It was one of the few games that could be in contention for “Patrick Mahomes’ worst game of the season, and while the weather that day certainly played a role in the performance, so too did the Jaguars defense. The Jaguars came into the Week 5 matchup with the Chiefs giving up only 14 points per game.
The Chiefs went on to hang 30 points on the Jaguars — with some help from their defense, which forced turnovers and actively put points on the board — and the Jaguars were never the same from that point on.
The Jaguars will be as hyped up as possible for this game after the Chiefs ruined their season. The defense is the driving force behind their team, and with the struggles they went through last year, they will be doing anything possible to return to form. If their team comes out fired up, it could really play into Andy Reid and the Chiefs’ hands.
Reid is one of the best offensive minds in the NFL in terms of designing plays and creating free yards. He’s always been the best screen-play designer in the NFL. In 2017, he really advanced the jet sweep/behind-the-line-of-scrimmage motion game, and last year, he came out of the gates firing with more run-pass option (RPO) concepts than ever before.
The Jaguars’ fast-flying, aggressive defense may fall right into Reid’s favorite trap — attacking open space with numbers.
The most significant change for the Jaguars defense from last year was the surprise retirement of Chiefs’ fans favorite Telvin Smith at the weak-side line backer position. That weakened the team speed and leadership of the defense by removing one of the longer-tenured Jaguar defenders.
He’s been replaced by little-known players trying to prove themselves in the NFL. They will rely on Myles Jack to take another step as a player and take control of the defense. Similar to Smith, Jack is an aggressive player that is prone to falling for misdirection.
The Jaguars field one of the better all around defensive lines with the versatility of Calais Campbell, the pass-rushing prowess of Yannick Ngakoue and the new addition of Josh Allen. Marcell Dareus and Abry Jones provide a stout interior that allow the linebackers to run free. If this group is allowed to pin their ears back on passing downs, they can make the game very difficult for opposing quarterbacks. Fortunately for the Chiefs, that aggression and upfield attacking mentality can also be taken advantage of.
Jalen Ramsey, AJ Bouye and DJ Hayden make up one of the better corner back units in the NFL. Like the rest of the defense, they excel when playing aggressive, even when in coverage. Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod WIlson are replacing quality veteran safeties but have flashed in their young careers.
One of the best ways to attack an aggressive defense is to bait them into their default plan and then attack the space behind them. If you can attack the open space behind a team’s aggression, there are free yards to be had. Baiting the pass rush upfield or the linebackers in one direction or another can generate a numbers and space advantage for the offense, and no coach in the NFL takes advantage of those two elements better than Reid.
Two major ways the Chiefs and other teams have been able to attack that space is through the screen game and utilizing wide receivers behind the line of scrimmage. The use of jet sweeps, reverses and the running back screen game can net free yards against a Jaguars defense that will readily run themselves out of position in an effort to play aggressive.
The screen game
KC vs Jax; something the Chiefs used to get free yards against the aggressive Jaguars defense was manipulate the numbers game out in space.— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) September 6, 2019
The use of the screen game slows down aggressive LB/S play and the desire to blitz or you risk giving up free yards. pic.twitter.com/h6Co89eZ9B
One of the most effective ways to slow down a stellar pass rush is to hit screens behind them, forcing the defensive linemen to think twice before pursuing upfield. When you run into a team whose identity is to attack, you can often find soft spots behind rush.
On this play, the Chiefs catch Jacksonville on a blitz, leaving only five defenders to cover five receiving options. As the Chiefs run a clear out (with all receivers running vertical), the running back can leak out of the backfield with two blockers in front of him. As he catches the ball, the nearest defender is 20 yards in front of him.
The Chiefs won’t always be able to catch the Jaguars in such an aggressive blitz, but even dropping the running back screen just over a defensive lineman that’s willing to burst upfield at the smallest opening is going to result in free yards. With how quickly the Chiefs are able to pass, the linebackers should have a difficult time flowing freely to the catch point.
The Jaguars are a heavy C3 team which allows them to play aggressive in the front seven with their overall team speed. Offenses can also manipulate the numbers game in space.— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) September 6, 2019
The Chiefs have 3 WRs vs 2 DBs (at LoS) with an OL immediately climbing. Free yards based on numbers adv pic.twitter.com/dMAEamVb0A
It’s not just the running backs that can be effective in the screen game but also the wide receivers. One issue teams that use zone coverage run into is how they tree trips and stacked wide receiver sets—very rarely will there be an equal number of defenders and offensive players near the line of scrimmage. What you may see is a two-one triangle like this.
As the wide receiver catches the ball, there is a 10-yard cushion to the closest unblocked defender and an offensive lineman closing in. The screen game is considered an extension of the run game, and that’s something that holds especially true for the Chiefs, as plays like this garner free yards before any contact opportunity.
The Jaguars make it unlikely to bust big gains on screen plays like this, as linebackers and safeties flow to the ball.
Behind the LoS motion
The jet motion was also useful against the Jaguars last year for the Chiefs. The OL flashes zone one direction while the jet sweep comes across the formation in the opposite direction.— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) September 6, 2019
The small hesitation by the D allows the blocks to climb and a free 7 yards before any contact pic.twitter.com/RQ7LVQa2Bt
Another way to generate those same mismatches in space is going to be with the jet motion and reading how the Jaguars are going to react to it.
If the second level is going to run with the motion, it takes players away from the front side of potential run plays, whereas if they hold their ground and try to read the ball, they risk getting outran to the edge.
The Jaguars have a good plan to essentially scrape exchange the strong side contain — the defensive end crashes inside while the linebacker comes over the top to hold contain — but as the Chiefs are able to get multiple offensive linemen to the second level, it gives Kansas City the number advantage.
This play is just pure beauty (that is unfortunately reduced in it's gain on a Watkins holding pen). A fake PA-HB swing that first sells a Travis Kelce run up the middle into the fake swing. Generates all sorts of def movement for Hill on the end around.— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) September 6, 2019
Kelce's wham sell pic.twitter.com/tfdxv3wyGz
This end-around is one of the best options you will ever see in the NFL.
The play action, running back swing is something Reid has utilized plenty with the Chiefs, but then to take it one step further by faking the swing pass was exceptional.
The singular player performances on this play could make for its own post, so I won’t dive too far into that, but the main point stands: use misdirection to manipulate the open field.
The entire Jaguars defense, except for one player, is flowing towards the running back swing despite blockers setting up to seal them off.
The bottom line
Just like last season, this game is setting up to be an immovable force against an unstoppable object, and it should provide exciting football for fans of both offense and defense.
The Jaguars’ defense cannot be overlooked no matter how dynamic and dangerous the Chiefs’ offense seems. It won’t be smooth sailing. Reid might have to dig deeper into the bag of tricks than some think for an offense that looks primed to just spread it out and sling the ball around.
Don’t be surprised if the Chiefs manipulate the space on the field and work to get the number advantage outside the hashmarks in the screen and jet motion game.
Creatively pulling and baiting the defense one way and slipping blockers up to the second level should result in more free yards, just like last year.
On passing downs, look for the Chiefs to occasionally try to bait the Jaguars into bringing heavy pressure and slip screen passes in behind them.
On earlier downs, depending on how the Jaguars want to play the motion, the use of fast wide receivers such as Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman could create mismatches on the edge. Reid lives to draw up new plays and designs and this particular matchup gives him every opportunity to show off his creativity.