3TFO: 49ers "@" Jacksonville, Week 8
Week 8 arrives pairing two teams on complete opposite sides of the NFL totem pole. The Jacksonville Jaguars sit at 0-7 and have had a Top-5 pick in the draft each of the last two seasons. The 49ers, on the other hand, are 5-2 and rebounding from their sixth Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. Quite simply, a Jaguars victory would be a shocking result.
Jacksonville’s offense has shown signs of life with Justin Blackmon’s return; going from 7.75 points per game through the first four weeks to 15 the last three. Still, the matchups don’t look promising. For the Jaguars this game is about evaluating who gets to stay and who has to go. The roster is littered with young players and with the season already lost they need to find out which of them are going to be a part of the rebuilding process. So far that task looks especially daunting with only four starters with above average grades on offense and three on defense.
For the 49ers it’s about getting their quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, on track. The 49ers can’t count on the eventual returns of Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree to save their flailing passing game that is averaging the fewest passing yards per game in the NFL. With their running game and defense also taking minor steps back this season, they can’t afford to have their young quarterback regress as much as he has.
Pressure All Day
While Jacksonville hasn’t been able to establish the run game all season, they are more than capable of moving the ball through the air. San Francisco could shut that down in a hurry, though, if they can get to Chad Henne. Henne has been pressured on 37.2% of his drop-backs and has a 66.0 passer rating on those plays. As a cumulative measure of their individual grades, the 49ers have the fifth-best pass rushing grade total while the Jaguars’ pass blocking grade is 12th.
The matchup to watch will be between two midseason replacements; rookie Corey Lemonier who has filled in for Aldon Smith against right tackle Austin Pasztor who’s taken over for Luke Joeckel. Both have been revelations in the passing game. Lemonier’s 12.0 PRP is 16th among 3-4 outside linebackers and his +6.4 pass rushing grade in 114 pass rushes is 12th. Pasztor has the third-best PBE among tackles at 97.5 and has ceded four total pressures in 190 snaps.
Blocking the Jags Linebackers
The deciding matchup of the game lies right here. While the Jaguars’ problems stopping the run start with the defensive line, they are expedited by their linebackers. Of all the linebacking corps I’ve analyzed this season, the Jaguars have the most trouble getting off of second-level blocks. Geno Hayes and Paul Posluszny have combined to play all but one snap this season and they have also combined for a -14.4 run defense grade. Meanwhile, Mike Iupati, Alex Boone, and Bruce Miller have combined for a run blocking grade of +10.6 and are three of the toughest matchups for linebackers powering through a crease. For the season the Jaguars have allowed the most runs of 10 yards or more (28) while the 49ers have 33 runs of at least 10 yards, the league’s second-highest figure. If both those trends continue it will be a long day for Jacksonville’s defense.
Look For Improvement
The biggest disappointment for the 49ers this season has been the play of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. After a strong +2.5 passing grade Week 1, Kaepernick has compiled a grade of -11.3 since. He has the third-worst grade among starting quarterbacks along with the third-worst Accuracy Percentage at 65.9. Compare that to his 76.0% from last season and there is plenty of reason to be concerned. That’s why it’s a great time to go up against the defense with the worst passer rating against (105.0) in the NFL. If the third-year quarterback can’t get back on track this week, it may not happen at all this season.
On the Jaguars’ side, they desperately need to see improvement from their young players. Andre Branch, Johnathan Cyprien, Ace Sanders, Josh Evans, and Austin Pasztor have all been placed in a prominent roles and only Pasztor has graded positively for the season. Branch appears to be right on the brink, showing amazing pass rushing potential at times, but lacking consistency. Likewise for Sanders who has remarkable quickness, but has dropped four of 19 catchable passes. The same cannot be said for Cyprien and Evans. Cyprien is our lowest-graded safety at -18.6 and has been blowing tackles and coverages week after week, while both have allowed passer ratings of over 140.0 on throws into their coverage. With the lack of talent throughout the roster, these young players need to step up sooner rather than later if the Jaguars have hopes of a quick turnaround in the coming years.
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