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Texans Jaguars Preview: Five Things To Watch For

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Matt Weston gives you five things to watch for in Sunday’s clash between the Texans and Jaguars.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It’s 6 p.m. and it’s already dark. This should not be happening. At this time of the year, the sun is only out for a short hazy stroll. It goes down soon enough on its own. The last thing it needs is some manufactured push back so we can fully feel the sad and lonely downtrodden gray sky as we embark throughout our days. It creates this atmosphere on its own.

Life right now, during this time of year, is dark and hideous. I hate it. It must be what it is like to be Jaguars fan. The difference is that this is how things are all year for them, year after year for the people who feel happy when the Jaguars win and sad when they lose. With this constant sadness, with the bliss never coming, a self-deprecating beautiful humor has arisen. Of all the fans on the internet, Jags fans are the best. Their memes are the dankest. Their videos are the funniest. Their anguish is still lamented even when they know it is coming, which it always does. It’s beautiful.

Unlike us, Texans fans who live brief spats of life in cold and darkness, the spring never comes for Jags fans. Their optimism lasts for a fleeting second and always ends the same way. Badly. Again this year, the optimism of summer was short-lived, and the Jaguars are bad again. Their fans have enjoyed the season the only how they know how—through belly-shaking videos.

HIT IT

1.) Blake Bortles Is Dumb.

In 2015, Blake Bortles became an interesting quarterback. He tossed a lot of passes down field for a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns. The accuracy wasn’t always there, but the arm was, and more importantly the machismo to shove it down field and let his receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns go up and get it was there. Because of his receivers’ ability to leap and go get the ball, it made up for Bortles’ inaccuracy. Everything seemed cool. Everything seemed great. If Bortles could take this newfound love of playing the daredevil and just add some accuracy and smarter decision-making, he could become something. He could be a real franchise quarterback.

So far this season, it has not happened. Bortles is still Bortling. He still misses throws and jovially hops around in anguish after missed throws that he wished he could have back. He still treats defenders like holograms and tries to throw through them, or more realistically simply doesn’t see them. No quarterback in the NFL makes as many stupid and silly mistakes as Blake Bortles does.

This is now year three of his career. Quarterback progression is not linear. Things go right. Things go bad. Right now, things are bad. The problem is that in year three, the things that scouts were worried about at the inception of his career still plague him. Sometimes people never get better at certain things. Bortles maybe one of those people, and his career may never flourish because of it.

This Sunday, he is playing against a great secondary that has done everything well except intercept passes. They are stopping yards after the catch. They are swatting tosses. They are blanketing receivers. But they are not forcing turnovers. Houston has six on the season and is ranked second to last. The Jaguars’ offense has 17 and are 30th in the league. With Bortles drunken decision-making, this week the turnovers may actually occur for Houston.

Don’t Run, Just Fight.

The other problem with the Jaguars’ offense is they can’t run the ball. They gave Chris Ivory a lot of money last year only for him to be nonexistent this season. He has 236 yards on 58 runs. His DYAR is -59 and his DVOA is -33.4%. Their young running back, T.J. Yeldon, who does everything sub par, has 253 yards on 70 carries. His DYAR is -42 and his DVOA is -23.4%. Both are at the bottom of players with 14 to 71 rushes when ranked by DYAR.

It’s not entirely the backs’ fault that they are terrible. The Jaguars should have never signed Ivory to begin with. He’s on older barbarian type of between the tackles runner who goes through defenders. These guys don’t last long. Interior blocking is more important than the play of running backs unless you are talking about a player like, oh you know, Marshawn Lynch, David Johnson, or Jay Ajayi.

The Jaguars’ running backs are 30th in rushing DVOA at -26.1% and are 32nd in rushing attempts with 166. Because of this, Jacksonville has to over-rely on Bortles. As mentioned earlier, Blake doesn’t have the accuracy to consistently drive and move the offense. He can’t be the sole focus of a successful offense. If Bortles played behind a vicious, defender-tearing running attack and only had to make a couple of deep throws a game and pick up third downs, he would be a viable quarterback. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, Bortles doesn’t live in that world. He has to do everything, which he can’t do, because Jacksonville can’t run the ball.

All that being said, the Jaguars finally had a successful day on the ground last week. Against the Chiefs’ front seven, they ran for 205 yards in an eye-opening performance. It was so weird, and it wasn’t because Ivory finally looked good or was healthy. They were moving defenders and there was huge plops of grass to maneuver through. That is going to be the key for Jacksonville this game and the rest of this season. If they can run the ball, this offense can be really good.

In the micro, the Texans’ run defense is shoddy. They have been plundered over every sector of the defensive line except for where Jadeveon Clowney plays. This week is a nice open book quiz to see if last week was a fluke or something that’ll continue to occur. If the Jags can run the ball, they will get this offense scooting and may actually have a shot to steal this one from Houston.

ME-OW.

The Jaguars added a ton of new kitty cat toys this offseason. Tashaun Gipson, Malik Jackson, Myles Jack, Yannick Ngakoue, Dexter Fowler Jr, Prince Amukamara, the sassy Jalen Ramsey, and I’m sure there are some other scratching posts and velvet mice I forgot about. Anyways, it worked. The Jaguars’ defense has improved tremendously. They are 15th in DVOA at -0.5%. They are 12th against the pass and 27th against the run. Last year, they were 26th in DVOA at 9.7% and were 31st against the pass and 17th against the run.

This is a fast defense. They move and zoom and jolt around. Carolina’s Shaq Thompson is Thomas Davis Jr. and Telvin Smith is Thomas Davis the II. The guy scurries around the box and wipes up all the short passes. Jalen Ramsey is the Defensive Rookie of the Year unless Joey Bosa keeps doing what he’s doing. And with Gipson playing safety, it has allowed Jonathan Cyprien to play in this natural ecosystem, down in the box, where he can focus on covering tight ends and stopping the run. Jackson has held down his section of the defensive line. Ngakoue is one of the league’s better young pass rushers, using his long limbs to climb past offensive tackles.

The other thing about this Jags’ defense is they tackle really well. They fly to the ball, and when they get there, they really stick their claws in once they lurch into offensive players. They have the second lowest broken tackle rate at 6.3% and have missed only 37 tackles. The Texans haven’t been able to do much in this facet of the game and that should continue this week.

The Jags are playing a Texans’ offense that is last in DVOA. They haven’t been good at anything except for running outside the tackles. Brock Osweiler is one of the worst quarterbacks in the league and has thrown nine interceptions. Houston is going to have trouble moving the ball against Jacksonville. You know how I said with Bortles drunken decision making the Texans’ defense may actually be able to pick up a few turnovers? Yeah, well, the same can be said for Jacksonville. This is going to be a low scoring game.

On The Road

At this point of the season, Houston is 5-0 at home and 0-3 on the road. At home, they beat Chicago by more than a score, and they beat Kansas City, Tennessee, Indianapolis, and Detroit all by one possession. On the road, the Texans were exposed as frauds in blowout losses to teams playing great: New England, Minnesota, and Denver.

The Texans have won their games at home, but they have been close. On the road, they have been obliterated by teams that are just better than them. This week they will finally have a road game against a team that they are better than.

As for Jacksonville, they are 0-3 at home, if you don’t count their little excursion to London. They lost by four to Green Bay. They lost by one to Baltimore. They had their teeth kicked in by San Diego in a 24 point loss. Overall, five of their mistake-filled games have been decided by one possession. They are 1-4 in these games.

With these impotent offenses and good defenses, today is going to be a close game. We will just have to wait and see who wins the coin toss by the time 3:00 p.m. on Sunday arises.

Fun Times in The Neighborhood.

Man, I’m so excited for this game. I wish I could melt it down, distill it and shoot it down my esophagus until I lurch and spray it all over the kitchen, alone, while the party is going on downstairs in the garage. While the rest of America is watching games like Broncos-Saints, Chiefs-Panthers, Falcons-Eagles, or Vikings-Redskins, we will get a classic AFC South showdown. This is the type of game I live for while everyone else complains about how bad the AFC South is and how nasty their games are and waaah, waaah, waah. Just don’t watch it. I revel in the pleasure of being able to watch two bad teams throw and run their way in an incompetent oblivion. These DVOA dredges games are the best. Sunday is going to be close. It’s going to be terrible. It’s going to be beautiful, and I can’t wait for it.

Enjoy the game everyone while you do whatever you do.