NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars will be in the playoffs in 2014 if…

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

If: The Jacksonville defense can play the kind of defense that we saw as recently as 2011. That season, the team was ranked sixth in the NFL in fewest yards allowed and in the Top 10 against both the run and the pass.

What has happened since is mind-boggling. Three years ago, the Jaguars surrendered a respectable 329 points. They have followed that up the past two seasons by allowing 444 and 449 points, respectively.

One issue has been a pass rush that has dormant for a number of years. In 2012, the Jaguars totaled a mere 20 sacks, less than NFL Defensive Player of the Year and AFC South rival J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans managed on his own (20.5). This past season, Jacksonville’s pass rush got to opposing quarterbacks just 31 times, tied with the Chicago Bears for the fewest sacks in the NFL.
Do the math. That is a combined 51 sacks over the past two seasons, fewer than the Carolina Panthers (50), Buffalo Bills (57) and St. Louis Rams (53) managed along in 2013.

To rectify that, the team added former Seattle Seahawks defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant in free agency, as well as defensive tackle Ziggy Hood (Pittsburgh Steelers) who could play inside and outside.

Here is something worth noting. Perhaps Bradley feels pretty good about his defensive front this season, hence the decision to release veteran Jason Babin.

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