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Jaguars vs. Rams: Breaking Down Jacksonville's Game Plan

Dec 16, 2012; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon (14) celebrates a touchdown catch over Miami Dolphins defensive back R.J. Stanford (not pictured) but it was called back on a penalty in the second quarter at Sun Life Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports
Giancarlo Ferrari-KingFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2013

It's been a rough start for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Coming off another blowout loss, this time to the Indianapolis Colts, the Jaguars are looking to get their first win of the 2013-14 season in Week 5 against the St. Louis Rams.

For the Jaguars, a lot has changed in just a few days. After trading starting left tackle Eugene Monroe to the Baltimore Ravens, per Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today, and getting wide receiver Justin Blackmon back from suspension, this Jacksonville team is trying to win games while rebuilding for the future.

The question on the table right now is how can this team beat the St. Louis Rams? Taking a look at film from this season and fusing it together with advanced NFL statistics, it's time to analyze Jacksonville's game plan for success.

 

Offense

If Jacksonville has any chance of beating the Rams, it has to be able to move the football more consistently and put up points.

To put into perspective how awful this offense has been, you have to check out this frightening statistic from Numbers Never Lie:

The @DenverBroncos scored as many pts in the 2nd half on Sun.(31) as the #Jaguars have all season.

— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) September 30, 2013

 

Get Justin Blackmon involved early

Despite the Jaguars' offensive woes, heading into Week 5, one positive has to be the return of wide receiver Justin Blackmon.

Coming off a four-week suspension, the second-year receiver will give this Jacksonville passing attack a boost thanks to his unique skill set.

Last season when he was on the field, Blackmon managed to catch 64 passes for 865 yards and five touchdowns. Lost in those numbers is the fact that, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he was targeted a whopping 129 times.

While no one is really sure if Blackmon is going to start on Sunday, Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley has been impressed by Blackmon during his suspension, according to John Oehser of Jaguars.com.

Bradley says no decision made on Justin Blackmon starting Sun, but says Blackmon has done well during suspension. Indicates likley to start.

— John Oehser (@JohnOehser) September 30, 2013

If he does suit up, his presence in the offense will give struggling starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert a chance to drive the football downfield and put up points on this mediocre St. Louis defense.

Watching film of last week's game against the Colts, one thing that stood out was Gabbert's favorite target is wide receiver Cecil Shorts.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 29:   Cecil Shorts #84 of the Jacksonville Jaguars enters the field before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at EverBank Field on September 29, 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Through the first four weeks of the season, Shorts has been on the field for 264 snaps. This puts him in fifth place for most snaps taken by any Jacksonville offensive player.

With the possibility of Blackmon back in the lineup, helping shift the coverage, and going up against the NFL's 18th-ranked pass defense, Shorts should have himself a big day.

 

Run the ball with Maurice Jones-Drew

On paper, facing the league's 30th-ranked rush defense is a great opportunity for running back Maurice Jones-Drew to finally get things going this season. 

Gabbert checks down to a run, unaware of the safety coming on a blitz.
Gabbert checks down to a run, unaware of the safety coming on a blitz.

Averaging just 2.4 yards per carry, runs like the one pictured above have been a constant for Jones-Drew and this horrible Jacksonville ground game.

If you are an optimist, this Sunday against the Rams, there should be plenty of opportunities for Jones-Drew to take advantage.

Gore bursts through a hole for a big 18-yard gain.
Gore bursts through a hole for a big 18-yard gain.

While the Jaguars don't have nearly the offensive line that the San Francisco 49ers do, you have to believe that Gus Bradley and his staff are watching last week's film and examining how the 49ers gashed the Rams for 219 yards and three touchdowns.

 

Defense

Examining the Jaguars defense through the eyes of Pro Football Focus, it's a challenge to find any bright spots.

According to PFF, catastrophic play from just about every defensive player outside of Will Blackmon and Sen'Derrick Marks has put this Jacksonville defense in dire straits.

So what can this group do to try to derail the Rams offense?

 

Engage Sam Bradford

More than anything else, it's essential for this defense to get to quarterback Sam Bradford. Completing just 58.8 percent of his passes, Bradford is playing poorly and has struggled tremendously with his accuracy, which is easy to notice on film.

The picture above demonstrates in a vacuum how badly Bradford is playing this season. Early in the first quarter during the Rams' game against the 49ers, Bradford unleashed a wildly inaccurate pass after sensing pressure and missed wide receiver Austin Pettis for what could have been an easy touchdown.

Even with decent pressure, most NFL quarterbacks would have been able to drop this ball into their wide receivers' hands.

Instead, Bradford misses his target, and the Rams have to settle for a field goal.

Watching film like this, the Jaguars defense has to realize the key to winning this game is putting pressure on Bradford and forcing him to make erratic throws.

To avoid more media scrutiny and secure its first win, Jacksonville must make attacking Bradford its top priority.

 

*All stats courtesy of ESPN.com unless noted otherwise.

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