The Jacksonville Jaguars traded for nose tackle Marcell Dareus on Oct. 28 hoping he’d be able to help make a difference in their run defense, which was last in the NFL.
How about going from worst to first?
Since they added the 6-foot-3, 331-pound Dareus, no team has been better at stopping the run than the Jaguars — and no team has been worse than Dareus’ former team. The Jaguars have given up 55.3 yards per game, 2.6 yards per carry, and 1.1 yards per carry before first contact in their three games with Dareus.
The 55.3 yards per game allowed is the fewest in the NFL and the 2.6 yards per carry is fourth. Before Dareus, the Jaguars were last in each category: 138.6 yards per game, 5.2 yards per carry, and 3.4 yards per carry before first contact.
“I’m just here to help out any way I can,” Dareus said. “I wasn’t worried about of how much of an impact [he would make]. I knew that I was going to do my best regardless … whatever they needed me to do. The guys are already talented beyond belief.
“I’m just adding a little seasoning to it and I guess it’s working out for everyone. These guys are just steady making plays and I’m just holding up a double-team, man.”
He’s doing a little more than that. Safety Tashaun Gipson has a pretty clear view of Dareus’ work, and he said he has watched him throw offensive linemen aside like they’re high-schoolers.
“He’s a phenomenal player,” Gipson said. “If you see some of the plays that he’s been able to make, that’s grown-man football right there with grown-man strength.
“We’ve been able to contain the run and we know once we contain the run you put the game on us back five. We feel like we’re going to win that game all day.”
Dareus has nine tackles in his three games with the Jaguars playing mainly in the base defense. He’s rotating with Abry Jones, who has six tackles and a batted pass in the same span, and eventually hopes to get on the field more in nickel situations as an interior rusher.
Dareus said it’s going to take a little longer before he’s completely comfortable with the defense. The hope is he gets there by mid-December in time for the Jaguars’ final push for the playoffs and the AFC South title.
“It’s not necessarily all the things they’re doing,” Dareus said. “It’s just the non-verbal communication that these guys already built with each other through camp and just working with each other and playing off of each other, understanding what the next guy’s going to do before the ball is snapped. Just getting used to this [and] understanding the non-verbal communication.
“The more and more I’m out there with Calais [Campbell], Malik [Jackson], Yan [Yannick Ngakoue] and Abe [Jones] it helps me further learn what they’re doing.”
Defensive coordinator Todd Wash said the improvement in the rush defense isn’t all because of Dareus, though.
“Obviously he’s done an extremely good job against the run but really you see an increase in play out of our other interior guys,” Wash said. “When we added him there was a heightened sense of awareness that we needed to do something to stop the run and all three of them have really stepped it up the last couple, three weeks.”
Buffalo certainly has felt Dareus’ absence. The Bills were seventh in the NFL in rush defense (84.5 yards per game), fourth in yards per carry (3.5), and third in yards per carry before first contact (1.5) with Dareus on the roster. In the four games after the trade the Bills are last in rush defense (173.0 yards per game), 31st in yards per carry (5.0), and 24th in yards per carry before first contact (2.8).
That’s a pretty big difference.
“Well, you can’t move him,” Wash said. “He’s 332 pounds, I think it was today, and so he’s a big man and he’s very explosive, plays with his hands well, and the biggest thing is you can’t move him off the line of scrimmage.”