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Chiefs vs. Jaguars: how the Chiefs defense beats the Jaguars offense

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The Nerd Squad breaks down the Jaguars offense — and a concept we might see on Sunday.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Week 1 is upon us!

After a long, tumultuous offseason where the Kansas City Chiefs fired their defensive coordinator and turned over most of its defensive personnel, the team will take the field — for real, this time — this Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Jaguars themselves have a revamped offense, led by new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and new quarterback Nick Foles. The unpredictability of a new offensive scheme from the Jaguars makes Steve Spagnuolo’s job a little more difficult, but his experience against both in New York in 2017 should give him a little bit more of an idea of what to expect.

Like we did last year, we’ll go through the relevant personnel for the Jaguars to give you an idea of what to expect on Sunday.

Unlike last year, though, we won’t try to capture the full range of what the Jaguars might do — instead focusing on a singular concept and fleshing it out. Ideally, we’ll build on these concepts throughout the year, allowing readers to identify them from their seat at home or in Arrowhead.

The personnel

NFL: Preseason-Jacksonville Jaguars at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars acquired former Chief — and Super Bowl MVP — Foles this offseason after he spent the last two years backing up Carson Wentz with the Philadelphia Eagles. Foles is getting his first real shot at a starting job since 2011 — and is reunited with DeFilippo, who with his quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia.

Leonard Fournette will likely shoulder the load for the Jaguars this year. His career 3.6 yards-per-carry isn’t much to write home about — but without Blake Bortles at quarterback, he should see fewer stacked boxes this season. Jacksonville also drafted rookie running back Ryquell Armstead as a big back who can pick up some short yardage situations.

Sixth year wide receiver Marqise Lee leads his group, coming off an ACL tear he sustained last year during preseason Week 3. While playing across from Allen Robinson, he had consecutive 700-yard, three-touchdown seasons in 2016 and 2017.

Former Chief Chris Conley is opposite Lee on the outside. He figures to hold a role to the one he had in Kansas City, moving the chains as a possession receiver. Dede Westbrook is the slot receiver — and if the preseason is any indication, looks to have a lot of volume coming his way; he saw lots of jet motion and crossers to create separation. He could be a dangerous threat underneath.

The Jaguars are thin at tight end, with former Dallas Cowboy Geoff Swaim and former Chief James O’Shaughnessy as their primary options. Foles likes to use his tight ends, so one of these players could see a bit of a resurgence in 2019.

Jacksonville has some heavy investments in offensive line — especially on the interior; Andrew Norwell, Brandon Linder, and A.J. Cann are all strong players when healthy. At tackle, Florida rookie Jawaan Taylor looks to get the start at right tackle opposite Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor. Cam Robinson — limited in practice on Thursday and held out of practice on Friday — is currently projected as doubtful for Sunday’s game. With backup tackle Cedric Ogbuehi out due to injury, backup right guard Will Richardson will start at left tackle and should see plenty of Frank Clark.

The offensive concept: Y-Cross

Y-Cross comes from Air Raid playbooks. It is designed to simplify quarterback reads through a weak side flood concept. After it first appeared in the mid-90s playbooks of BYU’s Norm Chow, Mike Leach took the concept to Oklahoma and adapted it more toward what the NFL uses today.

The concept is simple: the offense groups a set of routes to one side of the field at varying depths. The idea is to put coverage defenders in conflict and create space. The majority of the space occurs in the middle of the field between the linebackers and the safeties, which is where the “Y” receiver — the tight end — is coming across the field.

Here is a great example of how to run Y-Cross. The X receiver runs a fade route, trying to take the top off the defense. This is the quarterback’s first read. If the receiver beats his man early — and there isn’t a safety over the top — the quarterback hits him for a big play.

The second read is the Y receiver, crossing from the strong side of the formation. The defense is in zone coverage, and the tight end releases under the SAM — in this case, the strong safety — and behind the MIKE linebacker. His assignment is to gain depth and search for space in the zone defense — aiming for the opposite sideline about 20 yards deep.

The third read is the slot receiver — sometimes on a stick or out route underneath the zone defender. This instance sees the receiver in the flat, pulling the apex defender — in this case, the slot cornerback — forward, creating space for the tight end behind him.

The fourth read is the X receiver, who is running a post dig route. This receiver keeps the safety honest. If the safety crashes down on the tight end’s crossing route, the X receiver should have daylight on the deep post. This read works the quarterback back to the strong side of the field.

The final read is the running back in the flat. With the play-action fake pulling the linebackers forward to give more space to the tight end, the running back will leak late into the flat as a final checkdown, completing the quarterback’s read across the field.

The Y-Cross concept — and others like it — works very well against match zone coverages like those we expect Spagnuolo to run. Coverage rules dictate players reacting to route stems in front of them, but they can start to fall apart when the offense brings receivers from the opposite side of the field at multiple levels.

But these concepts take time to develop — making them something Spagnuolo can attack with blitzes.

This play shows a Cover 0 blitz, which dictates man coverage. Against man coverage, the tight end’s route changes to a dig route — the idea being that the sharper cut (rather than the softer diagonal release) can create better separation against man coverage.

Spagnuolo brings two blitzers — with the WILL linebacker prepared to pick up the running back in the flat. Foles attempts to execute the play-action fake, but the MIKE linebacker comes through the gap untouched and forces the errant throw.

Against flood concepts, speeding up the clock in the quarterback’s head is paramount to success. These plays take time to develop — plus more time for the quarterback to read the field. Spagnuolo knows this — and knows how to handle it. If he sees these flood concepts early in the game, he might send the house a little more often to force the offense out of that game plan.

In conclusion

The Chiefs defense might very well be catching the Jaguars offense at the right time; having a rookie right tackle (and a banged-up left tackle) on the offensive line isn’t ideal when going up against some of the new pressures Spagnuolo will have dialed up.

The Jaguars will want to establish the run early, but the first team Chiefs defense was shown to be solid defending the run in the preseason. Between Clark, Okafor, Chris Jones and Derrick Nnadi, Jacksonville may be stuck having to throw the ball to keep up.

When throwing the ball, the Jaguars will likely have to rely on lots of passes to Westbrook on crossers (and motion) to move the chains. The Chiefs staff and players know this; Tyrann Mathieu stated that Foles “likes certain guys” and that they’ll pay attention to “who he’s getting the ball to early”.

Look for the Chiefs to come out and stop the run early, allowing Spagnuolo to dial up some blitzes — speeding up Foles’ internal clock — before relying on the four-man rush to close out the game against a rookie right tackle and a third-string left tackle.