SEATTLE — Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley sat down with his offensive coaches and started breaking down film of what the Seattle Seahawks were doing defensively. Bradley suddenly noticed where All-Pro safety Earl Thomas was aligned and found himself yelling at the screen.
“You know what?” said Bradley, the former Seattle defensive coordinator and first-year Jaguars head coach. “It is weird. ... You feel yourself saying comments like that.”
Bradley was largely responsible for building the Seahawks’ defense into one of the best units in the NFL. And now he’s trying to replicate that in Jacksonville.
Clearly it’s going to be a difficult challenge for the 47-year-old coach. And he’s about to get a telling barometer of how far the gap is between the Jaguars and the top of the NFL when Bradley’s new club meets his old team Sunday.
“People ask me that a lot. ‘Just look at Seattle’s success.’ I’m just happy for those guys. I’m not going to stop caring for those guys up there. They’re very important and they gave us a whole lot, and I wouldn’t be in this position I’m in right now if it wasn’t for those guys. So I hold them in high regards,” Bradley said. “But this is a new step and I’m really excited about our organization. We’re not where we want to be yet. But it doesn’t stop us for trying to get there as fast as we can.”
Here are five things to watch as the Seahawks face the Jaguars beginning a stretch of four straight games against the AFC South:
BUILD A REPLICA: Bradley has his own way of managing an organization, but many of his principles come from working and watching Seattle coach Pete Carroll build the Seahawks. Bradley said this week that watching a Jaguars practice would look a lot like a Seahawks practice.
HELLO, END ZONE: Jacksonville is one of two teams with just one touchdown in the first two weeks. There are even bets available in Las Vegas whether the Jaguars will find the end zone against Seattle’s top-ranked defense.
At best, Jacksonville’s offense has struggled. The Jaguars crossed midfield only four times in 11 possessions against the Raiders and went three-and-out six times. They rank last in total offense, 30th in rushing and 28th in passing.
NASTY D: Seattle’s defense has forced an NFL-leading seven turnovers in two games. The Seahawks gave up just 253 total yards to Carolina and 207 to San Francisco. And now they face a weak Jaguars offense that’s last in the league in yards per play and points per game.
OFFENSIVE CONSISTENCY: One of Carroll’s concerns is the efficiency and execution of Seattle’s offense. It’s one of the few nitpicks Carroll has through two games. The Seahawks struggled with the run in the opener, were lackluster passing in Week 2, and had a knack of untimely penalties in both games. The penalties were especially frustrating for Carroll as Seattle suddenly found itself unable to make up the lost yardage.
STAY THE COURSE: Carroll’s mantra of treating every week like it’s a championship opportunity will be put to the test. There is a reason Seattle is nearly a 20-point favorite. It has won nine straight games in the cauldron of sound at home.
Anything less than a dominating performance will be seen as some form of a letdown coming off the emotional win last week.
“These guys have pounded with our mentality and the things that we think of, to the point where I don’t think they think any other way now,” Carroll said. “But it still takes a really acute attention to the detail, the discipline of this, because you’ve just pulled so much in other directions and could be swayed so easily by following the buildup, the hype, and all of the enormous amount of information that’s out there ...”