Ell’s NFL Playoff Breakdown: Strengths and Weaknesses Part II
The Jaguars defense is built solid with a good mix of veterans and youth at all levels that help them get the job done at all levels and against both the run and the pass. The team doesn’t give up many passing TD’s led by 2nd year star CB Jalen Ramsey who has turned into the shutdown CB envisioned when he came out. The Jaguars made a smart move stealing talent from the division rival Texans in CB A.J. Bouye who has also helped shutdown the pass making them one of the top CB tandems and definitely the best young duo; the best football for both should be ahead of them. Free agent pickups FS Tashaun Gipson and SS Barry Church have played (mostly Church), as the two have differing styles with Gipson, as a centerfielder in coverage, and Church as a hitter and enforcer, as he was with Cowboys.
At LB the three headed monster of Telvin Smith, Paul Posluszny, and Myles Jack has been a problem, as Smith is an athletic beast with good coverage, who doesn’t mind hitting despite being undersized (he was rewarded with a big contract extension), Posluszny is an instinctive tough-nosed veteran LB, and Jack is a pure athlete who continues to get better at his craft. The D-line has been the key to the team and the reason the team leads the league in sacks led by free agent pickup DE/DT Calais Campbell who has been a 6’8 nightmare, after leaving the Cardinals, former Broncos SuperBowl problem pass rusher DT Malik Jackson, pass rushing nightmare DE Yannick Ngakoue who has been very consistent getting after the quarterback with 20 sacks in two seasons with 1 game left, and NT Abry Jones mostly used to stop the run, but he has some pass rush ability as well; they also have depth in former 1st round pick DE/OLB Dante Fowler Jr. and late pickup and former Bills star DT Marcell Dareus.
No one wants to see this unit in the playoffs because they are so good at every level and can stop you many ways; they are built for the future with a lot of money to spend and a lot of money well spent.
Weakness: Quarterback Play/Injuries
The Jaguars are having their best season in a long time and the offense hasn’t floundered even with the injuries to both top WRs and injuries at O-line from a unit that has been surprisingly good. The success has been due to an emphasis on the run game led mostly by rookie RB Leonard Fournette who has carved teams with a good mix of power and speed, but the team has also gotten contributions from the other power backs Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon who can also catch. This has led to QB Blake Bortles’ most efficient season, as he has taken care of the football, made plays down the field, and avoided sacks. It will be interesting to see if Bortles can keep up his good play into the playoffs and earn himself a big contract; however, based on his track record no one sees that coming. The injuries at WR and along the O-line have caused problems at times and right now injuries and inconsistent QB play are the only things that can stop this team.
Strength: Offensive Balance
The Chiefs has been led by the masterful coaching of HC Andy Reid and now highly touted OC Matt Nagy who should now be a hot name among potential head coaches. The balance is led by the key to the Chiefs offense which is easier to point out than to stop, in QB Alex Smith, rookie RB Kareem Hunt, TE Travis Kelce, and WR Tyreek Hill. Smith is a veteran QB who has made a career making the safe play and taking care of the football, while not taking too many risks downfield, as well as using his athleticism to make plays with is feet. Hunt has come out the gate on fire, after an early injury to RB Spencer Ware and the thoughts of a committee approach, but Hunt has a lock on the job and has been a big part of the offense ever since. Kelce is a huge target who doesn’t mind going over the middle or blocking, but his size and smooth hands probably give you the best comparison to Gronk making him a tough mismatch for any team. Hill has lightning speed and the ability to take the top off defenses, but if you can stop him deep he can also make plays in space and as a RB, as well as, destroy you on special teams as a KR/PR. It’s a surprising to see how well this team is doing offensively when everyone was shocked with WR Jeremy Maclin being a cash casualty, the team thinking about a 3-man run game, and the Chiefs taking a 1st round QB to sit behind Smith in Patrick Mahomes.
Weakness: Run Defense
The Chiefs’ defense has stepped up when it matters, but this unit is missing it’s leader FS Eric Berry who is out for the season which has caused the pass defense to take a dip before the team acquired veteran CB Darrelle Revis to start opposite star CB Marcus Peters; this helps the defense at least have one thing to rely on, as the pass rush from star OLB Justin Houston and DE/DT Chris Jones gets the pass D started. However, the big problem has been the run defense, as this team has gotten carved at times, as NT Bennie Logan is the primary run stopper replacing huge NT Dontari Poe who left for the Falcons. ILB Derrick Johnson is coming off injury this year and has not shown the same consistent impact as the enforcer in the middle, as he gets older. The team took a chance on young 2nd year LB Reggie Ragland who was tossed away from the Bills after a new regime came in; he is probably the best replacement for Johnson, as the run stopper and enforcer, but needs to continue to get better. The team needs veteran DE/OLB Tambi Hali to help after coming off the PUP, but he appears to be on his last legs like Johnson at this stage. DE Allen Bailey was once a solid run stuffing piece, but he has not played with the same motor and consistency. The Chiefs are a team built with the best hopes of controlling the clock on offense and hoping to gain a lead to allow their pass rushers and CB’s to make plays, but this team does not want to get into a physical running battle, as the power positions seem to no longer be able to hold up; expect the Chiefs to address their interior in the offseason.