The Jaguars really did win the offseason. We can say that now because they Jaguars are finally winning where and when it matters most – on the field in the regular season.
Fresh off yet another impressive victory – this one a 27-0 shutout of the Indianapolis Colts – the Jaguars are 4-3 and hold a share of first place in the AFC South.
They probably wouldn’t be there had they not won the offseason.
As they’ve done so often before, the Jaguars spent big in free agency this past spring, doling out more than $72 million in guarantees alone in an effort to field a truly competitive team.
That made them the so-called winners of the offseason for like the third year in a row. The problem in each of the previous two years, the Jaguars failed to follow up by winning in the regular season.
This year has been different. This year, their investment, most of which went toward securing defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Barry Church, is actually paying off in victories.
We can say that because it has largely been the combined play of the Jaguars secondary and their defensive line, which has been led by Campbell, that has made the Jaguars so competitive.
Through seven game Campbell has a league-leading and career-high 10 sacks. That’s three more than the Buccaneers have as a team and Campbell probably wouldn’t have those 10 sacks were it not for guys like Bouye and Church.
“My experience has been, if you have guys on the back end that can’t cover, you’re really not going to get a lot of sacks,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said after Campbell racked up sacks 9 and 10 on Sunday.
“You’ll get them on third and long and situations like that, when you’re playing zone and stuff like that, but it’s truly been hand in hand (with the line and the coverage) I think.’’
It’s been so hand in hand, in fact, that on Sunday, Marrone ordered coordinator Todd Wash to dial up more straight pressures after the Colts converted a third-and-14 against some games the Jaguars had been running.
“I said, ‘Listen, let’s just take those guys and just bring ‘em,’’’ Marrone said. ‘”Let’s not take our fast guys on the outside and bring ‘em inside or take our slower guys on the inside and try to bring ‘em outside. Let’s just go ahead and rush.’’’
The plan obviously worked. For the second time this year the Jaguars recorded 10 sacks, making them only the third team in NFL history to record 10 or more sacks in a game twice in the same season.
The first team to do that was the 1967 Raiders, who went 13-1 in the regular season and went on to the Super Bowl. The second to do it was the 1984 Bears, who went 10-6 and made it to the NFC title game.
It’s still too soon to know if the Jaguars are headed for a similar finish, but the playoffs are indeed a strong possibility, and it’s largely because they won big in the offseason.
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