Niners Live drops the most anticipated pre-game article of the year from a different perspective of course: Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense must run right at the Sacksonville Jaguars.
Recapping Jimmy G’s performance last week vs. the Tennessee Titans:
Garoppolo completed 31 of 43 passes for 381 yards (career high), 1 TD and no INT’s while posting a final QBR of 89.5 and a 106.8 RTG. Jimmy G completed 72.1 percent of his passes while dealing with more blitzing last week than any other game he’s started this season, or in his career. Garoppolo also netted 8.9 per pass play which was, again, huge in this game.
Jimmy G will see a different kind of animal this week vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars:
Last week vs. the Titans, Jimmy G was sacked 3 times and hit 4. That number might go up this week as the Jacksonville Jaguars aka… Sacksonville… come into Levi’s Stadium boasting the 3rd ranked defense overall; 1st in pass defense and 19th at stopping the run (via ESPN.com).
For the record, the Jaguars are (1st) in the NFL at sacking the quarterback with (51) sacks. Since you’re asking, the Titans are currently ranked (5th). The Jaguars are also (1st) in passing yards allowed (168.9 per game), holding opponent’s completion percentage (55.9) and opponent’s passer rating (65.2) have taken the ball away (31 times) 2nd in the NFL (20 int and 11 forced fumbles).
The Jaguars’ defense has held offenses to a 32.3% conversion rate on third down and 41.7% on 4th down; ranking this unit #1 in the NFL. They run a 4-3 scheme and are led by defensive coordinator Todd Wash who’s in his second season as the DC. Wash has 22 years of coaching experience (12 coming in the NFL) and has ties to current 49ers’ defensive coordinator Robert Saleh from their time with the Seattle Seahawks and the Jaguars.
What will the Jaguars try to do against Jimmy G?
Jimmy G should anticipate more pressure coming his way this week just off the front 4 of Sacksonville alone. A front 4 that features two elite Pro Bowl selections; DE Calais Campbell (14.5 sacks) and a Pro Football Focus overall grade of 92.0, run def 86.9 and 89.9 as a pass-rusher and DT Malik Jackson, (8 sacks) a PFF overall grade of 87.4, run def 80.5 and 85.6 as a pass-rusher.
However, don’t sleep on the other half of the fearsome 4; DE Yannick Ngakoue (11 sacks) and a PFF overall grade of 85.9, run def 49.8 and 87.7 as a pass-rusher. DT Abry Jones (1 sack) and a PFF overall grade of 77.7, run def 72.4 and 74.9 as a pass-rusher. A key cog in the rotation backing up Jones is former Pro Bowler DT Marcell Dareus (1 sack, 35 career sacks total) with a PFF overall grade of 77.0, run def 75.5 and 71.4 as a pass-rusher.
Important to note: DE Dante Fowler Jr. (7.5 sacks) injured his hamstring last Sunday against the Texans and is questionable for this Sunday’s matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. And now per reports, he’s expected to play.
Even though this group is known for sacking the quarterback, they also have a reputation building called the no catch zone secondary that’s known to clamp down on receivers. This unit also features two elite Pro Bowl selections; CB A.J. Bouye (6 int) with a PFF overall grade of 90.8, and CB Jalen Ramsey (4 int) with a PFF overall grade of 93.2. And their backend mates are SS Barry Church (3 int) with a PFF overall grade of 83.9 and FS Tashaun Gipson (4 int) and a PFF overall grade of 85.9.
The Jaguars, without question, will try to get (pressure) on Jimmy G by just using their front 4 ideally or 5 defenders at the most as they’ve done all season (9.2% sack rate leads NFL; 38% pressure rate ranks 5th; while only blitzing 18% of the time (third lowest rate). And the domino effect from rushing/blitzing less allows this defensive unit to drop 6 or 7 guys in coverage to make the quarterback hold onto the ball longer forcing sacks and turnovers as aforementioned.
How can Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense counter?
Establish the running game that features running back’s Carlos Hyde (Pro Bowl alternate) and Matt Breida. And Jimmy G will also need to contribute to the running game in a timely (situational) matter and fashion. The Jaguars are ranked 19th at stopping the run by surrendering 115.2 yards per game at a 4.5 per rush average. DE Ngakoue is only 246 lbs. and has a poor run grade of 49.8 and both Jones and Dareus are average run grade defenders. Sam LB Myles Jack is having a solid year in his 2nd season with 85 tackles and 2 sacks, however, he grades out with a poor PFF run grade of 46.7. But don’t get it twisted this linebacking corps is led by their playmaking productive leader Telvin Smith and his 86 tackles, 3 interceptions and 1 sack with a PFF overall grade of 90.4 and run def 93.3.
This unit has too much lateral speed to make a living against them (running to the outside); the 49ers must run right at these guys and bust them straight in the mouth.
