Jacksonville Jaguars Offense Must Center on Vertical Passing Attack

Brad HillContributor IOctober 27, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 27:  #84 Cecil Shorts III of the Jacksonville Jaguars evades #35 Eric Reid of the San Francisco 49ers during the NFL International Series game between San Francisco 49ers and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on October 27, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

The Jacksonville Jaguars entered Week 8 dead last in the NFL in scoring, averaging a pitiful 10.9 points per game. After scoring only 10 points against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 8, that average has dipped to 10.75 points per game.

Jacksonville seems to be making an effort to be a pass-first team. The Jaguars have thrown 304 passes through eight games, compared to just 179 rushing attempts or 63 percent pass attempts. They're dead last in the league in rushing, entering Week 8 with an average of 63.0 yards per game. The Jaguars are a pass-first team now.

Maurice Jones-Drew seems to have slowed down and should no longer be the focal point of the Jaguars' offense. He's handled 103 carries and has only picked up 316 yards on the ground. MJD has lost his explosion, and the holes aren't there either.

Oct 27, 2013; London, UNITED KINGDOM; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne throws a pass against the San Francisco 49ers during an International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Martin-USA TODAY Sports

The quarterback situation in Jacksonville is a disaster and won't get any better until the 2014 NFL draft. In the meantime, Chad Henne seems to be the short-term solution, though "solution" is pretty generous.

There are two versions of Chad Henne that have appeared this year: "Downfield Gunner" Chad Henne and "The Duke of Dump-offs" Chad Henne.

"Downfield Gunner" Henne showed up in Denver and at home against San Diego. He took chances downfield and gave his receivers a chance to make plays. The Jaguars racked up over 300 passing yards in each of those games, and Henne put up yards-per-attempt averages of 7.21 against Denver and 8.83 against the Chargers.

When "The Duke of Dump-offs" shows up, the Jaguars offense is decidedly less effective. Against the Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks and 49ers, Henne put up yards-per-attempt averages of 6.34, 6.18 and 5.07, respectively.

"Downfield Gunner" vs. "The Duke of Dump-offs"
"Downfield Gunner"CmpAttYdsCmp %Yd/A
vs. SD233631863.9%8.83
"The Duke of Dump-offs"CmpAttYdsCmp %Yd/A
vs. SF294522864.4%5.07

In those games, Henne stared down his first option and often threw short passes before giving his receivers a chance to get open. He also refused to throw the ball into contested spaces to allow Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts and company to win against their defenders.

This isn't a schematic issue; offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch has sent receivers downfield often. It's a matter of the quarterback looking downfield instead of lowering his eyes and looking for underneath receivers first. Henne simply has to look down the field and take more chances.

We mentioned "YOLOball" earlier this year, and Henne needs to steer the Jaguars offense back to that philosophy. Averaging 5.07 yards per attempt won't score many points no matter who the opponent is.

The Jaguars offense is much more effective when Henne looks downfield and gives his receivers a chance to make plays. Limiting turnovers doesn't accomplish much when the offense can't sustain drives.

Jacksonville has a fantastic group of pass-catchers led by Blackmon and Shorts, and giving them a chance to beat their defenders is the best way for the Jaguars to sustain drives and put points on the board. It may be their only chance at avoiding a winless 2013 season.