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Dejected Jaguars searching for defensive answers

Jacksonville was home to the NFL's most menacing and loudest defense in the league in 2017, and for the first four weeks of 2018, things seemed to remain on track.

In the last seven days, however, the Jaguars have allowed opponents to score 70 points.


Also in those two games: 802 yards surrendered, 49 first downs given up and a total of two forced turnovers. They've sacked the opposing quarterback a combined four times between the contests, both losses, to the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys.

The first loss made some sense. Kansas City is a high-flying, early-season favorite in the AFC, and the Jaguars' offense did the defense no favors in wasting some early opportunities in a tough environment.

Dallas, however, is not.

"We got our ass kicked today," defensive tackle Malik Jackson said, per The Athletic. "I don't know what else to tell you."

The growl might be louder than the bite for the defense formerly known as Sacksonville.

"We ain't playing like it," cornerback Jalen Ramsey said when asked if the Jaguars still have the best defense in the league.

For Ramsey, noted trash talker to any and all comers, to admit that is alarming for those with stock in the black and teal. And the most concerning of all is the fact Jacksonville blitzed even less than usual, sending extra rushers on just 13.3 percent of pass attempts, while Prescott posted the slowest time to throw of any QB in Week 6.

That combination means the pass rush just wasn't working all that well, even with its pressure rate of 33.3 percent Sunday. The result is added pressure on those in coverage, which didn't produce a desirable result, but that's supposed to be a strength of the Jaguars.

So really, what's going wrong?

The answer: the running game. Jacksonville allowed Kansas City to rush for 126 yards last week (including a short Mahomes TD run), and then got pounded into submission by a two-headed monster of Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, who combined to rush for 188 yards and two touchdowns on 35 attempts. The read option was back in Dallas.

The bigger problem might be a lack of adjustment on the part of Jacksonville's defense. The Jaguars stayed true to their season-long personnel grouping decisions, rolling with a nickel package on 75 percent of downs (per Next Gen Stats), despite getting ground up by Dallas' runners.

Perhaps Sunday was a defining lesson in being a step slow in in-game adjustments. This could be a turning point for the Jaguars. But for now, what Jackson and Ramsey said rings true: They aren't the best defense in the NFL anymore.

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