March 24, 2018

Texans to Watch: Jacksonville Edition

The 8-1 Houston Texans take on division rival 1-8 Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday in Reliant Stadium.  This Jaguars’ team is reminiscent of the early Texans led by David Carr – maybe worse since it is being reported that Jags’ All-Pro running back Maurice Jones-Drew will be out due to injury.  The key for the Texans this week will be how they react coming off a big win at Chicago on a short week.  The term “any given Sunday” comes to mind.


The Jaguars, ironically, play better on the road.  Their only win was on the road versus the Colts, they lost to the Vikings in overtime and played the Packers close until the final few minutes.  And, it is very difficult to sweep a team in the NFL.  However, Vegas odds makers have the Texans as a 16 point favorite – the biggest spread of any NFL game all year.


The Texans overmatch the Jaguars in just about every statistical matchup and this game should be used by the Texans’ players eyeing a Pro Bowl to pad their stats and make the national highlight reels.  This is also an opportunity to get some of the younger players like Whitney Mercilus more reps – or an opportunity for Brooks Reed and Conner Barwin to pick up a sack or two to get them going.


Texans to Watch:  Offense

Even though on paper this appears to be a lopsided matchup, the game must still be played – and the Jaguars would love nothing more than to upset the high flying Texans.  The formula for the Texans’ success on offense starts with the ability of the offensive line to open running lanes for Arian Foster.  The Jaguars play very physical upfront and Duane Brown expects as much.  When asked about the Jaguars physicality, Brown said, “Their front seven is tough.  They’ve got some big guys over there.  We’re strapping up.  We’re getting ready and being that we won the last meeting, we’re expecting them to give us their best effort coming in here.”


The Texans to watch will once again be the offensive line, but especially the young right side with Ben Jones and Derek Newton.  Do the young players have the mental strength to overcome the short week and finish the second half of the season?  Both Jones and Newton have had up and down seasons but they both show much promise as outlined in our article New Breed of Texans Making Their Mark.


Fans should expect a testy game if history tells us anything.  “Both of us have very physical styles of play,” said Brown.  “Their offense likes to run the ball, likes to pound it.  Our offense likes to do the same.  Like I said, they’re coming into our house this week so we’re expecting their best effort and we got to get after it.”


Texans to Watch:  Defense

The Texans’ defense should be looking to make plays against an anemic Jags’ offense.  Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips addressed the idea of the Texans playing down to the level of their competition in a recent press conference and said, “You have to play at a high level and you have to get ready and you have to be motivated every ballgame.  Whatever that motivation is, our motivation is really – it’s not because you’re playing a really good team like Chicago (last week).  Our motivation is to be as good as we can be.  I think this game, if we play the same high level, high intensity as we did last game, we’ve taken a step forward.  If we don’t, then we’ve taken a step back so that’s the way we approach it.”


The Texans’ defensive player to watch this week will be the play and progression of Jared Crick.  This not so obvious choice is what makes the second half of the season, playoff run and the future of the franchise.  As the season drags on, the reserve players will become more of a factor in order for this Texans’ starters to stay fresh and the team to go deep into the playoffs.  Other defensive players to put into this category are Whitney Mercilus, Bryan Braman, and even Earl Mitchell.


The second half of the season is a time for these potential playmakers to make a name for themselves – just like J.J. Watt did last year.  Who will?

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