ReFo: Jaguars @ Rams, Week 5
It’s been a tough start for Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley, and losing to the one-win Rams only makes matters worse. Jacksonville simply don’t have the talent to compete on the offensive side, but one would have expected the defense, which was solid a year ago, to do more than give up the second-highest number of points through five games. The quality of personnel on that side of the ball simply isn’t as good as 2012, with Roy Miller, Sen’Derrick Marks, Geno Hayes and Brandon Deaderick all failing to make an impact. The interior defensive line, such a strength last year, is simply not as good, which is a major reason for their slow start. To compound things, second overall pick Luke Joeckel now has a broken ankle and has to go on IR. Perhaps not a massive problem this season with Jacksonville unlikely to be in contention, but you just hope he suffers no lingering effects of the injury.
On the Rams side, this is a game they really needed sitting at the bottom of the NFC West. With the Seahawks and 49ers looking good to make the playoffs, the Rams could afford no slip-up against teams they should beat. Unsurprisingly, Jeff Fisher has the defense going in the right direction with an especially fearsome pass rush. The offense can be efficient when the offensive line plays as well as it did here, (all players grading in the green) as that takes the pressure off Bradford and the Rams’ young tailbacks. They’ll need to prove it against tougher competition, but this was a step in the right direction for St Louis. Let’s take a look at some individual performances.
Jacksonville – Three Performances of Note
No Quarterback, No Problem
It would be fair to say the Jaguars have suffered from among the worst quarterback play so far this season, but that hasn’t stopped Cecil Shorts (+2.9). Watch out for him if Jacksonville ever gets a competent signal-caller. Overall, he caught 5 of 11 passes for 74 yards and a touchdown (along with an interception when targeted). Shorts’ capacity to generate space is uncanny however, whether it’s with his route running or with the ball in hand. All of his five receptions resulted in first downs and he generated significant yards after the catch on a couple. Watch the burst Shorts puts on with 3:08 to play in the first quarter after he catches a smoke route from Blaine Gabbert. Darian Stewart simply had no shot at making the tackle. Shorts also got open on another deep ball with 4.14 to play in the fourth quarter, only for the ball to be overthrown.
Blank Stat Sheet for Babin
Jason Babin (-4.7) has looked a little like he’s lost a step early this season. Overall, he has just 15 combined pressures on 143 rushes and he’s struggled even more as a run defender. Babin failed to register a single pressure against the Rams in 32 rushes, as Jake Long consistently got the better of him. He found no joy against the run either, as he had just the solitary tackle and not a single stop. Lance Kendricks, not known for his blocking ability, was able to open cutback lanes on a couple of occasions with cut blocks on the backside which Babin failed to fight off. One such play came on a crucial 3rd-and-1with 6:37 to play in the fourth quarter which helped the Rams to convert. His only other contribution, as is often the case with Babin, was a personal foul penalty at the start of the second quarter. While the call may have been a little harsh, there was no reason for the former Titan and Eagle to fling himself onto the pile well after the whistle.
From Florida International to the NFL
One of the most polarizing players in the 2013 NFL draft was FIU safety John Cyprien who really sparked the conversation about the importance of the level of competition in evaluation. Cyprien ended up going in the second round, but adjusting to the NFL has proven difficult. He’s graded in the red every game so far in 2013, and Sunday was no different as he was consistently a step slow in coverage (-2.6). Cyprien allowed all three targets to be complete for 36 yards, but the stat sheet doesn’t tell the whole story. He really struggled to corral receivers when catches were made, taking a terrible angle on one catch by Tavon Austin allowing yards after the catch (Q3, 2:21), and unable to stop Kendricks from about 10 yards out on a crossing route as a stiff arm held him at bay for long enough to allow the tight end to dive for the end zone (Q2, 11:42). Cyprien also made a major mistake by gambling on run facing 3rd-and-1 with 8:35 to play in the fourth as the fullback slipped into the flat after play action and picked up a big gain. There is some solace to be had as Cyprien looked good against the run (+1.3) registering four defensive stops including a pair of tackles around the LoS (both unblocked).
St Louis – Three Performances of Note
Has the Developmental Project Developed?
There were a lot of questions about Joe Barksdale (+4.3) in 2011 when he was drafted, and it seems he’s starting to answer them. With Rodger Saffold sidelined with injury, Barksdale has seized his opportunity and graded positively in every game. There’s been a steady improvement in his grades since Week 1 and his performance against the Jaguars was probably his best to date. In pass protection he allowed just a solitary sack on 39 drop-backs. That play (Q1, 5:30) is in no way representative of his performance, as Marks was able to get by him and force a fumble. Barksdale was rarely involved in the run game, but when he was he really stood out. Watch the movement he gets on Russell Allen at the second level on a 3rd-and-1 in the first quarter (9:21). He also graded positively on a down block on Marks in the fourth quarter (6:37).
Quinn Feasts Again
Robert Quinn’s (+6.8) phenomenal start to the season continued against the Jaguars on Sunday. After he was named a starting defensive end on our Team of the Month, Quinn continued his fine form with a dominant display against a combination of Luke Joeckel and Cameron Bradfield. Although he got the benefit of going up against the backup Bradfield for all but 12 snaps, it wasn’t like Quinn didn’t get the better of the second overall pick as well. He registered a hit against the Texas A & M product where he was simply too quick. Quinn exploded off the snap and got around the edge in under two seconds (Q1, 11:06). He didn’t only get the better of Joeckel as a pass rusher, he also forced a cut in the run game as he beat Joeckel to the inside (Q1, 7:05). Quinn’s remaining two sacks and five hurries predominantly came against Bradfield, but he also showed his power on inside moves when the Jags tried to double him with left guard Will Rackley. Check the speed at which Rackley moves back on Quinn’s bull rush with 6:55 remaining in the second quarter. Aside from that it was a mixed game against the run for Quinn who lost outside contain a couple of times but also made a ridiculously impressive tackle for a loss on an outside run where he blew by Bradfield to the inside and made the play about 5 yards into the backfield.
Johnson Struggles as a Starter
Trumaine Johnson (-2.4) had played very well as the Rams’ nickel before being forced to play every snap. With Cortland Finnegan sidelined due to injury, the 2012 third-round pick played all 60 defensive snaps. Overall Johnson allowed 4 of 10 targets for 62 yards, a touchdown and an interception for a QB rating of 94.6. The numbers need a little more delving, however, as Johnson got a -1.0 grade on three occasions. He allowed significant yards after the catch to Shorts on one play in the first, missed a tackle on a wide screen to Blackmon in the same quarter, and gave up a big gain to Shorts on a fly route in the second. The main positive for Johnson was his pass deflection where he read Gabbert’s eyes perfectly on an extended play and leaped to bat down the pass. In the run game, Johnson only graded once, but that was for missing a tackle on Maurice Jones-Drew when he had sideline help.
– The Rams’ offensive line combined to give up only seven combined pressures
– The unit also had a +8.5 run blocking grade
– Blaine Gabbert completed only 1 of 6 passes for 10 yards and a pick on passes between 0 and 9 yards past the line of scrimmage.
PFF Game Ball
Despite the losing effort, in fact partly because of the losing effort, this honor goes to Cecil Shorts. Although Quinn’s performance was quality it didn’t match his efforts in Weeks 1 and 2.
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