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Pre-Game Recon With Big Cat Country

Your Houston Texans look to even their divisional record to 1-1 on Sunday afternoon as they tangle with the team that seems to have consistently brought out the best in them throughout the much maligned Reign of Zoolander.  That's right...those loathsome Jacksonville Jaguars will get their first steaming helping of The Schaub in two short days.  Despite his claim that the Texans are causing him to sleep less than Jon Gruden, Chris from Big Cat Country, SB Nation's blog about all things Josh Scobee, generously agreed to respond to my five inquiries.  Without further ado, I give you the latest Pre-Game Recon:

1.  Jack Del Rio took some heat for waiting so long to hitch his wagon to David Garrard and/or ending the tenure of Byron Leftwich in Jacksonville.  Now with three (3) wins in four (4) games and Byron Letwich struggling in a new system in Atlanta, the Jags look pretty smart.  Given the circumstances, how surprised are you at how well Garrard has played?

BCC:  I attempted to stay out of the quarterback division within the Jacksonville fan base, and instead focused on our many problems at wide receiver as the source of our offensive problems.  Suddenly with David Garrard at the helm, our receivers don't look so bad; with David spreading the ball to 11 different pass-catchers, we're overcoming the lack of a No. 1 with a sheer numbers attack.  Yes, I'm very surprised at how David has overcome some bad games last season, specifically a four (4) interception game against the Texans and another terrible one against the Titans.  He's doing the right things, making reads, throwing the ball away, running when he should, not forcing plays, etc.  It's amazing that the guy who used to be criticized for "only looking at one wide receiver (Jimmy Smith)" is now known for spreading the ball around.

2.  For the past several seasons, the Jacksonville run defense, anchored by Stroud and Henderson, has been a known quantity.  Nevertheless, I still did a double-take when I read that the Jags held Larry Johnson to 12 yards.  I know LJ's been struggling and all, but that's impressive.  Is the Jags' run defense actually better this year than last?  If so, what's the reason for the improvement?  And on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being "giggling" and 10 being "Christmas morning," how excited are you by the very real possibility that Ron Dayne may be starting at RB for the Texans again this week (if Ahman Green's knee still isn't ready)?

BCC:  The biggest reason our defense has gelled since allowing 200+ yards in Week One is pretty simple. We got healthy.  Stroud and Henderson didn't get much time to get in sync during training camp.  The two of them need a few reps to get their timing down, especially because when one overpursues it leaves a big hole right by the other.  Quite frankly, Week One against the Titans made the defense really, really angry.  These guys want to be known as a physical run-stuffing defense, and now they're playing with something to prove.  In the NFL Films story about this season, that game will be expertly narrated as "the one that turned the defense into something nasty."  

Yeah, seeing Ron Dayne in the backfield is like an 11 on your scale.  But at the same time, I have NO confidence whatsoever about this game, so I'll end up eating my words...

3.  Matt Jones was supposed to be a difference-maker at WR.  Instead, there's talk he may be this close to pumping gas for a living in Little Rock.  Fortunately for you guys, Maurice Jones-Drew has shaken off a tough start and Dennis Northcutt (huh?) may prove to be a legit option in the passing game.  That's fine and good, but are you convinced the Jags will be able to sustain a two-pronged offense this season?  Or will the multiple disappointments in the WR department doom this team to an offense of MoJo, Fred Taylor, and the collective prayers of the Jacksonville faithful that Taylor's hamstrings, quads, and assorted other parts hold off on rupturing until March?

BCC:  I love the way David spreads the ball around.  Our tight ends (Marcedes Lewis and Greg Estandia) have done a great job catching the balls on critical downs.  Dennis and John Broussard can spread the field deep, and you still don't want little cornerbacks going up against Jones or Reggie Williams.   In regards to our health at RB, you can't forget Jack Del Rio's favorite running back Greg Jones.  We've got a tremendously deep backfield with the three of them, and their load can be spread out in such a way that each gets enough rest to stay healthy.  I'd be very happy to see Fred get 15 carries, MJD 10-12, and Greg Jones 10.  Of course, I'm happy with any game when we run the ball almost 40 times a game, because we win those games.  If you want to get an idea of what our offense looks like when run perfectly, watch the first half of the Denver and KC games with the long, 18 minute drives.  That's what our offense can do, and it's scary.  

4.  I absolutely loved the Reggie Nelson pick.  How has he looked?  Has he locked down the middle of the field to the point that you feel like you might have another Pro Bowler to compliment Rashean Mathis for the next several years?  Or does Nelson still need more seasoning before you'll swoon over him?

BCC:  I've got a pretty big attachment with Reggie Nelson.  I was practically frothing at the mouth when we were able to draft him after trading back a few spots in the first round. He's making good (but not great) plays in every game, and he had his first interception against the Chiefs.   Nelson is most certainly ahead of the learning curve as far as I'm concerned, though he's going to need time to get some of the little things.  That being said, he's hitting hard and taking good angles, and most importantly he's not getting drawn out of coverage by play action/pump fakes, so I'm pretty pleased.  I'm about 60% swooning, but it rises every week.

5. Put your name on it:  Sunday's final score will be Houston 20, Jacksonville 21.  And at the end of the regular season, how will the AFC South standings read?  So help me God, you'd better not put Houston last, or I'm going to start a rumor that you crippled Tony Boselli before the expansion draft.

Jacksonville (11-5)
Indianapolis (11-5)
Houston (9-7)
Tennessee (8-8)

Thanks to Chris for taking the time to put up with the new kids on the block.  You can read our answers to his questions here.