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 are traveling to Indianapolis to take on the Colts.
The Colts lost big on the road to a far superior team in the Chicago Bears and won at home to a poor team on a late field goal. Almost sounds like what the Jaguars have done but the Jaguars defense is in full regression mode with no end in sight to the free-fall. It's still early enough to look back at last year and what it means moving forward. With out further ado, here is a quick look at some numbers from the Colts 2011 season.
Colts 2011 Record: 2-14
Pythagorean Wins: 3.2
Offense DVOA: 27th
Defense DVOA: 26th
Turnover Differential: -12
The Colts were slightly unlucky when it came to wins in 2011, but the big number here is the turnover differential. The injury to Peyton Manning left this team with a "pu pu platter" at quarterback and their play showed. Most teams with this low of number in the turnover column tend to rebound, but with a rookie Andrew Luck running the show I expect that number to stay south of even for this season. Luck has already thrown 3 picks in his first two starts.
On offense it's the same old story on offense for the Colts, poor ground game (3.3 yards/carry) must be carried by the passing game. Enter Andrew Luck who is trying to turn around a team with little change over the last decade with Manning. Luck through the first two games has targeted his starting wide receivers, Reggie Wayne and Donnie Avery, and starting tight end, Coby Fleener, 57 times for a 75% target rate. An extraordinarily high number for his top targets but one that so far has been justified with them catching 35 of those targets good for 61% reception rate while having 81% of the total receptions on the team. The key for any defense facing this team is to try and stop these three receivers and see what else the Colts have behind them.
The biggest change for this team comes on defense as gone is the light 4-3 Tampa 2 defense brought in by Tony Dungy and enters is the the heavier 3-4 defense. This has made the Colts already more adept at stopping the run giving up only 3.5 yards per carry. It's a small sample size and I'm sure we will get plenty of opportunities to see if it's for real or not. Robert Mathis has been a beast early in this season with 3 sacks (half of the entire team total) for a total of 20 yards lost for the opposition. The Colts with Mathis can get after the quarterback while waiting on the return of Dwight Freeney from injury.
The Jaguars have not given up one touchdown pass in their first two games which is quite remarkable but here are the rest of the defensive numbers: 31st in completion percentage with 74.2%, 21st in yards per attempt with 7.5 yards, 0 interceptions, 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 31st in rushing yards with 339 yards, 19th in yards per attempt with 4.4 yards, tied 31st with 5 rushing touchdowns. This defense is just ugly right now. Maybe a rookie quarterback with no ground game (the achilles heel to the giant body of not being able to stop the pass) will help.
Offensively is where the Jaguars actually have the least amount of catching up to do. Injuries have played a big role in knocking the team off their game in week 2. Hopefully some more time practicing without some players and getting some players back will help gel the unit. The biggest hindrance the Jaguars have faced is their coaching staff. In week 1 the coaches drew up a beautiful game plan that saw lots of different formations and a lot of deception in sets to get the ball in good spots. In week 2 not so much. It's almost like the coaches said "We have some key injuries, maybe we shouldn't try and do too much." Only problem with that is it left backups trying to go straight man on man against some of the best players the NFL has to offer. The first thing the coaches should do is get Cecil Shorts on the field more. I know crazy right. Oddly enough Shorts has been the most efficient receiver in the first two games. He has 4 receptions on 9 targets (45% catch rate) while averaging 18.5 yards a catch for 74 yards. Numbers that when you look at them--jump off the page. But bring in context--Shorts has only been on the field for 24 offensive snaps out of a possible 127. That's only 19% of the snaps. For comparison, let's look at Justin Blackmon, 3 catches on 10 targets (30%) and an 8 yard average for 24 yards.
Blackmon has played 116 snaps which is 91% of the total snaps. Now, I'm not advocating that Shorts is a better receiver than Blackmon, just that the I believe the Jaguars are better in three receiver sets than in more traditional formations. The key for the offense is to keep rotating in personnel and force the defense to adjust accordingly. Blackmon and Laurent Robinson are strong blockers in the run game--an area Marcedes Lewis also excels. Going into more "spread looks" would force the defense to choose between playing base defense or nickel and give an advantage either way to the Jaguars. If in the nickel, the Jaguars could choose to run Jones-Drew out of pass formations. Jones-Drew does not have the burst he once did, but he is still a handful to take down and with more defensive backs on the field the more tackles he will break. He may not hit the home run, but he will keep grinding the yards needed. If the defense shows up in their base formation, let Blaine Gabbert find the mismatch and exploit it.
Speaking of mismatches, Gabbert needs to find Lewis more often as he caught all 5 of the passes thrown his direction with a 10.4 yard average to boot.
Which looks even better when you remember his only touchdown was a 1 yard reception.
This is the challenge for the Jaguars coaching staff, put your players into a position to win and the position to win is going against conventional wisdom with their offensive sets. Another area the coaches must challenge the players is on fourth down. The Jaguars are not going to win games by giving the other team the ball. Mike Mularkey needs to start going for conversions on fourth and short rather than punting the ball away. To win a game in the NFL, you must score points. You score points when in possession of the ball. Don't waste those opportunities.