JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Each week this season I'm going to try to bring a statistical outlook to the Jaguars and their upcoming opponent. This week the Jaguars host the Bears and their vaunted defense.
Now that the season is a fourth of the way completed it's now time to look at some numbers for the Jaguars.Jaguars Record: 1-3
Offensive DVOA: 24th
Defensive DVOA: 23rd
Turnover Differential: 0
The offense has been better than last year's team in DVOA (Football Outsiders
statistic Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). The defense has completely fallen off the pace from last season's squad. I predicted
that the Jaguars would experience regression on both sides of the ball during this season. Still--I didn't think that the defense would fall off this much, even accounting for an acceptable amount of injuries. Both sides of the ball have a lot of catching up to do in the next three quarters to even become league average. But let's tackle some of the issues that can be addressed now to help turn these two units around.
Health is the number one thing that could help on defense. We have already seen the return of Derek Cox and he has already been an asset to the defense. Now the coaching staff should move around the field with the oppositions top receiver instead of playing corners on just one side of the field. Also, Rashean Mathis should probably be rotated out more to keep him fresh. This isn't an indictment of Mathis' play, but you have a 32-year-old corner coming off ACL surgery. Playing Ross or Middleton is a downgrade but Mathis clearly wore down against the Bengals and has been playing a lot of snaps (140 in the last two weeks) since being eased into the lineup in the first two weeks (61 snaps). Getting Daryl Smith back would be huge boost to the front seven. His ability in both rushing and passing situations is greatly missed. Help for the pass rush may not come until after the bye week when John Chick is eligible to be activated off the PUP list.
On offense, a healthy dose of touches for Marcedes Lewis and Rashod Jennings would be the shot in the arm this group needs. Jennings carried the ball only two times against the Bengals and that is not enough for a player of his abilities. Jennings has the potential to be a difference maker with the ball in his hands. Lewis on the other hand has to be targeted more. He has nine receptions this season on nine targets, the best percentage on the team. The other thing this offense needs is it's identity. This offense as currently constructed is not good enough to run out conservative offenses and expect to put points on the board. At some point the coaching staff must look to exploit defenses with their play calling. The offensive players have not been winning one-on-one battles, with the exception of Eugene Monroe, and must be put into spots to fool the defenders to find more open space.
Now onto this week's opponent, the Bears. I have been giving you information from last year on each team as there hasn't been enough games to get a good sample size on the opponents. At this point in the season there are enough games to now look at the numbers from this season and what it might mean going forward.Bears Record: 3-1
Offensive DVOA: 21
Defensive DVOA: 1
Turnover Differential: +7
The Bears currently have a higher turnover differential than they did last year (+2). They are also better on both sides of the ball this year. A trend that will be hard for them to sustain over the course of the year. The offense has the better chance of improving as they have turned the ball over too often with 6 interceptions and 1 fumble lost. The defense is just in a different stratosphere right now.
The uptick on offense can be credited to three offseason additions in WR Brandon Marshall, RB Michael Bush and WR Alshon Jeffery. Marshall and Jeffery are both large targets for the big armed Jay Cutler to find. Marshall has been especially impressive catching 59% of the passes thrown his direction for 352 yards and 2 touchdowns. He brings a higher level play to the position for the Bears then they probably have ever had in their history. Jeffery has also been impressive catching 63% of his targets with a 13.7 yards per catch average. Both targets measure 6'4" and will be a matchup nightmare for the Jaguars corners. Michael Bush has helped hold the "fort" with Matt Forte battling through an ankle injury. He brings a bruising running style to balance the electric Forte. No matter which running back the Bears put out there they both are a difficult to bring down.
The one area of weakness for this offense is the protection for Jay Cutler. The Bears have given up 13 sacks on the season. This is a good sign for the Jaguars as their pass rush still tries to find it's legs it should get a boost with turnstiles the Bears start along the line. This also creates problems for Cutler in his reads. Getting consistent pressure and moving Cutler off his mark could force him into some bad decisions. Cutler throws interceptions on 5.1% of his passes, an alarmingly high rate.
The boost on defense for the Bears has been interceptions, sacks and getting off the field on third downs. The Bears are first in the NFL with 11 interceptions, second in third down conversions with a 26% rate and third in sacks with 15. Rushing the ball will be extremely difficult against a front seven led by Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. They are allowing only 3.4 yards a carry so far. Passing the ball will also be extremely difficult. It seems that when the Bears don't get to the quarterback they are intercepting his passes with Tim Jennings with 4 picks and Major Wright with 3 already.
This game will probably be decided by turnovers. Gabbert has only thrown interceptions on .9% of his throws which will be key in this matchup. Also the Jaguars have to get after Cutler and force him into turnovers if the Jaguars expect to come out on top in this game.