I try to fight the decade-long conditioning that whatever bad thing could happen will happen. Web pages like this one with the two very nice mentions are quite helpful, but things have not been too different for your Houston Texans in the past decade.
The boys in Battle Red struggle and disappoint when you expect big things from them, only to dominate when you doubt them. This week is one brimming with confidence when it comes to the visiting 2-5 Jacksonville Jaguars, but a closer look gives reason to cause doubt in my mind.
Gary Kubiak’s House of Offensive Fun is not an overly complicated beast to understand. Everything is predicated off of the run. Behind a solid offensive line, Arian Foster and Ben Tate are as strong a foundation ever seen for the Shanahan West Coast Offense. Of course, that is if they can get going and make the defenses respect their ability to run, which turns the play action fake from a nice toy to a WDD – Weapon of Defensive Destruction.
Yes, the Jaguars have a terrible offense, averaging only 12 points per game (31st), giving up 3 sacks per game (t-29th), with a league-worst 128.4 passing yards per game, and an equally as bad 60.4 quarterback rating. However, they also have the defensive tools to stall the Texans' offense and stay in this game if Kubiak is not paying attention.
The Jaguars have a -13.9% run defense DVOA, good for fifth at Football Outsiders and will be the second-best run defense, in DVOA terms, that Houston will see all year (behind Baltimore’s).
Breaking it down directionally, the Jaguars are stout on runs outside of the left tackle and behind the right tackle, they’re respectable up the middle, and terrible at runs behind the left tackle and outside of the right tackle.
Currently, the offense runs behind Eric Winston a league-high 24% of the time, more than double the league average of 11%. If Kubiak holds true to this trend on Sunday, Foster and Tate could sputter. Given the Jaguars' struggles, I would hope to see a lot of runs behind Duane Brown, who should see a healthy dose of Jeremy Mincey, and a returning (hopefully) James Casey.
Moving away from the hopes, I do expect to see the Texans stick to running outside of the left tackle early, due to their FO ranking of fourth in that direction. It’ll be a strength-on-strength match-up against Jacksonville’s defense, which ranks fourth in defending runs to the outside of the left tackle. I would hope Kubiak would make an adjustment if Jacksonville's linebackers were to win that battle early. Houston cannot afford to let Jacksonville gain confidence and stick around on the road.
The sooner the run is established, as we saw last week, the easier it is for Matt Schaub to play-fake a team to death. If the Texans are stonewalled by a stout run defense then this game could be a lot tighter than many expect.
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