JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Here's part two of The Star's weekly Chiefs gameday scouting report, in which I dissect three keys to a Chiefs win, based on film study, statistical analysis and interviews with players and coaches.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
If you missed part one, which focuses on the offense, click here. Here's part two, which focuses on the defense.
Nobody needs to tell you about the talent of Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Prior to last season, when he was limited to 414 yards due to a foot injury, the 5-foot-7, 210-pound bowling ball was consistently one of the league's toughest backs to tackle.
We've got a big challenge, said Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. Were playing against an outstanding back in No. 32, there. Hes been a really good football player in our league for a number of years. Hes a different kind of back in the sense hes not a big person stature-wise, but I think the thing that he does, hes capable of either bouncing all the way out or cutting all the way back. Hes sometimes hard to find because hes short and he gets in behind those linemen, but hes a really good football player, and hes gonna present to us a really significant challenge as we start the season.
To contain Jones-Drew, the Chiefs will need to swarm him with bodies. Because he presents such a small target, he breaks a lot of tackles.
A lot of times you say, when its a big back, you say tackle him low, Sutton said. Well, hes a big back thats short, so you really cant tackle him low unless you get down below the knees. If you hit him in the thigh area, youre facing a real difficult task of getting him down. Hes a hard guy to describe because you cant always find him, but hes always alive. You can never relax, you cant assume hes going down.
Starter Blaine Gabbert was a gametime decision due to a broken thumb on his throwing hand, but the Jaguars' broadcast team confirmed he will play. That said, expect the Chiefs to test Gabbert's courage with a variety of blitzes.
Some quarterbacks can take it, some quarterbacks can't, said linebacker Akeem Jordan. That's what you try to do, just knock them off their rhythm. You let a quarterback sit back there and throw, it's going to be a long day. You knock him around a little bit, it will help the defense out. That's any quarterback, from top-to-bottom.
Gabbert has performed at an average to below-average level the last few years, though he showed noticeable improvement last season, especially under pressure. According to Pro Football Focus, Gabbert completed 57.5 percent of his passes when pressured last year, a massive rise from the 40.2 percent he posted as a rookie in 2011.
Even still, it will be key for the Chiefs get after Gabbert, who earned a reputation as a rookie for checking down too quickly against the rush. It can't just come from outside linebackers Justin Houston or Tamba Hali, either, because the Jaguars feature a potentially solid tackle tandem in veteran Eugene Monroe and rookie Luke Joeckel.
In this defense, we have Justin and Tamba on the outside and those guys are demanding a lot of attention, said defensive tackle Mike DeVito. So that frees us upfront to have these one-on-ones. You've got to win those blocks.
It's all about team effort, you can't put the weight on two people, Jordan said. I think we'll do a good job on trying to get everybody to it or a few people hitting the quarterback.
You're never going to believe this, but it's going to be hot today. The temperature is supposed to hover around 87 degrees which is a bit of a break because it could actually be worse but regardless, it will be key for the Chiefs' defense to get off the field on third down, lest they get worn down by a Jaguars' team more accustomed to the Florida humidity.
The best way to prevent those problems in conditioning is to get off the field, Sutton said. Thats not too much different than the norm. Certainly, the weather can be a factor.
Sutton, however, expects the way Andy Reid ran his training camp to pay off today.
We go for a lot of plays, weve done a lot of contact, Sutton said. Thats part of the conditioning that sometimes you dont appreciate. Theres a difference between running and touching off and running around and running into people.
The Jaguars will put the Chiefs' conditioning to the test. Sutton said the Jaguars showed a lot no-huddle in the preseason.
They use it a lot, Sutton said. The game they played against Philadelphia, which was their third game, I think they said there were four snaps of huddle on both sides of the ball for the whole half, so I say its pretty significant. So were anticipating that to be the norm, which I think we're going to see more and more in our league.
To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor.