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Texans-Jaguars Preview: SIX Things To Watch For

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Matt Weston gives you SIX things to watch for when the Jaguars play the Texans.

Houston Texans v Jacksonville Jaguars
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR I scream like that scene in Scary Movie where the guy jumps off the roof and dies.
Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

I hadn’t watched the Jaguars in a while. They’re horrendous for a variety of reasons. They lost their entire offensive line, Leonard Fournette missed the majority of 2018, the power run game they needed to shorten games didn’t exist, Blake Bortles lost all ability to throw the ball downfield with accuracy and defenses caught on to the empty backfield quick crossing route offense, the receivers dropped a bunch of passes, and the pass defense regressed to the mean and was no longer an all-time great pass defense that could carry the offense to wins all on its own. Jacksonville was a tightly knit sweater. A thread came loose. And with a yank they were the blue album, undone, naked and dying and all alone.

So I went back to catch up with an old friend. It’s always hard to pick back up with someone who’s going through actual hard times, while everything is alright with yourself, and dare I say it, things are going pretty good! So while Deshaun Watson is scrambling and making sublime downfield throws, and Jadeveon Clowney is obliterating offenses all on his own, the Jaguars are facing 4th and 46 and averaging 1.0 yards per pass attempt during certain parts of the game. I’m finally debt free, but the Jags are mired in quick cash loans to fix the car to get to work that doesn’t pay enough to pay back the loan. I’m eating spinach for lunch everyday and fasting on purpose, while the Jags are starving and digging change out of old jackets to become a dollarmenuaire.

It’s all very sad. I wish they were doing better. I care about them. I was dying for this game to be an AFC SOUTH CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, but it isn’t. The Jags are miserable for now. The Texans are trying to lock up the division and keep me from getting what I’ve always wanted. Oh well, maybe one day. A boy can dream, until he becomes a man and learns that hopes and dreams are just things no one ever sees.

HIT IT

1.) The Jaguars Have To Run The Ball

The Jaguars have to run the ball, and they’re going to run the ball a lot. Most of the time it won’t work. They average 4.2 yards an attempt, 21st, and have 400 rushing attempts, 13th, and they’re 20th in rush offense DVOA. Usually it looks like this. A skull mound the local Necromancer visits to purchase skeletons from during Sunday Morning December shopping.

They’ll run out of heavy formations with two tight ends, a fullback, and one wide receiver out wide. He’ll never see a pass come his way. This rarely works either.

They’ll create a ruckus in their own backfield and try to run it from the shotgun. Seldom does this work.

Sometimes it will work, but most of the time it won’t. But they’ll try. And it’s going to be really bad. The only good news is Blake Bortles is their quarterback once again. He’s like Cody Kessler except he throws the ball further downfield and is better at avoiding sacks. A sleeker and more aerodynamic model of the same thing. Savor this game. This maybe the last time we see Blake in a kitty-cat uniform playing against the Texans.

The BIG conundrum is the same one the Jags faced the first time they played, and the same one the Bills, Cowboys, Redskins, Broncos, Dolphins, and Titans faced, when you have to run the ball against the Houston Texans, you are running the ball against the best run defense. J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Benardrick McKinney, D.J. Reader, Zach Cunningham, and mop and bucket defensive backs are an impenetrable object, bullet proof glass, my heart, some planet that resides in a different universe that’s made out of adamantium. It’s going to be fun watching these men tackle Fournette. It’s like tranquilizing a Grizzly, or running a mastodon off a cliff. Exhausting fulfilling work. The Jags are going to run the ball 20 times and get like 42 yards.

2.) Even If the Jaguars Realized They Need To Throw The Ball They Couldn’t

Teams have started actually throwing the ball against the Texans. The Browns figured this out in the second half and soaked the secondary in diesel and whoosh. The Colts, Jets, and Eagles put 24, 22, and 32 on them primarily by throwing the ball. When Sam Darnold is finding holes in the zone, and Robby Anderson is uncoverable, you got problems. In the previous three weeks teams are 15/24 for 489 yards, 1 touchdown to 1 interception, and averaging 20.4 yards an attempt when throwing the ball deep against Houston.

The Jaguars aren’t going to do what other teams have done. They can’t. Jacksonville has the 30th ranked passing offense by DVOA. The award for worst non-rookie quarterback goes to Blake Bortles. I just want to thank Marqise Lee, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Fournette for being injured, all the passes my receivers dropped, and my own inability to throw the ball downfield. He has a DVOA of -15.9%, and a DYAR of -126. A Bortles throw is about as efficient as a David Johnson rushing attack.

For the Jags to score a point in this game they’re going to need a big return, 15 yard penalties, a big chunk of yards after a dump off, or a turnover—a coagulated golden blaze of fortune. As long as Houston doesn’t allow multiple non-offensive touchdowns they should be ok.

3.) Don’t Tell Me Where To Camp

This game will always be must see tv on dvd when these two teams play. In one corner you have DeAndre Hopkins, the most skillful wide receiver in the league. In the other corner you have Jalen Ramsey, mouth piece dangling so he can keep yapping, one of the best cornerbacks in the league. This town ain’t big enough for the both of us pardner.

When these two teams last played in Week 7 Deshaun Watson completed 12 of his 24 passes for 139 yards an 1 touchdown in Bill O’Brien’s not trying to be the best offense in the league offense. Hopkins caught the only touchdown of course, but only brought down 3 of his 8 targets. He swatted Ramsey, dug his nails, the length of a seventh grade gothic kid’s, into Ramsey’s face and ripped, etching this moment into face flesh, mortified, Ramsey will carry this for the rest of his life and use it to scare the neighborhood kids.

He used his stinky little arm to stave off Ramsey out of his break, catching a comfy cozy out route.

And he made an all-time one handed catch, already buried under other more recent spectacular catches, by beating Ramsey off the line and stretching his arm out like the ending to Space Jam.

This is what makes Ramsey so great. It takes unbelievable effort and skill to make a catch against him. It’s like completing some silly ninja warrior challenge just to buy a cantaloupe, or hunting an antelope with a rock and sling. 3 catches for 50 yards and a touchdown against Ramsey is a rosy day looked upon with fondness on some future sweet tea drinking front porch. When catches are made he’s still hanging onto the receiver like a shirt that’s two sizes too much, pants for a previously fatter self, he just isn’t skin on bones.

Hopefully the Jaguars don’t play that lame cover four and cover three. Hopefully they crowd the line of scrimmage like a waiting room in The Sopranos and play tight man coverage. Life is beautiful as is every Hopkins v. Ramsey matchup.

4.) Lite

The Texans run the ball a lot even if they don’t need to. Deshaun Watson is a super star and a tremendous talent. He’s 100% healthy, doing the impossible, making plays no one has ever even thought of before. Bill O’Brien has a scarred brain from his own self mutilation. He still thinks and coaches like Brian Hoyer or [NAME REDACTED] is the quarterback. It’s ok Bill. The bad men have gone away.

And so the Texans run the ball no matter what. The trouble is the last three weeks they’ve been horrendous at it. Their run offense DVOA was -0.4%, -64.8%, and -11.3%, and they had 89, 47, and 62 total rushing yards in games against the Colts, Jets, and Eagles. Against Indy, Jabaal Sheard turned into Jadeveon Clowney against Kendall Lamm. Against the New York, the interior couldn’t block Leonard Williams and get any movement at the first level. And last week an entire civilization was to blame. Juli’en Davenport and Nick Martin couldn’t get to the second level, Zach Fulton was deep fried by Fletcher Cox, the tight ends couldn’t cut off the backside, and neither running back could break a tackle.

The good news is that Lamar Miller is set to play again. He has a broken tackle rate that doubles Alfred Blue’s, he averages 1.5 more yards a carry the same offense behind the same offensive line, and has a DVOA of -4.5% compared to Blue’s -23.3%. He’s a good outside zone runner, and actually has speed when he’s in space. Before the Indy game, Miller had back to back weeks with 100+ rushing yards. Without him the rushing attack has fallen apart.

The bad news is the Jaguars still have a great defense. It isn’t an all-time great defense like it was last year, but it’s a great defense. The run defense has improved this year, while the pass defense has fallen off. The Jaguars are 7th in run tackles that gain zero or negative yards with 96, and the Texans’ offense is 6th with 93. The Jags also have a run defense DVOA of -16.7%.

Calais Campbell is an All-Pro run stopper.

Marcel Dareus, and I wish his name was Arbys Jones, Abry Jones, are a fallen tree in the middle of the trail, and Telvin Smith and Myles Jack can chase and tackle with the best of them.

The Texans don’t have to run the ball as often as they do with Watson, but they do, and they’ll probably struggle at it in this one as Houston limps its way to 23 points.

5.) Box Score Good

The Jaguar’s offensive line is entirely different than the one from week one. It’s like that thing they say on the internet that you are a completely different person every seven years as cells are replaced with other cells. I don’t know if this is true, but it sounds cool. Their current offensive line was composed of Ereck Flowers, A.J. Cann, Tyler Shatley, Patrick Omameh, and Josh Wells, until Wells bumped his head and put on injured reserve. They moved Omameh to right tackle and brought up Chris Reed from the bench. Last week against Miami it was horrendous. I still can’t believe they attempted a pass on 3rd and 38.

I don’t know who’s going to play on the right side of their line. Oooooo like surprises. But whatever happens it’s going to be bad. This is great news for J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Since defensive linemen are evaluated and discussed primarily by quarterback hit and sack numbers, this will be a great week to add some more to their waistline. Watt has 14.5 sacks, 24 quarterback hits, and 41 pressures. Clowney has 9 sacks, 20 quarterback hits, and 34.5 pressures despite doing nothing until week four. Clowney is going to finally reach ten sacks. I can’t wait.

6.) What Are They Playing For

I’ll be honest with you loyal reader, and you aren’t going to like what I’m about to say, but I’ll say it anyways. I want the Texans to lose this game. They aren’t going to lose this game. But I want them to. I want the AFC South primetime Sunday Night Championship. I want something that I’ve always wanted to finally come true, even if it means something I care about to falter.

Additionally, the Colts are probably going to beat the Titans. If they do, and Houston wins, they’ll be heading there for the Saturday afternoon wildcard game. This is a sp00ky matchup for the Texans. Andrew Luck can throw the ball, the Colts can stop the run, and they know how to blitz Watson to keep him in the pocket. The better matchup for the Texans is to go to Baltimore and play a coin flip game against a team that has to run the ball 30 times against the best run defense out there. This won’t happen though. Houston will win, the Colts will win, the Ravens will win, and the Texans will play the Colts at home.

One day this week 17 AFC South Championship game will happen. I’ll always carry the fire. I’ll never lose hope. And when it does I’m liquidating everything to be there for it. The ultimate conclusion to all this wasted life.