Jaguars' defense is having some trouble against opposing tight ends

Jaguars HC Doug Marrone discusses CB Aaron Colvin's performance

During the Week 12 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, the vaunted Jaguars' passing defense offered up some glimmers of hope to opposing offenses.

The top passing defense in the league allowed unknown tight end Ricky Seals-Jones to pick up 72 yards and a touchdown on four catches.

The weakness in the middle of the Jaguars' defense has been subtly suggested throughout the season but Seals-Jones became the poster child for the area of concern. 

This season, the Jaguars have allowed a completion rate of nearly 67 percent to opposing tight ends.

The position has accounted for roughly 23 percent of the yardage allowed by the passing defense. While that may seem like a small number, the position has also produced four of the nine receiving touchdowns allowed by the Jacksonville through 11 games.

Some teams are using tight ends as primary targets in the red zone against Jacksonville - and in some instances - it's a sound strategy. Wide receivers are being shut down by the Jaguars' cornerbacks on a weekly basis, so teams are using their tight ends to pick up some of the slack.

The Jaguars are 1-3 in games where an opposing tight end has caught a touchdown pass this year. The team is 3-2 in games where an opposing tight has four or more catches. 

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The position has allowed just enough progress so that an opposing offense can move the ball downfield. With the Jaguars' offense struggling to produce a lot of points, a little production from a rival tight end can go a long way for an opposing team.

The Indianapolis Colts featured tight end Jack Doyle in their Week 7 matchup against the Jaguars. Jacksonville won 27-0, despite Doyle's four catches for 44 yards. 

Doyle's output didn't hurt Jacksonville because the Jaguars played their most complete game of the season. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, that kind of production has not been replicated since.

Doyle will get another opportunity to make a mark Sunday at EverBank Field. The fifth-year tight end has produced 59 catches for 544 yards and two touchdowns on 77 targets this season.

Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone spoke about Doyle's ability to get open and make the most of his targets on Wednesday.

“He’ll go out there and move around in the slot. They’ll move him around. Obviously he has become a very big part of the passing game. We understand that they have the players on that side with the receivers and with T.Y. [Hilton] being a great playmaker and a great wide receiver. He has really come strong now. Fifty-nine receptions, second in the AFC or NFL maybe. Catches contested balls, can body people up, can run extremely well. He has done a very good job and is playing at a very high level.”

The Jaguars' linebackers and safeties will be tested by Doyle and his fellow tight ends in Week 13. In Week 7, the Colts targeted their tight ends 12 times, which is the largest total against the Jaguars' defense this season.

With starting weak-side linebacker Telvin Smith in the league's concussion protocol, the Colts may try to test potential fill-in Paul Posluszny on nickel downs. The Jaguars will need to plan accordingly.

If the Colts can take advantage of the Jaguars' coverage issues against tight ends, Jacksonville will have a much tougher time putting Indianapolis away in the rematch.

Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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