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Packers vs. Jaguars Q&A: What should we know about the Jacksonville defense?

Part 2 of our chat with Big Cat Country turns to the defense. What should we expect?

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at San Diego Chargers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers will face off with the Jaguars for the first time since 2016 on Sunday. The last time around, the Jaguars ended up being pretty solid on defense. This Sunday? Well, things could be a little different.

To get a grasp on the Jaguars’ defense, we checked in with Ryan O’Bleness of Big Cat Country. Yesterday, he gave us his perspective on the offense. Check out that conversation here.

Acme Packing Company: I can’t help but notice that Josh Jones, a second-round pick for the Packers in 2017, is second on the team in tackles. What’s the story on Jones so far this year?

Ryan O’Bleness: Jones impressed the coaching staff in training camp enough to trade away former third-round pick Ronnie Harrison. He is second on the team in total tackles with 61 and leads the team in solo tackles with 42 — of course, it’s generally not a good sign when a safety is amongst the highest on the team in tackles. He hasn’t made a ton of impact plays, as he has not recorded an interception, sack or even a pass defended this season. According to Pro Football Reference, he’s also given up 20 receptions on 23 targets (87 percent) and two touchdowns, while giving up 13.7 yards per completion, and a quarterback rating of 145.1. So, those numbers don’t look great. Pro Football Focus grades him overall at a pretty pedestrian 52.5. There is definitely a lot of room for improvement with Jones, especially in coverage.

APC: If you were Matt LaFleur, how would you attack the Jaguars defense?

RO: The game plan should be pretty simple for the Packers because they’re the superior talented team. I don’t think there is anybody on Jacksonville who can matchup with Davante Adams, so definitely look to get him the ball early and often, and that usually seems to be the plan for Green Bay anyway. The Jaguars generally play a lot of cover-three zone, and fail to generate much of a pass rush, so Aaron Rodgers will likely have time to pick the zone apart while keeping his jersey mostly clean. Jacksonville has an extremely young defense that has been shredded by many quarterbacks this season, and is also putrid against the run. The unit ranks 31st in total yards allowed, 28th against the pass, 27th against the run and 31st in points allowed. The Jaguars also rank dead last in defensive DVOA. So, no need for LaFleur to overthink this one. Get the ball to Adams and Aaron Jones and know that your offensive skill players are going to out-match just about anybody on Jacksonville’s defense. I expect the Packers, offensively, to have an absolute field day on Sunday.

APC: Josh Allen and C.J. Henderson make it two top-10 picks on defense for the Jaguars in the past two years. How strong is the foundation? Do you have hope for the future?

RO: Allen, who was voted team captain in just his second season, had a breakout rookie year, but similar to Chark, he has dealt with some injuries and inconsistency in 2020. He does lead the team in sacks, but it’s only with 2.5, which goes to show how awful Jacksonville’s pass rush has been this season. He’s also generated 39 quarterback pressures and 10 quarterback hits. I think he gets more attention from defenses now, as well. All of that said, I think the future is still very bright for him. Allen needs others around him to generate more pressure and take some of the focus off of him, but I still have plenty of faith in Allen.

Henderson had a great debut in Week One against the Colts, earning Rookie of the Week honors following his strong performance. But since then, his play has been up and down and he’s been burned a few times. So far this season, he’s given up 29 receptions on 45 targets (64.4 percent) for 400 yards, three touchdowns, 13.8 yards per completion and a quarterback rating of 105.8. He has recorded five pass deflections and an interception. I think growing pains are expected for rookies, especially, at the cornerback position, so there is no reason to worry just yet. Henderson will be fine, but has a lot of room for growth.

The foundation is there for the future with a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball, a ton of salary cap space, and a plethora of early draft picks, but the defense likely isn’t going to improve anytime soon as long as defensive Todd Wash is still running the show on that side of the ball.

APC: What’s your prediction for Sunday?

RO: The Packers win by roughly 100 points. Just kidding, but I would be surprised if the Jaguars keep it within 20. I’ll say something along the lines of 41-17, Packers.