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Jacksonville Jaguars

Is Jacksonville Jaguars defense for real?

Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage (3) is sacked by Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Calais Campbell (93) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
AP Photo/David J. Phillip

The Jacksonville Jaguars defense put on one of the more dominant performances by a unit in Week 1. They got after the Houston Texans. Jacksonville had 10 sacks and 10 quarterback hits, limiting the Texans to 2.9 yards on 69 plays, a phenomenal number. The Jaguars were fast and physical. Last year the unit was above average for the most part. This year the Jags appear to be legitimately good.

A few personnel changes helped. Adding Calais Campbell will substantially boost any front four. Campbell is a perfect fit because he can literally play and win anywhere. He did exactly that on Sunday.

Campbell continuously won with bull-rushes and the Houston Texans’ offensive line didn’t stand a chance. Above, he got a running start and bowled over the tackle. Below, it’s more of the same.

Four sacks and five QB hits a game are in no way sustainable. Campbell is good enough, however, to be disruptive to a certain degree every game. He puts the other Jags in a “robin” role so they don’t have to be “the guy.” He’s a heck of an upgrade over Dante Fowler, who did have a good sack but has a long ways to go.

The reason it’s easy to buy stock in Jacksonville’s defense: The team speed is apparent. Yannick Ngakoue had two sacks and two QB hits off the edge. Nothing special, just pure speed.

He slaps the tackle’s hands down and avoids them. He stays tight to the tackle, though. Throw in a couple power guys up the middle — Arby Jones and Malik Jackson — and this front is here to stay.

At linebacker, Telvin Smith and Myles Jack were both flying around. Jack didn’t play as well as his 14 tackles would suggest, but the team speed enabled the Jaguars to accomplish their goals.

Smart Secondary

Sunday showed the Jags can be physical, fast, and smart. The biggest differences might be in the secondary. Going from Prince Amukamara and Johnathan Cyprien to A.J. Bouye and Barry Church is like going from Keenan & Kel to Don Draper and Walter White. They’re sound. They know what they’re doing.

I know Bouye got flagged a few times for pass interference, but neither of those plays really bothered me. I’m encouraged by the fact he was consistently in position against Deandre Hopkins. He did have a pass breakup as well.

Church was just solid. He was where he needed to be in the passing game and made tackles in the run game. Church gives the secondary a level of flexibility that Cyprien did not. They can trust him deep. Because of that they were able to drop down Tashun Gipson in coverage. Whether over the middle of the field or in man coverage, Gipson looked much more comfortable.

Then there’s Jalen Ramsey, who is coming off quite a rookie season. He had a great game. The Texans scored one touchdown and it appeared to be on Ramsey. If you look how he opened up, he was in zone coverage. He was expecting a linebacker or safety to have his inside. That wasn’t on him. It’s tough to point fingers, though. Ramsey was able to break up three passes thrown his way. He only gave up underneath curl routes that didn’t do any damage. All three of his pass breakups came against Hopkins.

On his most impressive play, he didn’t touch the ball.

That sets a tone. Receivers notice that. Defenders feed off it. Plays like these are why I do think the Jaguars’ defense is for real. There’s talent and speed. There’s smarts and confidence. Jacksonville should have a top-10 defense in the league this year.

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