Jaguars Vs. Cardinals: Secondary Still Looking For The Elusive First Interception Of 2021 Season

The Jaguars' secondary for the 2021 season was built for big plays. 

Free-agent signings Shaquill Griffin at cornerback and Rayshawn Jenkins at safety combined for eight interceptions in their last two NFL seasons, with Griffin getting three last season for Seattle. 

Rookie cornerback Tyson Campbell, drafted in the second round, had two picks for the University of Georgia last season, one in the Peach Bowl, and had two fumble recoveries for touchdowns as a Bulldog. 

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Rookie safety Andre Cisco, taken in the third round, had 13 interceptions in 24 games for Syracuse. 

Those players were thrown into the mix with safeties Andrew Wingard and Daniel Thomas, who both had picks last season for the Jags, and cornerbacks C.J. Henderson, Tre Herndon and Chris Claybrooks. 

But through two games with the Jaguars, the secondary has come up empty in producing turnovers. Coach Urban Meyer said on Wednesday before practice that while he is convinced he has the right pieces, he's still looking for that "spark." 

"We worked hard to try to put together the secondary the way we wanted," he said. "I can see it. It's happening. I can see it in the work ethic. I can see it in the talent. It's stepping in front of a ball, intercepting it ... a great player making a great play.

"How do you do that?" he continued. "Competitive excellence. You do it in practice, you work it, put players in those positions. A sack-fumble, an interception ... when that happens, that's when the rock breaks." 

The next chance for the Jaguars (0-2) to create that spark from a defensive standpoint comes on Sunday at TIAA Bank Field (CBS, 1 p.m.) against the Arizona Cardinals (2-0). Their third-year quarterback Kyler Murray, while dynamic this season in leading the Cards to a tie for the second-most touchdowns in the league with nine, has thrown three interceptions to account for every turnover by his team in the two games. 

And despite his elusiveness and speed, Murray has been sacked five times.

However, he is second in the NFL to Derek Carr of Las Vegas in passing yards with 689 and second to Tom Brady of Tampa Bay in touchdown passes with seven. 

It will be tough to even find the 5-foot-10 Murray. But other teams have, and they've plucked some errant passes as well. 

"He's different," Jenkins said of Murray, who like the Jaguars' Trevor Lawrence was the No. 1 overall draft pick (in 2019). "It's going to be a great challenge because you have a guy like that back there, you have to account for him, then account for their receiver corps across the board." 

That group includes veterans Deandre Hopkins and A.J Green (the former Georgia Bulldog who will be playing at TIAA Bank Field for the first time since his famous fight with former Jag defensive back Jalen Ramsey in 2017) and rookie Rondale Moore. All three had touchdown receptions from Murray in last week's 34-33 victory over Minnesota. 

"A bunch of weapons ... just a bunch of weapons," Jenkins said. 

The Jaguars’ secondary has struggled in the last two weeks, with opposing quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor of Houston and Teddy Bridgewater of Denver completing .701 percent of their passes for 591 yards and passer rating of 118.9.  

The Jags are one of only seven NFL teams that have yet to get an interception and their defensive backs have had only two in the last eight games, dating back to week 12 of the 2020 season. 

Meyer said he can't fault the work the DBs have put in. 

"The result of effort too, and the emphasis we have," he said. "But obviously not enough. We see it every day." 

Jenkins is of the theory that interceptions and turnovers will be contagious, once someone breaks through. He and Griffin both have two pass breakups in the first two games, and Griffin had one on the second play of the Houston game that might have gone the distance had he held onto it. 

"We're trying to get that first one, and I feel like the rest will follow," he said. "We've had some opportunities. We're making good plays on the ball but to really be the game-changers we want to be, we need to bring the ball back to the sideline. We have a standard that we like to hold ourselves to and we're trying to meet that standard." 

With Henderson trying to battle back from a hip injury against the Broncos, the Jags picked up some secondary help on Wednesday by signing veteran cornerback Nevil Lawson and placing tight end James O'Shaughnessy on injured reserve. 

Lawson (5 feet 9, 192 pounds) was a fourth-round draft pick by Detroit in 2014, played for the Lions for five years, then played for Las Vegas the last two seasons. He has 68 starts, has 34 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. 

He played high school football at Sunrise Piper and then at Utah State. 

Source : https://www.jacksonville.com/story/sports/nfl/2021/09/22/jaguars-secondary-looking-elusive-first-interception-2021-season/8410956002/

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