Rams-Jaguars: All About the Pass Rush

I’d like to highlight the most salient point that Nate from Teal Power brought up in yesterday’s Q-and-A, because I think it will be the #1 key to the Rams’ upset chances in Jacksonville this weekend:

The offense had a lot of 3 and outs and Garrard was running for his life the whole game. The entire Seahawks defense on 1st and 2nd downs were set on stopping Jones-Drew and on 3rd down blitzed most of the time.

The Jaguars put a fat goose egg on the scoreboard against Seattle, a week after dropping 37 on the Tennessee Titans. In fact, the Jaguars have been suffering from a “Jeckyll-and-Hyde” act all season: in their three losses, the Jaguars are averaging just under 10 points per game, while in their two wins, they are netting 34. What’s the key to this? Let’s look at the Jaguars’ game logs at Pro Football Focus for answers.

Firstly, David Garrard is by far their highest-rated offensive player, and his success has translated into points on the board. Secondly, the two rookie offensive tackles, Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, have really been suffering. Thirdly, Maurice Jones-Drew has been completely nullified in losses, but very successful in their wins. While Game 5 hasn’t been charted yet, we would expect from anecdotal testimony that these trends would continue to be apparent.

Here’s a quick chart that shows how pivotal the offensive line play has been to the Jaguars’ fate so far this season:

Game Pts Scored Pass Block Rating Run Block Rating
JAX @ IND 12 -12.8 4.3
ARZ @ JAX 17 -5.1 -0.8
JAX @ HOU 31 2.4 10.0
TEN @ JAX 37 3.0 4.3
JAX @ SEA 0 * *

* Game 5 stats not logged at time of posting. But they can’t have been pretty.

You can see that even with barely adequate protection, Garrard is capable of putting points on the board. And that when the run game works, it really explodes vertically down the field with mauling blocking performances against undersized front sevens, like Houston’s.

One interesting note about Game 4’s performance is that neither rookie tackle played even a down in that game. Instead, Maurice Williams and Tra Thomas got the start, and played the whole way through (with Jordan Black subbing for Thomas on occasion.) Whether they learned any lessons on the bench is unclear, because both were put in last week, and got manhandled by Aaron Curry and company.

The Rams have shown an ability to stop (or at least contain) opponents’ run game this season, except for one play in week 1 by Julius Jones. However, they have mostly struggled to put a pass rush together. Here’s the same chart for the Rams’ defensive line:

Game Pts Allowed Pass Rush Rating Run Stuff Rating
STL @ SEA 28 -9.9 5.0
STL @ WAS 9 5.6 8.5
GB @ STL 36 4.9 4.6
STL @ SF 14* 0.6 6.4
MIN @ STL 31* -4.3 -1.8

* The defense was not on the field for 21 of the points scored by San Francisco, or 7 points scored by Minnesota.

When the pass rush has been effective, it has been by the hands of Leonard Little and James Hall. However, these two players have been completely shut down as often as not. and, of course, we are all still waiting on the Chris Long day of awakening … but are not holding our collective breath.

Bottom line: if the Rams’ rotating front four (now minus Gary Gibson for the season) can penetrate and get pressure on Garrard, the Rams have a chance to pull this game out and bag their first win ot the year.