In my mind, Jacksonville is just as an exotic place as London, England. I’ve never driven all the way through the south and down and into the screwed up janky little arm of America. I’ve never seen the garish pink plastic creatures garnished along the yards of RV and trailer parks, crab legs haven’t been stolen from my grocery store, the gulf I know is brown and murky, swampy bathtub, not clear, the hue of the sky, Gator Country is a Molly Hatchet song not a landscape, house parties don’t randomly break out into mixed martial arts death brawls, and cutoff shorts and tank tops are a Halloween costume instead of a viable wardrobe choice—that’s more of a ME problem though. The Allosaurus is as close to me as the alligator. The only swamp I know is the puddle sloshing around in my shorts.
The things going on out across the sea are just as obscene as those lying underneath our covers. I’m ethnocentric in a cute way. America is all I know. I need to walk all the way around Mount Rainier, climb up to the tip tops of Glacier National Park, hang down in the swamp, suck down the new National Historic Sites in the Mojave, dangle among the stars at freezing Great Basin, and then, maybe then, I’d be able to stare at the men in funny hats, eat potatoes with mayonnaise, feast upon the squanders of imperialism lying in glass cases at national history museums, turn my tongue blue and watch the ocean roll in and out at a premier
soccer football match, but until then, I’m only an American. All Europe has to offer me are 8:30 a.m. kickoff times.
1. WEEK TWO WAS SEVEN WEEKS AGO
Week two. 13-12. Texans v. Jaguars. After spending, oh, 49 minutes or so trying to run the ball the Jaguars finally let Gardner Minshew loose. They took to the air and down the sideline and scored ten points on their last two drives to make it 13-12. Overtime is for cowards. Let’s go home. We all have things we need to do.
The Jags went for it. D.J. Reader smashed the stalactites, collapsed the cave, slowed down Leonard Fournette, and gave Justin Reid a slightly easier tackle to keep Fournette at the two inch line. Texans win.
The Jaguars’ offense is entirely different since that game. No longer are they trying to run the outside zone with their monstrous offensive linemen, and forcing Fournette to delay his runs laterally before making a decision. The days of his offensive linemen failing to cut off the playside defensive linemen, turning and watching with their hands on their hips, as Fournette is brought down behind the line of scrimmage are gone.
Jacksonville has gone back to a vertical running attack since the Denver game. In that one Fournette ran the ball 29 time for 225 yards. The Jaguars did a great job using lead blockers to hit the second level, and getting Fournette running straight ahead.
In the Jaguars’ first three games Fournette had 43 rushes for 179 yards, which is 4.16 yards a carry. From the Denver game on Fournette has 120 carries for 612 yards, which is 5.1 yards a carry. The scheme has worked, and has helped their run offense immensely. That being said, their rushing attack is boom or bust. Against the Jets last week Fournette had 19 carries for 76 yards, 66 of those yards came on one run.
Six offensive linemen set. I formation. Motion D.J. Chark to line up as a flex wing right. It’s a lead play left, but the backside does a great job reaching their blocks and cutting the formation in half. This is a perfect Jawaan Taylor block (#75). Fournette cuts back, skips over a tackle, and does the rest.
The Jags’ run offense DVOA was -49.8% in that game. This season Fournette has a success rate of 40% (36th). The run attack isn’t the foundation of their offense. It’s a rocketship that either hits the moon or explodes on the launching pad. It’s not something the Jaguars can consistently rely upon to move the ball.
No. Instead the Jaguars are led by Gardner Minshew. The sixth round pick rookie quarterback. Since the Houston game the Jaguars have let him out of his exhibit and have let him flourish and learn from his mistakes. Minshew has completed 61.9% of his passes for 1,976 yards, throwing 13 touchdowns to 2 interceptions, and is averaging 7.6 yards per attempt.
Minshew can do a little bit of everything, but my favorite aspect of his game is his willingness and ability to push the ball downfield. Downfield accuracy is one of the last things a quarterback learns how to do at the professional level. Minshew has already figured it out. Since week three Minshew is 17/32 for 531 yards and 3 touchdowns on throws categorized as deep. In this time frame he’s 18th in attempts, but tied for 7th in completions.
The majority of these throws go to D.J. Chark. The second year receiver has materialized into a legitimate WR #1. He has 8 deep catches on 12 targets for 235 yards during this time frame.
Chark is at his best when he’s in man coverage along the sideline. He bursts out of his break, and creates straight line separation. At 6’4” he’s a fishing net of a target. High point catches are the norm from him, and he does it against any caliber of cornerback. Minshew supplies passes to either shoulder, and places the ball where it should be based on the coverage.
Chark isn’t just a sideline threat though. He can do a variety of things. He can line up in the slot and run airy corner routes.
Big cushions and offman coverage become easy completions.
He can gobble up off man coverage and get between the ball and the cornerback to bring it down.
Adding to the Jaguars’ passing offense has been the reemergence of Dede Westbrook. The Jags are getting him the ball downfield once again out of spread shotgun sets. Injured last week, he had 16 catches on 28 targets for 238 yards the previous three games. He’s expected to be available against Houston this week.
The Jaguars are also utilizing Fournette as a pass catcher. Not every down is an expected run when he’s on the field. Fournette has 35 catches on 45 targets, and has already almost eclipsed his single season highs from his rookie season.
They have him running slants as a wide receiver, and turning play action fakes into isolated routes against linebackers that lead to big gains.
The other thing to love and cherish about musty musty, stinky stinky Minshew’s game is his ability to create something from nothing. He’s magical in the pocket. Everything collapsed around him. He can find a way out. From there he creates new throwing angles and finds his open receivers running back to the ball.
The Jaguars are no longer a barbaric bone smashing team. Jacksonville is 8th in pass offense DVOA and they’re averaging 22.5 points a game since their epiphany in Houston. Tomorrow shouldn’t be a physical slugfest. The Jaguars have learned their lesson. Don’t run the ball against the Houston Texans. Take to the air.
2. —POST J.J .WATT
Last week J.J. Watt made an effort to play the run after holding onto the backside and making run tackles after the back picked up four yards. This was a perfectly fine strategy. The Texans have plenty of run stoppers, and Watt, as the soul of their pass rush, needed to save his calories for vital passing downs. He swam from the backside of the formation to make a tackle for a six yard loss. Torn pectoral. Out for the season.
This is the third time in four seasons Watt was swept away by a season ending injury. This time the Texans don’t have the same luxury they’ve had before. Houston traded Jadeveon Clowney for Gareon Conley, BIG PLAY BARKEVIOUS MINGO, and Jacob Martin. By trading Clowney the Texans no longer have that insurance policy, that bridge from those great Texans’ defenses to the next ones.
Houston should still defend the run well without Watt. Zach Cunningham and Benardrick McKinney have 75 run tackles this season. Cunningham has his magnifying glass out on every play and is breaking on the ball from the weakside immediately.
McKinney is a brute. He can take on blocks made from offensive linemen straight ahead, and runs through blockers to make tackles.
Whitney Mercilus and Brennan Scarlett are great when they’re blocked by secondary blockers: tight ends, running backs, and wide receivers. Consistently they set the edge against lesser blockers and force backs wide and out of bounds. And a defensive line composed of D.J. Reader, who will stick as a 3-4 defensive end instead of moving around to nose tackle, Brandon Dunn, and Angelo Blackson, can tie up blocks and create open lanes for their linebackers. Then, back behind it all, Justin Reid has his mop and bucket and can clean up those rare rushes that get past the second level. Houston isn’t making the spectacular run stops for a loss, but they’re still a great run defense.
The problem is going to come in the passing game. Watt accounted for 4 of their 17 sacks, 20 of their 46 quarterback hits, and led the league in pressures with 37. The Texans have 96 pressures this season. Watt didn’t have the sack numbers, which are a bad measure of a player’s success, but he was the consistent source of the Texans’ pass rush. Without him they’re going to be times when the Texans get absolutely nothing from their front.
Houston is going to try a lot of different things to try and find something, anything that works. Their rush at the end of the Oakland game, on the most important play, had Scarlett, Martin, Mercilus, and Charles Omenihu trying to get a rush going. It didn’t work.
Mercilus has to be better. He leads the team in sacks with 5.5, but most of them were alley-oops tossed to him by interior rushes. The easiest matchup, the ones given to Watt, will now be given to Mercilus. He’ll probably get Cam Robinson in this game, since Robinson has problems with hands and edge rushes. This is a matchup he’ll need to win. And he’ll need to be something more than wide and looping. Too many of his rushes take too long.
He’s their only real pass rusher. Reader did some wiggling v. wide splits, but has cooled down since his blistering pass rush start. Omenihu is a fine sub package fresh leg bullrusher, but he hasn’t shown much as a bend-rip edge rusher. Him v. Taylor will be an interesting matchup since Taylor has problems v. power rushes. Martin doesn't have a real pass rush move. He’s a cheetah who runs all the way around the line of scrimmage to create pressure.
Crennel is going to have to get funky. Expect for Cunningham and McKinney to blitz more than they already do. Double loops like this should be used more often.
I’d even like to see McKinney get some rushes against the struggle bus driving Andrew Norwell in this one. There isn’t an abomination too strange, or a rush too exotic, Crennel is going to have to try everything imaginable to get to the quarterback.
The Texans have relied on their pass rush for the last, oh, nine years or so, except for 2016 when A.J. Bouye came out of nowhere and led a Texans’ pass defense that finished fifth in DVOA. Now the Texans’ don’t have a consistent rush. Their entire secondary, already thin in talent, is covered in body casts and wrapped in slings. Crennel now faces the toughest challenge of his career.
Even before Watt was knocked out this season, the Texans needed to go into every game trying to score 27 points or so to win. They’ve done this five times this season. The Texans are 4-2 in games where the opponent scores at least 16 points, and they’re record is 4-3 in one score games. They’ve won games in a way they haven’t consistently done so before.
The biggest reason is that Deshaun Watson is F——- unbelievable. He’s a MVP candidate. Watson is hovering around a 70% completion percentage. Has thrown 16 touchdowns to 5 interceptions and is averaging 8.1 yards an attempt. He’s also 6th in DYAR and DVOA and 4th in QBR if you’re too cool and edgy for typical counting stats. In addition to this he has 45 carries for 242 yards (5.4 yards a carry) and 5 rushing touchdowns. He could hit 40 total touchdowns this season. Plays like this are normal from Watson, and these are plays I’ve never seen anyone make before.
Houston has struggled too often in the first half of games. The Texans have scored 88 points in the first half, and have scored 124 points in the second half. Their first half point differential is -7. Their second half point differential is +31.
It takes Bill O’Brien way too long to understand the Colts’ lack safety talent with Malik Hooker out, and they don’t have anyone who can match up one v. one against DeAndre Hopkins. It takes Bill O’Brien way too long to understand the Raiders have terrible linebackers and to isolate them in coverage, or see them sit in a cover two zone, then use DeAndre Hopkins in the slot to get open against Tahir Whitehead. These matchups are available to them for the entirety of the game. It takes them way too long to get to them. Scoring only nine and ten points in the first half against Indy and Oakland are inexcusable.
Too often Bill O’Brien is stuck trying to establish the run, and wasting downs with ineffective run plays. Last week Carlos Hyde had 5 2nd and 10 carries for 10 yards. He had 13 first down carries for 63 yards, made better than it was because of a 20 yard run. Only six of these runs were successful. O’Brien is trying to setup more manageable third downs too often. By doing this he gets the offense into a hole. The team has too many drives detonated by a failed first down run that cascades from there.
This is a perfect example from the Oakland game. First and ten they run outside zone with Duke Johnson. Darren Fells peels back to seal the backside and runs into Max Scharping. Johnson gets nothing.
2nd and 10. Jordan Akins drops a bunny off of play action.
3rd and 10. Clelin Ferrell is an oak tree standing in the center of the line of scrimmage and bats the pass down.
The Texans have to lean all the way into the circumstances they’ve been dealt. All this passive running and figuring out can’t happen. They have to stop falling behind early and playing catchup. The matchups available need to be exploited immediately. The defense is no longer something they can rely upon. It has to be all Watson all the time.
The Texans do have matchups to exploit in this game. The Jaguars haven’t been able to get consistent linebacker play next to Myles Jack. Quincy Williams and Leon Jacobs are out. There’s too much Austin Calitro out there, who was burnt by Ryan Griffin last week. Jack also has had his fair share of struggles in pass coverage. The occasional big play is negated by all the busts. The Jags’ run defense has gone lighter on the interior to generate a pass rush, leading to runs against light boxes, and the Jaguars have been scorched in the open field against great running backs. The rush numbers are skewed because Christian McCaffrey happened.
They also have trouble stopping deep passes. Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson have both been scorched, and each can be melted by top speed. The Jaguars are 6th in DVOA against short passes and 23rd against deep passes, especially struggling against the deep middle. Just because Will Fuller is out doesn’t mean the Texans should stop throwing deep.
The Jaguars should be relentless and able to score points against Houston’s pass defense. The Texans have to be aggressive and expect to play shootout from the very beginning. What they can’t do is take 37 minutes to start attacking the deep middle part of the field, and fall down 17-9 at the half.
Most would expect for the Jaguars’ pass defense to fall apart with Jalen Ramsey out with a back injury that magically healed in Los Angeles. Those juice shops can work wonders. This hasn’t happened. The Jaguars are 7th in pass defense DVOA at -5.1%. A.J. Bouye and Tre Herndon have held their own on the outside, and D.J. Hayden is a fine nickle corner. This isn’t the important part. The pass rush is the important part.
The Jaguars have 29 sacks, which is tied for 3rd. They have an adjusted sack rate of 8.4% that’s tied for 7th. They’re also 6th in pressure rate at 31.7%.
Jacksonville has done this in a variety of ways. Some of it is just by winning their one v. one matchups. Josh Allen has 7 sacks, 12 quarterback hits, 19 pressures and is the non Nick Bosa Defensive Rookie Of The Year. He’s been better than Brian Burns. Allen can win with inside out moves, rips, pure speed, and can spin back and find the ball.
I especially love with they pair him and Calais Campbell on the same side of the line of scrimmage and run stunts off one another to create pressure.
Yannick Ngakoue has 4 sacks, including two last week, 6 quarterback hits, and 15 pressures. He’s still a stretchy spider who can win with long arms and rips.
Campbell has 4.5 sacks, 14 quarterback hits, and 24 pressures. They’ve used him mostly on the interior, and even have him line up over and around the center to generate pressure. He can do a lot of everything.
Their interior options have also provided more than expected. Dawuane Smoot has been a surprise. He has four sacks and can knock punches off and find the quarterback. Abry Jones can do the same. And hell, even Taven Bryan has shown some juice.
The Jaguars do funky things like overload one side of the line of scrimmage to ensure one v. one matchups and that there won’t be any pesky help. Then when teams slide their protection to one direction they can counteract it by blitzing someone from the other side.
Jacksonville have blitzed their individual defenders 144 times. They like to send D.J. Hayden as a slot corner, their safeties, and their linebackers. Not only does their front generate pressure, but their secondary defenders do too thanks to their blitz schemes.
Houston has pass blocked tremendously better this season. They had handled their individual matchups well, and started picking up blitzes and stunts as they’ve grown accustomed to one another. The problem is the injuries. Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard are both questionable. Chris Clark was repeatedly beat by power rushes last week. This decade just won’t die. I’d expect for Tunsil to play, and Howard to sit. Whoever replaces Howard this week will be up against three different rushers who can get after him. The pass rush is the biggest hurdle Watson faces this week.
5. DEANDRE HOPKINS v. :(
Typically, this is the part of the preview where I get to click clack, damn doesn’t it feel good, about DeAndre Hopkins v. Jalen Ramsey, and you get to read about Hopkins v. Ramsey, a perfect symbiotic relationship. The toil and struggles of two of the game’s premier players getting the most out of one another. This won’t happen any longer, not until the Texans play the Los Angeles Rams in 2021.
I guess Hopkins v. ‘The Texans Should Have Franchise Tagged A.J. Bouye’ Bouye or Hopkins v. Tre Herndon will have to do. Bouye has been good this season. He gives up too many catches because of crappy off-man coverage and zone turning. The Jags use him to prevent big plays against opponent’s number one wide receivers. He’s 45th and 47th in yards allowed per target and success rate out of 59 qualified cornerbacks. It’s more of the result of the scheme though.
Herndon’s performance is one of the reasons why the Jaguars traded Ramsey to begin with. He’s been dependable this season, is shifty at the stem of the route, and has a nose for the ball. He’s 27th and 22nd in the same metrics as Bouye, and has two of the Jaguars’ seven interceptions.
The premier matchup is gone. DEVASTATED. This will have to do.
6.) DIP THE TEABAG
It is this country that is dangerous, with her idealistic conception of legality. The social spirit of this people is wrapped up in scrupulous prejudices and that is fatal to our work.. You talk of England being our only refuge! So much the worse. What do we want with refuges ? Here you talk, print, plot, and do nothing.