|Del Rio's proud defense humbled by poor pass rush, safety play|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 07 November 2007 13:16|
They have set single-game marks for rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed, total yards allowed and first downs allowed - far from normal for a defense that has been one of the league's best the last four years.
The Jaguars (5-3) rank 24th in the NFL in total defense, the result of an inconsistent pass rush and a struggling secondary. Coach Jack Del Rio vowed to get it turned around, beginning Sunday at Tennessee (6-2).
d move forward.''
Jacksonville gave up a record 282 yards rushing in the season opener against the Titans. The Jags rebounded and played considerably better in wins against Atlanta, Denver and Kansas City.
But the defense has taken a step back since, giving up 424 yards a game the last four weeks. It culminated with last Sunday's 41-24 loss at New Orleans.
The Saints finished with 538 total yards, 445 yards passing and 32 first downs - all records for Jacksonville.
``I can't really pinpoint one answer,'' defensive end Bobby McCray said. ``Things happen and you have to be able to deal with adversity. It's a part of football. It's uncommon, that's why it's so big right now. It's out of character.''
Or maybe it's a trend.
Indianapolis picked apart Jacksonville's secondary, taking advantage of safeties Sammy Knight and Reggie Nelson and racking up 384 total yards.
Tampa Bay pretty much did the same thing the following week. The Jaguars held on for a 24-23 win, but few will forget Ike Hilliard's double move in the final minute that should have been the difference. Hilliard burned veteran cornerback Aaron Glenn and was wide open for a touchdown - neither safety was in sight - but Jeff Garcia overthrew him.
Drew Brees was far more accurate.
Brees completed 35 of 49 passes for 445 yards and three touchdowns, making Jacksonville's secondary look downright silly most of the day.
Del Rio estimated that his defense had 20 missed tackles and 15 mental errors.
``It's not acceptable to play defense like that,'' he said.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher, though, sugarcoated Jacksonville's problems.
``Every once in a while those things happen,'' he said. ``You look at it, Drew got a hot hand and there was a couple missed tackles and before you know it there are some points on the board. You could ask anybody around the league: If you were to pick one or two or three defenses teams would not want to play, the Jaguars would be right there in the top three.''
The Jaguars certainly have had one of the league's best defenses in recent years. They ranked sixth in total defense in 2003, 11th the following season, sixth again in 2005 and second last year.
This season was supposed to be more of the same, but Nelson and Knight have struggled. So have McCray and fellow defensive linemen Reggie Hayward and Marcus Stroud.
Making matters worse, cornerback Brian Williams is nursing a hamstring injury, Stroud is serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's steroid and supplement policy and backup linebacker Justin Durant is serving a two-game suspension following his arrest last weekend.
Nonetheless, the Jaguars expect a turnaround.
``We will play better defense in the second half of the season,'' Del Rio said. ``I don't know that it's ever going to look good statistically after the start we had. ... You can't play football like that and have success. You just can't. You've got to be sharper than that.
``We'll fix it. We have some good coaches on this staff, we have some good players on this team and we have some pride about us.''