Now that Duane Clemons, who was 2nd on the team in sacks and 2nd on the D-Line in tackles last year, is back on the active roster, who sits or loses major reps: Pollack with 10 tackles and 1 sack; Geathers with the same; or Robinson with 8 tackles and 0 sacks? This defense is not stopping the run or getting pressure on the passer--something has to change quickly.
** --Dave H., Cincinnati
DAVE:** It could be Clemons that ends up sitting because they think they're getting pretty good play out of their people up front, which means they're going off film and not stats. Maybe I've been drinking too much Marv-ade, but it looked like on Sunday night the Jags decided they couldn't run up the middle and bounced Fred Taylor outside to the perimeter.
Head coach Marvin Lewis is right. It does take 11 guys to stop the run and he alluded to problems on the perimeter in defending Taylor's cutbacks by saying that when the back-side tackler gets his shot, he has to make a play. You can't underestimate what the loss of free safety Madieu Williams means in the running game, and they were no doubt looking for more than the seven combined tackles they got from safeties Kevin Kaesviharn and Ifeanyi Ohalete.
Rookie middle linebacker Odell Thurman played well enough that they weren't blasting up the middle. Maybe the front four could have played better, but the cut-backs indicate that the problem was more in the back end. On pass plays that amounted to runs, cornerbacks Tory James and Deltha O'Neal failed to take the receiver down at the five-yard line on each of Jacksonville's two touchdowns.
The line's work in the pass rush has to be a concern. The Jags had eight third-down snaps longer than five yards to go and they still didn't get a sack. Clemons has practiced only a week since his four-game substance abuse suspension was lifted, but he's the kind of guy who can get a sack in his sleep with 12.5 in his two seasons as a Bengal and 47.5 in his career.
Still, who are you going to sit if you're dressing just six linemen? Geathers struggled Sunday night with two offsides penalties and he's still trying to adjust to life inside on passing downs, but he's still one of their most talented athletes on defense. Carl Powell gives them workmanlike snaps at both tackle and end and is viewed as their fifth man, Shaun Smith has been a real find at backup tackle.
You ask a good question who because they have shown no inclination at dressing seven defensive linemen for a game, and that's counting Pollack as one of the six linebackers. A lot depends on how practice goes this week. Clemons can also play tackle on passing downs, but he's more comfortable at end.
You would think the way Tennessee pounds it to set up Steve McNair's play-action and the way running back Chris Brown killed them last year (147 yards on 32 smashes), they're going to be more concerned about the running game than the pass rush. Stay tuned.