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Texans-Jaguars Preview: SIX Things to Watch For

SIX things to watch for when the Houston Texans take on the Jacksonville Jaguars. MEOW.

A Bonhams employee walks with a stuffed Photo credit should read CARL DE SOUZA/AFP via Getty Images

You are at your favorite restaurant, or maybe your favorite bar, or sitting in your favorite chair, no matter where you are, it doesn’t really matter, because you are watching the BIG GAME. Your babe is getting you your favorite brewski, or maybe you are having a kombuchy. The perfect beverage to relax with as you watch the BIG GAME. Beans, cheese, chicken, and pico, your having nachos, or maybe raisins and oatmeal because you listen to your cardiologist, or you are getting the last hot dog in before our sun dims and everything becomes oranges and reds and yellows, delicious and tasty, perfect for the BIG GAME.

It doesn’t matter whose playing, because it’s the BIG GAME. It doesn’t matter what the score is because it’s the BIG GAME. You know how to savor the moment. Only what matters, and that is the right here right now, and what’s happening right here right now is the BIG GAME. Others game are on, but those games don’t matter, because those games aren’t the BIG GAME. This, this, this is game is the BIG GAME.

For most of the country Texans v. Jaguars isn’t the BIG GAME. Their BIG GAME is Los Angeles (C) v. Washington, or Pittsburgh v. Buffalo, or Seattle v. Indianapolis, but they don’t understand, because they aren’t part of our corner of football hell—the AFC South. Our BIG GAME involves Blake Bortles and kitty-kats, above ground pools and blue jeans, DeAndre Hopkins v. Jalen Ramsey and J.J. Watt v. Sam Young, Leonard Fournette stopped on a two point conversion and the birth of Sacksonville, and this year, what should have been two all-time great Clemson quarterbacks squaring off, is now David Culley’s nachos against Urban Myer’s generational quarterback prospect.

It doesn’t matter who wins, it doesn’t matter who loses, it doesn’t matter if the drinks are warm, or the food is cold, the only thing that does is that you, YOU, are watching the BIG GAME.

HIT IT

1. IMAGINE DAVID CULLEY’S OFFENSE

I have a sneaking suspicion what David Culley’s offense will be. See, he coached at Kansas City, Buffalo, and Baltimore, and he knows how it works, because it worked there, and he saw it work. He’ll bring all those things that work to Houston. The Texans offense is will combine the three into the greatest offensive attack the world has seen. These are my dreams.

In reality, it’s probably going to be a lot of running the ball, and Tyrod Taylor throwing read pass options, and crossing routes off of play action. I’m not expecting Taylor to be involved in the running game very much. He wasn’t that great of a runner in 2018, and that was three years ago. He’s 32 years old. Football is a violent game. His elderly body doesn’t need to be put through that. He couldn’t make anyone miss in his one start last year either.

The Texans had previous issues with their run scheme. They’d run a little bit of everything and be bad at all of it. Their running back room is conflated, and they all do a little bit of everything. Phillip Lindsay is a mid and outside zone back who can follow blockers on the occasional power run play, but you don’t want him grinding it out between the tackles. David Johnson is an atrocious runner in this scheme, and is more of a jump cutting inside zone back. Most of his rushing yards came in 10 personnel against light boxes towards the end of last season though. Like Rex Burkhead, he’s more of a receiver than a running back. Mark Ingram is a power back, and is mainly here for redzone touches. Scottie Phillips is the kid in the room, but is a relative unknown. His carries are the most interesting ones for this team.

The offensive line doesn’t help either. Tytus Howard has never been a good mid or outside zone blocker. Justin Britt blocked this scheme in Seattle. Max Scharping was fine at it, but had problems blocking the second level, and has also struggled moving the first level on combo blocks. Marcus Cannon is a crappy mid-outside zone blocker as well, and is best at powerful combo blocks. There’s no strong direction. It’s all spread out in a myriad of ways.

This is the first look we get at David Culley’s offense. Your guess is as good as mine. All that imagining finally comes to an end.

2. THE MOVE TO THE 3-4

Jacksonville is debuting a new defense on their end. Joe Culley has taken over as the defensive coordinator and is switching the Jags to a 3-4 defense. The move makes sense. Jacksonville has had problems the last two seasons whenever they lost Myles Jack for any period of time. Without him anchoring down the center of their linebacker group, the run fits got wonky, the short middle was wide open, and they ended up frozen and atrophied on some gloablist’s wall.

The 3-4 alleviates the pressure Jack has to make this defense run, and spreads out his burden. They traded Joe Schobert to Pittsburgh this summer for a sixth round pick. So now it’s former Kansas City run stopper Damien Wilson playing the Mike, and Jack playing the Will, allowing him to chase and tackle from the weakside, and roll around Wilson to clean up plays. It also opens the door to utilize him as a blitzer more, something he should excel at with his athleticism.

