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Inside the matchup: Patriots at Jaguars

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  December 23, 2012 12:31 AM

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We are very happy to have Alen Dumonjic, an x's and o's football junkie who blogs for The Score, back for another season to give us his insight on the intricacies of the game.

INSIDE THE JAGUARS OFFENSE

The Patriots are coming off a dramatic loss against the San Francisco 49ers and now have a chance to get back to their winning ways against the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars are 2-12 this year under new head coach Mike Mularkey and after an injury to starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert, they are led by familiar foe Chad Henne.

Henne was previously with the Miami Dolphins, where he never established himself as the face of the franchise. He is one of the more erratic quarterbacks in the NFL, lacking the vision to see the entire field and has a tendency to be late with passes regardless of the location of his target.

He is a part of a Jaguars offense that features base NFL run concepts Lead, Power, Toss, Zone Stretches, and Counter from 11 and 21 personnel. They are not limited to this but Mularkey and offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski have an affinity for pulling, power run concepts as seen last season when they were with the Atlanta Falcons.

In the passing game, the Jaguars struggled significantly because of their quarterback situation and are currently ranked 24th in passing. They utilize screen passes and various passing concepts that are commonly seen around the NFL, such as Spacing (mini-curls), Mesh (crossers), 4-verticals and Smash (hitch-corner).

Their most dangerous weapon in the passing game is wide receiver Cecil Shorts, who is one of the league’s best vertical threats. He’s done a good job of getting vertical with quick feet and overall speed. Rookie receiver Justin Blackmon has also had success, catching a team-leading 51 passes. Both of the receivers have had touchdowns of at least 80 yards this season.

INSIDE THE JAGUARS DEFENSE

On the other side of the ball, injuries have hurt the Jaguars’ defense, which has talented players but overall has struggled this season. They give up an average of 27.4 points per game, which is fourth worst in the NFL.

They’ve struggled defending the run, giving up a league-high 148 yards per game. A big reason for this appears to be the lack of gap discipline with the defenders, particularly on the backside of the formation. The backside contain defenders have been far too undisciplined at times, leaving gaping running lanes, which cost them on a few occasions last week against the Miami Dolphins.

The fronts that the Jaguars have played have been primarily the typical Under (strongside guard uncovered) and Over (strongside guard covered) fronts that are associated with the 4-3 defense.

Moreover, the linebackers and secondary have had some injury issues but have stuck to their coverages, which is expected. It consists of a lot of Cover 2 and its variations along with Cover 1 (Man-Free), Cover 2 Man (Man-Under), Cover 3 and Cover 4.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

  • Patriots run game vs. Jaguars run defense: As noted earlier, the Patriots are going to have the chance of establishing a running game against the Jaguars because of the lack of gap discipline that the Jaguars have played with. Backside contain has been an issue and could be moving forward with in-season acquisition Jason Babin.
  • WR’s Cecil Shorts & Justin Blackmon: Shorts has been very productive this season despite the injuries at quarterback and is one of the league’s most dangerous vertical receivers. He has left defenders looking at only the back of his jersey on numerous occasions by hauling in long touchdown passes and is one to watch this game. He has quick feet that enable him to win at the line of scrimmage and the long speed to outrun defenders. He is tied for 20th in the NFL in yards after the catch with 353 yards. Blackmon has also done a good job of winning underneath against cornerbacks.
  • LT Eugene Monroe vs. DE Chandler Jones: The Patriots’ pass rush against the Jaguars’ bookends, in general, will be a very interesting matchup, especially with Guy Whimper replacing Cameron Bradfield at right tackle. Whimper is not known as a quality pass blocker and is expected to be taken advantage of by the Patriots’ pass rushers. However, I’m mostly interested in Monroe vs. Jones because Monroe is actually a pretty good pass blocker. He is light on his feet and a technician, which will be a good matchup for the lengthy Jones.
  • Potential Patriots pass breakups: Something to watch for in this game will be the potential of a lot of pass breakups and tipped passes by the Patriots defenders. Chad Henne is often late throwing the football and taps the ball before throwing it, which should be something that the Patriots’ defensive linemen look for.
News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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