Hays Carlyon's Jaguars Blog

No reason Jags D shouldn’t dominate Richardson, Colts offense

todaySeptember 8, 2023


By Hays Carlyon

The NFL is a 51-49 percent league.

Coaches can’t allow tendencies to be formed.

Keeping your opponent off guard is a difficult, but required, element to winning in the NFL.

The Jaguars defense can throw that tenet out this week.

Forget running any man coverage schemes against Indianapolis when the season opens Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Jaguars coach Doug Pederson and defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell need to be all zone, all the time against Colts first-round rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson.

The former Florida starter was selected fourth overall because Indianapolis was enchanted with his incredible size and athleticism. Richardson stands 6-foot-4, weighs 244 pounds and ran a 4.43-second time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Rookie coach Shane Steichen appears to be making a major mistake by starting Richardson immediately instead of letting him learn at least for a few games behind competent backup Gardner Minshew.

However, Caldwell must ensure that Steichen’s decision backfires.

Richardson’s effectiveness is when the defense plays man and it becomes a playground game. The best athlete usually wins on the playground.

Zone coverage makes it a thinking man’s game and Richardson isn’t ready. At least, nothing suggests he is at this point.

Steichen got his job through his exceptional work as Philadelphia’s offensive coordinator. Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has emerged as a star.

Comparing Hurts to Richardson though at this stage of their careers is ridiculous.

Richardson attempted 393 passes in college. Hurts attempted 1,047 combined at Alabama and Oklahoma. Richardson completed 53.8 percent of his collegiate passes. Hurts finished his college career at 65.1 percent.

Hurts, a late second-round pick in 2020, didn’t start his first game until Dec. 13 his rookie season. He wasn’t ready. Hurts completed 52 percent of his passes in his four starts as a rookie.

Richardson is starting on Sept. 10.

“He’s a great athlete and he’s developing into a quarterback,” Caldwell said. “You see him make great throws at times. The wildcard is that you never know where he’s going to be. He can scramble at any time, they can use him in many different ways.”

That’s why this plan should be simple.

Don’t blitz him. There’s no guarantee you will actually get him down. Don’t let his size be an advantage.

In fact, I would rush just three players at Richardson more than sending the customary four. The more defenders dropping into coverage should confuse Richardson.

There were many times last season with the Gators where Richardson clearly couldn’t figure out zone defense.

The Jaguars should want Richardson to throw it 45 times from the pocket. I would control rush him. The Jaguars don’t need to devote a spy necessarily to Richardson. By leaving linebackers routinely in the flats Richardson will likely run right to them.

Not all of this is on Richardson. The Colts won’t have standout running back Jonathan Taylor. They also don’t run well at receiver.

Because the Colts have no choice but to put more on Richardson’s plate, the Jaguars can continue to throw zone looks at him. My guess is he’s going to think he’s seeing 15 defenders.

Pederson referenced former league MVP Cam Newton when asked about Richardson. Newton is arguably the best player in Carolina Panthers history.

Like Richardson, he was a one-year starter in college winning the Heisman Trophy in leading Auburn to the national championship. However, he was more accurate entering the league. Newton completed 66.1 percent of his passes with the Tigers.

Newton did start every game as a rookie in Carolina but completed just 60 percent of his passes and threw 17 interceptions. He was dynamic as a runner, gaining 706 yards with a whopping 14 rushing touchdowns.

“You think of Cam Newton,” Pederson said. “These are big, physical, strong quarterbacks that can also throw the football. They’re athletic and it is a challenge. It’s a quarterback who, when you watch the tape, can break arm tackles. He can run for 15, 20, 30 yards and beat you with his legs. We got to stay disciplined defensively, we got to be a good tackling football team against guys like this.”

Zone will allow the bulk of Jaguars defenders to keep their eyes on Richardson. The running lanes will be harder to find by consistently dropping seven or eight into coverage.

If the Jaguars can keep Richardson under 50 yards rushing, they have an excellent chance to win this game.

Sometimes the best gameplans are the simplest.

Pederson and Caldwell should keep this simple.

Throw zone at Richardson all game long and watch him wilt.

Embrace the tendency.

Make this a 99-1 percent game in a 51-49 percent league.

(You can email Hays at [email protected] and follow him on X @HaysCarlyon).




Written by: Hays Carlyon

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