3TFO: Colts @ Jaguars, Week 4
Not much has gone right for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013. Blaine Gabbert will return to the starting lineup this week — after Chad Henne had a pair of forgettable showings — for what some consider a final chance to prove he can be a starting NFL quarterback. Back at home after two games on the West Coast, the Jaguars will be heavy underdogs as they host a Colts team that just thumped the San Francisco 49ers.
The Colts had a strong day in run blocking in their victory last week, and Ahmad Bradshaw forced three missed tackles on his way to 95 rushing yards and a touchdown. The Colts ran 36 rushing plays, not including a QB kneel, and 35 passing plays as they took a balanced approach against last year’s Super Bowl runner-up. It was a statement blowout for the Colts, who will look to maintain their momentum against a struggling franchise in Jacksonville.
Blaine Gabbert had a rough introduction to 2013, completing less than 50% of his passes, taking six sacks, two more hits, and scrambling four times as his offense failed to score against Kansas City. Afforded little protection, Gabbert saw pressure on 40% of his drop-backs, and completed only 25% of his passes when he faced it. He wasn’t helped much by his receivers in Week 1, as they dropped three of his on-target passes. Accounting for the drops though, Gabbert’s 59.4% Accuracy Percentage was still 31st in accuracy in Week 1, beating out the now-benched Josh Freeman to avoid the cellar.
The Jaguars will likely continue their trend of quick passing, as Gabbert’s 2.21 Seconds to Pass Attempt was fourth-fastest in the league in Week 1. That may be something of a necessity for this offense, as Gabbert’s average time to sack was just 3.22 seconds, faster than most other quarterbacks who took multiple sacks in Week 1. Dealing with the Colts’ pass rush, namely Robert Mathis from the left side of the offense, will be a challenge yet again for Gabbert. Outside of right guard Uche Nwaneri, who was limited in practice on Wednesday, the Jaguars’ offensive line has been below-average against the pass rush. Still, the third-year QB needs to do a better job in the face of pressure. Even though the Jags are an average 17th in Pass Blocking Efficiency, their quarterbacks have taken 14 sacks — seven attributed to offensive linemen. This suggests the quarterbacks either aren’t recognizing pressure or aren’t getting rid of the football quickly enough.
Trent Richardson vs. Jaguars Run Defense
With Ahmad Bradshaw missing practice again on Thursday, Trent Richardson might see a heavier workload in his second game with the Colts. Despite recording 52 run stops this year, Jacksonville grades out as our second-worst run defense this year. They’ve allowed eight Breakaway Runs to running backs already this year, which equates to 9.4% of all breakaway runs in the league. Their 22 missed tackles on running plays equates to a team Tackling Efficiency of 4.4 tackle attempts per whiff. For comparison’s sake, only two inside linebackers (min. 42 run defense snaps) have been more prone to miss tackles than the entire Jaguar defense this year.
Richardson must be licking his chops in anticipation of the shoddy tackling display Jacksonville has put on this year. On his 43 rushing attempts this year, Richardson has forced 16 missed tackles and will look to do more of the same against Jacksonville. At 75.3, his Elusive Rating on rushing attempts is best in the league for running backs with at least 40 rushing attempts. Simply put, he’s been slippery as a runner and presents a major challenge given Jacksonville’s disinclination to finish tackles.
Jaguars Pass Rush
Jason Babin has been the Jaguars’ best pass rusher this year, fresh off a four-pressure performance at Seattle last week. Primarily a left side rusher, Babin will match up with Gosder Cherilus and his 94.3 Pass Blocking Efficiency this week. On paper, that looks like an even matchup. On the other side of the line, Andre Branch, the primary right side rusher, has managed just five pressures on 47 rushes. He will deal with Anthony Castonzo, who has posted two straight gleaming weeks of pass protection after a rough Week 1.
The Colts are vulnerable to the pass rush on the interior more than they are at the bookends. On few pass rushing opportunities, the Jaguars have seen limited productivity from Jeremy Mincey and Brandon Deaederick on the inside. The Colts are now starting Hugh Thornton at left guard, Mike McGlynn at center, and Jeff Linkenbach at right guard. All three have Pass Blocking Efficiencies under 94, with Linkenbach’s 89.7 the lowest of the group. Not coincidentally, those three — and Samson Satele, who might play this weekend — are all negatively-graded pass blockers. The interior trench matchup may end up even, too, as the Jaguars don’t have an elite interior rusher to exploit this Colts weakness.
If the Jaguars do manage pressure, Andrew Luck should be used to it by now. After a rookie season that saw Luck pressured the fourth-most in the league, he’s actually seen more pressure this year, up to 40.9% from 38.1% last year. He’s still preventing those pressures from turning into sacks at an average rate, but his Accuracy Percentage under pressure is a meager 53.3%, which is sixth-worst in the league. For the Jaguars to keep this one close, the defense will have to take advantage of the Colts’ interior pass blocking weakness.
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