Jaguars by the Numbers: 2013 Stats Jacksonville Must Improve in 2014
The Jacksonville Jaguars will count on new faces on both lines to help improve their three worst statistics from 2013. Getting stronger in the trenches can lead to increased production in two areas of the running game and also help ensure the health of the man under center.
Two other free agents can improve an almost non-existent pass rush. The NFL's lowest-scoring team from a year ago also needs to craft some ways to light up a few scoreboards in 2014.
Here are the six statistics the Jaguars have to boost the most from last season.
3.3 Rushing Yards Per Carry
The Jaguars have their problems at quarterback, but they could be eased by greater production in the running game. The Jacksonville ground attack ranked 31st in yards per game in 2013, compiling a measly 78.8 week to week.
The main problem was that Jaguars runners averaged an abysmal 3.3 yards per carry. That was the second-worst tally in the NFL.
General manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley hope to have solved that problem by adding ex-Minnesota Viking Toby Gerhart.
The barrel-shaped bruiser averaged 7.9 yards per carry last season. He is being paid $10.5 million over three years to do something similar in Jacksonville.
The team has waved goodbye to Maurice Jones-Drew and fellow veteran Justin Forsett, so this running game is now Gerhart's to lead.
It is a lot to expect from a player who has spent most of his career warming the bench, watching Adrian Peterson terrorize defenses.
The Jags will also hope Jordan Todman, who is fleeter of foot than a spark plug like Gerhart, can provide a useful complement.
This blend of styles has the potential to be very effective. But Gerhart and Todman's chances of boosting one feeble stat from 2013 will largely be determined by the line in front of them.
Allowing Opposing Runners 4.2 Yards Per Carry
The Jacksonville run defense was just as woeful as its pedestrian rushing offense in 2013. The Jags ranked 29th against the run, surrendering 131.8 yards per game. Opposing runners averaged 4.2 yards a carry.
Reducing that last number is why big Red Bryant was awarded a four-year contract. The formidable behemoth was born to hold double-teams and clog running lanes.
Bryant will be used to lock down one side of Bradley's hybrid defensive front the way he did for the Seattle Seahawks for the last four seasons.
Bryant will keep blockers off tackling-machine linebacker Paul Posluszny and let a host of others swarm freely to the ball.
If Bryant makes the same impact he did in Seattle, the Jags won't be so generous to opposing running backs in 2014.
50 Sacks Allowed
The Jacksonville offensive line may as well have been populated by traffic cops directing pass-rushers to the quarterback in 2013. The Jaguars can't give up 50 sacks again and expect to be even close to competitive.
Fully aware of the need for better protection, Caldwell smartly snared guard Zane Beadles from the Denver Broncos. He brings a good level of technical skill and natural savvy to the interior of the front five.
Beadles spent the last two seasons keeping defenders off Peyton Manning. His experience as a pass-blocker and Pro Bowl form in 2013 more than justify the five-year, $30 million deal he was handed to bolt to Jacksonville.
But Beadles alone won't solve the litany of woes this team has up front. Jacksonville needs last season's second-overall pick Luke Joeckel to deliver at left tackle.
In an AFC South division featuring premium pass-rushers like Robert Mathis and J.J. Watt, the Jags have to get better at protecting the passer.
A League-Low 31 Sacks
As welcoming as they were to opposing pass-rushers, the Jaguars were incredibly tame when it came to dishing out their own punishment of quarterbacks.
They tied for a league-low 31 sacks with the Chicago Bears. This pass rush needs a radical makeover ahead of the new season.
The key will be the potential arrival of another former Seahawk, rush end Chris Clemons. At the time of writing, the 32-year-old is said to be "close" to a deal with his former defensive coordinator Bradley, according to NFL Media reporter Albert Breer.
Clemons would give Bradley what he missed last season: a natural fit for the key "Leo" role on his front seven. This is a hybrid pass-rusher who can align as either a linebacker or a traditional defensive end.
Clemons played that role for the Seahawks since 2010. He had at least 11 sacks in his first three seasons in Seattle.
But a torn ACL at the start of the 2012-13 postseason diminished Clemons' explosive first step. He tallied a mere 4.5 sacks last season.
Yet it's important to note he is a year removed from that injury. Clemons, like a lot of the Seattle D-line, also performed admirably during the team's late Super Bowl push.
He knows Bradley's scheme well and will be complemented by ample talent along the interior of the Jacksonville defensive front.
Sen'Derrick Marks is an effective 3-technique pass-rusher. He recorded four sacks last season, earning himself a four-year, $22 million contract.
Marks and Clemons can be a dangerous double act who should make each other better. They will be aided by nose tackle Roy Miller and Red Bryant's ability to occupy multiple blockers. That should mean plenty of one-on-one matchups for Clemons and Marks.
The team's ability to create increased pressure will also be helped by further improvement from Andre Branch. The 2012 second-round pick showed ample promise last season by notching six sacks. He must build on that number this term.
Bradley doesn't like to call many blitzes, so he needs his front-line personnel to consistently win their matchups.
10.7 Yards Per Reception
Jacksonville's passing game ranked 22nd in the NFL. That number was made possible by Jaguars receivers averaging a pitiful 10.7 yards per reception.
Fixing the problem requires a two-fold solution. First, quarterback Chad Henne needs more time in the pocket to launch deeper strikes. Second, his receivers have to make more yards after the catch.
Both Mike Brown and Cecil Shorts III have the ability to stretch the field. Tight end Clay Harbor is also athletic enough to exploit the vertical seams.
But none of this trio is dynamic or imaginative enough once they get the ball in their hands.
Ace Sanders was a pleasant surprise as a roving playmaker during his rookie season. But this offense needs more pass-catchers who can outwit defenders in the open field.
That is why the mooted interest in Emmanuel Sanders, reported by National Football Post writer Aaron Wilson, makes a lot of sense.
Sanders is a crafty underneath receiver with deceptive quickness who can make people miss. Adding his skills, as well as finding a big burner in the draft, is the best way to boost this stat in 2014.
The Jaguars were last in points per game with 15.4 and total points with 247 in 2013. The real troubling figure was only mustering 23 touchdowns.
As the season wore on, coordinator Jedd Fisch had to get creative to scheme ways of getting into the end zone. Jones-Drew threw a scoring pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis in a 32-28 road win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 13.
Sanders repeated that trick in the next game, another road win, 27-20 over the Houston Texans. Sanders connected with Todman on a well-crafted gadget play.
Fisch may have to be just as creative in 2014. Even with Gerhart and possibly Sanders in the fold, this offense is short of elite playmakers.
More than that, though, quarterback play will remain streaky if Henne stays at the helm. He is simply too inconsistent to deliver a steady stream of solid production.
Even if the Jags put a rookie under center, the inevitable learning curve will mean a few bumps in the road.
But no matter what deficiencies he faces in personnel, Fisch has to come up with ways to get his offense into the end zone more often.
That could mean an expanded role for Sanders as a "joker" weapon attacking from multiple positions. There is also room for an increased workload for Lewis and Harbor, two tight ends talented enough to cause defenses problems.
Expect the Jacksonville defense to be significantly tougher in 2014. It's up to Fisch and his offense to keep pace.
The key to improving most of their abysmal stats from 2013 lies up front for the Jaguars. Stronger play in the trenches will breed greater competency in other vital areas.
A more explosive, physically imposing D-line will mean more sacks and stiffer resistance against the run.
Greater authority along the offensive front will lead to a more productive ground game as well as giving Henne more time to connect with an underrated group of pass-catchers.
All stats via NFL.com, unless otherwise stated.