming head coaches, and Bradley now runs the scheme in San Diego.
"What Todd has done is he's opened up to a lot of things that will fit what our philosophy is and trying to do things that are going to make us better and help us win," Head Coach Doug Marrone said this week.
Wash, the Jaguars' defensive line coach from 2013-2016 and the defensive coordinator last season, said while the defense remains run-oriented in base situations, a change was necessary in passing situations.
"We're going to major in three-deep; there's no doubt," Wash said. "We're an eight-man front; we're going to do everything we can to stop the run. But in passing situations we felt we had to put in a little split safety coverage to help us out of how we were getting attacked.
"I think it's important that we understand we're a three-deep team, but at times we have to do some different things to give ourselves a chance."
The Jaguars have 15 takeaways compared to 13 last season. They finished sixth in the NFL in yards allowed last season, but their 25 points allowed were the eighth-most in the NFL. Their 16.6 points allowed this season is tied for second in the NFL.
Wash on Thursday noted the offseason addition of unrestricted three free agents: defensive end Calais Campbell (six sacks), safety Barry Church (one interception) and cornerback A.J. Bouye (two interceptions).
"They're good football players, but like I said when we got them: I think they're better people," Wash said. "That's where it starts as an organization. They're all buying in to one common goal: winning football games."
All three Jaguars coordinators – Nathaniel Hackett on offense, Todd Wash on defense and Joe DeCamillis on special teams – spoke to the media Thursday, as did rookie running back Leonard Fournette.
Notes and observations from Coordinator Thursday:
*If Fournette's two-yard touchdown dive in Pittsburgh Sunday surprised you, you weren't alone. Fournette, who left the ground around the four-yard line and landed at least a yard into the end zone on the play, said he didn't realize his distance until he watched later. "I didn't know I dove that far," Fournette said. "I looked at it and was shocked at myself. You just try to make a play, try to make it happen and it did." …
*Hackett said he wasn't surprised with Fournette's breakaway speed on a 90-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run Sunday – and he said, too, he wasn't surprised Fournette was able to pull away from the Steelers' defense on his 28th carry of the game. "He's one of those guys who gets stronger as the game goes. He's a guy you want to keep rolling, and keep feeding." …
*Hackett on Rams All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald: "He has the speed to get around you, but then he can bull rush you like no one else. The combination of both is incredible. … The whole [Jaguars offensive] interior is going to have to have a good focal point on where 99 [Donald] is. We have the entire offense understanding where he's going to be." …
*Hackett on a 12-play, 67-yard, run-only drive against the Steelers Sunday: "That was one the most fired-up I've ever been. I was going crazy. … We just said, 'We have to stay on the field – somehow, some way. We have to make sure the clock runs some way.' … It just kind of happened."
*Center Brandon Linder (illness) for a second consecutive day was the lone Jaguars player not practicing, and wide receiver Arrelious Benn (groin) was added to the injury report. Wide receiver Marqise Lee (ribs) practiced limited Thursday after working full Wednesday. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey worked limited with a calf issue Thursday after working limited with an ankle issue Wednesday, and Fournette (ankle), running back Chris Ivory (hip) and guard Patrick Omameh (hip) all worked limited for a second consecutive day. Quarterback Blake Bortles (right wrist), wide receiver Jaelen Strong (hamstring), safety Jarrod Wilson (shoulder), linebacker Lerentee McCrary (knee) and defensive tackle Malik Jackson (groin) all worked full for a second consecutive day. …