CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Myles Jack, Calais Campbell and coach Doug Marrone all had a pretty simple reason why the Jacksonville Jaguars gave up 285 rushing yards in their 34-27 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
That’s it. They didn’t get overpowered on every play. They didn’t get confused by anything the offense showed them. They just got themselves out of position — whether it was freelancing, misreading plays or mental mistakes — and that’s a major reason why Christian McCaffrey ran for 176 yards and two touchdowns and Reggie Bonnafon had 80 yards and a touchdown.
The Jaguars are a gap defense, which means that every player in the front seven is responsible for an area of space across the formation. When the players are executing correctly, they fill those gaps and prevent cut-backs and big runs.
When they’re not, you get what happened Sunday.
“I guess you could put it as discipline,” Jack said. “We’ve just got to be better. That’s really what it comes down to. It’s nothing they did that was spectacular. Nothing that we didn’t prepare for or anything. We just got to be better and it starts with myself. I put it on my shoulders.”
Well, he had a lot of help. He wasn’t the only one who was out of position or missed tackles or got outrun. It happened to nearly every player on the defensive front at one point or another and rookie outside linebacker Quincy Williams was benched for eight-year veteran Najee Goode because Williams got lost too often.
It was, at times, embarrassing. McCaffrey and Bonnafon were not even touched on their TD runs of 84 and 59 yards. Not even at the line of scrimmage.
“Did we get knocked out of our gaps? Yes,” Marrone said. “We got knocked out of our gap and when you get knocked out of your gap and no one’s in there, it’s going to go right to the secondary. That’s what happened. We got knocked out of our gap or we weren’t in our gap.
“When you do that, in this league, against good running backs, they’re going to find it.”
The Panthers certainly made them pay for those mistakes and the Jaguars need to spend the next week figuring out why it happened and the best way to ensure it doesn’t happen again because Alvin Kamara and the New Orleans Saints are at TIAA Bank Field this Sunday. Kamara is just as explosive and as much a factor in the passing game as McCaffrey. If they give him the same kind of space, he’ll do the same thing.
“It’s definitely a sense of urgency to get that handled,” Jack said.
The performance against the Panthers was definitely out of character for the Jaguars, who had been allowing only 99.5 rushing yards per game (13th in the NFL). They had allowed Houston’s Carlos Hyde 90 yards and Kansas City’s LeSean McCoy 81 in the first two games, but clamped down against Tennessee and Denver (159 combined rushing yards). That happened because, as players said in the postgame locker room Sunday, they were much more disciplined.
That’s why Campbell believes what happened Sunday at Bank of America Stadium will not be an ongoing problem.
“If we get beat because somebody was just more physical than us and played better than us, that happens,” Campbell said. “We usually do a pretty good job. When we can just be assignment-sound and play with good technique, I think it’s very tough to beat us and that’s our biggest issue — just really locking in. We do it for the most part. You do it right 95 percent of the time but those five plays that you don’t do it right they make it pay for them.
“That’s football, though. You’re not going to get it right every time. You’ve got to find a way to get them down and line up and play again.”