Continue to use your tools Jimmy G: Utilize the short, quick, passing game… ala blitz beaters (bubble screens, curls, quick outs, comebacks, slants, dump offs in the flat to Hyde, and Breida) and the stand out studs from last week in WR’s; Marquise Goodwin (play action) who caught 10 balls (a career high) for 114 yards; Trent Taylor caught 4 balls for 52 yards, Kendrick Bourne had four catches (both career highs) for 85 yards. And fellow tight ends Garret Celek aka… Celek time, George Kittle and FB/TE Kyle Juszczyk who all combined for 9 catches, 131 yards receiving and 1 touchdown coming from Celek. They showed up big for Jimmy G and this offense against the Titans (via ESPN.com).
What’s the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offensive game plan?
Quarterback Blake Bortles is playing well as of late but he still needs his #1 rushing attack at 149.1 yards per game at 4.4 yards per rush to put him in a comfort zone. The Jaguars will welcome the expected return of the featured running back Leonard Fournette (923 yards on 223 attempts at 4.0 yards per rush and 8 TD’s). And if he can’t go, fellow running back Corey Grant will have no problem carrying the load like he did last week vs. the Houston Texans (69 yards on 10 rushes at 6.9 yards per rush and 1 TD). The two combined could be a problem.
After establishing the run with Fournette and Grant; Bortles off-play action will look to feature break out rookie from last week WR Keelan Cole all 6′ 1″, 194 lbs. who had 7 catches for 186 yards, 73 coming on 1 catch and 1 TD against the struggling CB Dontae Johnson. Starting WR Marqise Lee is expected to be out until the playoffs. However, it was just recently reported Lee might suit up this coming Sunday. And then came Friday’s injury report he was ruled out. With that being said, the shifty WR Jaydon Mickens who had his break out game of the season as well last week gets the nod, all 5′ 10″, 175 lbs. (4 catches for 61 yards and 2 TD’s) could see time against CB Ahkello Witherspoon. RB T.J. Yeldon has 22 catches on the year and 4 last week; look for him to be utilized (change-of-pace option on third downs) in the passing game with multiple injuries at the receiver positions.
He’ll also look to his veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis who stands at 6′ 6″, 267 lbs. (5 TD’s and a red zone threat) to post up against the likes of in the box safety Eric Reid who was matched up on TE Delanie Walker last week or Eraser free safety Adrian Colbert who was beaten in the end zone by Walker.
What’s the 49ers defensive game plan?
Expect 49ers’ defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to concentrate on stopping the run first and foremost again this week as he did last week vs. the Titans (see running back threats Fournette and Grant). Rookie Will LB Reuben Foster who brings an overall PFF grade of 89.7 and 90.4 against the run and safeties Reid and Colbert (if available) will be needed also in run support. If Colbert can’t go you could see Antone Exum Jr. or Dexter McCoil get the start.
The 49ers’ defensive front and pass-rushers consisting of Elvis Dumervil, Solomon Thomas, Sheldon Day, Cassius Marsh, DeForest Buckner, Aaron Lynch and Earl Mitchell to name a few, will be needed to control the line of scrimmage to stop the Jaguars’ running game. And to apply pressure with extreme disruptive violence to throw off the rhythm of this offense that could be missing some playmakers on Sunday. The 49ers’ front 7 should fare well against an average PFF overall grade of players; RT Jermey Parnell (75.8), C Brandon Linder (77.0) and the rest of the offensive line of the Jags in an attempt to shake, rattle and roll up Bortles and force him to turn the ball over (8 int on the season).
Jimmy G and the offense must run right at the Sacksonville Jaguars
The offensive line is the key (see above how Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense can counter) to have any chance of being competitive or even winning this game. With right tackle Trent Brown on injured reserve, his replacement RT Zane Beadles and fellow teammates LT Joe Staley (Pro Bowl alternate), C Dan Kilgore, RG Brandon Fusco and LG Laken Tomlinson will be up against their biggest test of the season. Their only chance at a victory is to be physical at the point of attack/control the line of scrimmage and open up running lanes for Hyde and Breida and run right at the Sacksonville Jaguars.
Things you should know: Jaguars are averaging 26.7 points per game and the 49ers 18.1. The 49ers are the NFL’s 24th-ranked running offense and defense is ranked 22nd in the NFL in yards allowed and 22nd against the run. The AFC South leaders are also giving up the fewest points in the league at 14.9 per game. Paging field goal kicker Robbie Gould your services will be needed this week more than you know..
Outside of the offensive line protecting Jimmy G, he’ll need a balanced attack that highlights his skillset and what the sporting world has come to know; quick releases, accuracy, ball placement, mobility, arm strength, poise under pressure and decisive throws while maintaining that calm, cool and collected demeanor in the huddle (leadership/2-minute drill) that his teammates feed off.
Please join us again soon on Niners Live, the home of the faithful fan and analyst from an objective/analytical lens, of course. Often imitated, but never duplicated.
All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims .