The San Francisco 49ers face a big test this weekend against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and nowhere is it bigger than the 49ers passing game vs. the Jaguars pass defense. Football Outsiders ranks the Jaguars pass defense No. 1, and has them holding the No. 1 adjusted sack rate.
Their pass rush is going to be tough, but the biggest challenge could be their cornerbacks. Both of their starting cornerbacks, A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, were named to the Pro Bowl, and there is a good chance both will end up with more notable All Pro honors.
NFL Network analyst Gil Brandt was running through some individual pass defense stats, including the lowest burn percentage among defensive backs, and the leaders in pass break-ups. Bouye and Ramsey both rank high in the two statistics.
Lowest burn % (thru Wk 15)— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) December 22, 2017
T. White 46%
T. Mitchell 47%
B. Carr 47%
S. Griffin 49%
Most pass breakups (thru Wk 15)— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) December 22, 2017
T. White 18
T. Mitchell 16
Tr. Johnson 14
Ad. Jackson 14
I chatted with Big Cat Country site manager Ryan Day about the Jaguars pass defense. If it was just a lock down secondary, or just the pass rush, then you game-plan to the weaknesses. And yet, there is not much in the way of a weakness. They’re not great against tight ends, but they’re still decent enough. They’ve just got so many weapons on defense, it’s kind of ridiculous. Here’s what Ryan had to say.
The defense is so good because the players are some of the best in the league at their position. There's nothing really all that crazy in terms of the scheme (although I would say defensive coordinator Todd Wash was cooking when it came to defensive line rotation early in the year). It's just that the Jaguars have a bunch of really good players. You don't have to scheme up something crazy when A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey are your top two cornerbacks. You don't have to get crazy when Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, and Yannick Ngakoue are three of your four starting defensive linemen. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know how to use the run-stuffing Marcell Dareus or the Pro Bowl caliber Telvin Smith or the freakishly athletic Myles Jack.
Todd Wash is not overthinking this and it has allowed him to be one of the hottest candidates for a head coaching position in the offseason. I hope he doesn't leave, but if he does it'll be interesting to see how he does without an elite roster at his disposal. And it'll be interesting to see all the defensive coordinator candidates that want to come lead these players.
The 49ers passing game has shown serious signs of life the past few weeks, but it faces a real challenge in Week 16. The Bears, Texans, and Titans have some solid defensive players, but all three are inconsistent. The Jaguars are putting together a historically good defense.
If Jimmy Garoppolo and his receivers can make some things happen, it will only add to the optimism. If they don’t, it’s not really the end of the world given how good this defense is. I’d prefer a positive performance, but expectations are fairly low given the competition.