In front of them are fat men to soak up blocks, big beefy bodies, something the Jags were missing in their 4-3 the last two seasons. Malcolm Brown, Davon Hamilton, and Roy Robertson-Harris are their starters along the defensive line, and weigh a combined 938 pounds. They’ve evolved from fruity and airless, to cheesy and constipating. They also have depth behind them in pass rushing situations, with Duwuane Smoot, Adam Gotsis, and Taven Bryan.

My favorite part about their front are their outside linebackers. Both Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson are in their natural habitat as outside linebackers, and with the interior rushers they have in Smoot, Bryan, Gotsis, and Roy Robertson-Harris, they can spread their wings and rush from a wide nine jet position when they use even fronts. Last year Allen was placed on injured reserve with a mysterious non-specified knee injury, and Chaisson was devoured by offensive tackles last season. They combined for 3.5. sacks, 18 quarterback hits, and 35 pressures. It’s a far cry from Allen’s rookie year when he put up 10.5 sacks and 23 quarterback hits.

Allen showcased his ability as an all around pass rusher utilizing long arms, spins, and rips, especially in 3x1 formations to take advantage of weak offensive tackles, and was great on stunts as well. Losing Calais Campbell hurt his production. He no longer had the big man to toss him alleyoops. Their new defensive line rotation will help both of them. Chaisson showed an ability to loop inside and blow past guards last season too.

The left side will be tough for them to crack. As mean as I was about Howard in the run game, he’s been a great pass protector. Who knows how he’ll perform moving inside to guard. Tunsil, as we all know, is a top five pass protecting tackle. The right side is wonky. Scharping was great in pass protection his rookie year, but last season he was lazy, weak, and sloppy, and I have doubts Marcus Cannon, whose rustier than a Mojave desert convertible, has a pass set that will translate blocking for Tyrod Taylor, instead of the two seconds and it’s out Tom Brady.

3. THE HOLE IN THE ARMOR EXPOSED

The Texans are really going to play cover two, huh? They are really going to do this without a dominating front four pass rush, and linebackers who can’t cover. Get ready for plenty of seam shots, because they don’t have linebackers who can carry the seam, and corner routes to fit in over the corner and between the safety. It’s never going to stop. It’s going to be here all season long.

I still can’t believe after last season’s disaster, they are really going to give us 17 more Vernon Hargreaves III starts. I liked the Bradley Roby trade, but Nick Caserio should be in jail for doing this to us. Give us someone, anyone else.

4. SO DEEP

The Texans are carrying numerous ‘defensive linemen’ on their 53 man roster. It’s Maliek Collins, Jonathan Greenard, Jordan Jenkins, Roy Lopez, Jacob Martin, Whitney Mercilus, Charles Omenihu, Vincent Taylor, and Demarcus Walker. It’s a lot of names. It’s a deep group, that will rotate players in and out and keep them fresh. They lack a true impact pass rusher though. Each one has made the occasional big play, but no one has been a consistent difference maker.

If Houston is able to get the first win in the David Culley era, it will be because they win this matchup. The Jaguars have their own pass protection problems. Jawaan Taylor and Cam Robinson allowed 15 sacks, and blew 69 pass blocks last season according to Football Outsiders. I love Taylor (#75). He has the quickness to meet elite edge rushers to the point of the attack, and the strength to anchor against bull rushes. His hands are inconsistent though. The five mistakes a game need to drop down to one or two. This is what it always needs to look like.

Robinson is a different story. He’s wide and hulking. A lumbering giant. Yet, he doesn’t wow in the run game, his feet are sloppy, and he’s always had problems dealing with speed rushes. He’s the perfect player for the Texans quicker defensive ends: Martin, Walker, Greenard, and Jenkins, to match up with. To make up for this, he likes to set aggressively, and attack unsuspecting ends. His hands have never allowed him to really pull this off.

On the interior it’s the underwhelming A.J. Cann and the fall from heavens Andrew Norwell. Cann has been here for ever and he’s always been pretty alright. He’s not a net negative at least. Norwell is wide and slow, and a completely different player than he was in Carolina. No one has any idea how he’s hung around in Jacksonville for this long after they spent a ton for his relocation. He doesn’t pull well, his hands don’t allow him to lock on the second level, he struggles against wide rushes and outside moves, and enough rips leave him susceptible to bull rushes.

I have nothing bad to say about Brandon Linder. He’s beautiful and absolutely incredible.

Collins, was zapped by a shoulder injury last year, and had one good season in Dallas as a bull rusher. Omenihu can rip well, and long arm, and is at his best as an interior pass rusher. Both players have matchup advantages on the interior too.

This unit will need to cover the secondary’s tracks, especially on passing downs, when they stray from this cover two look. Houston has zero cornerbacks who can matchup against man coverage against this skill position group.

5. THE NEXT GOLDEN BOY

Even in death, the Jets can screw anything up. New York was all set to have the first overall pick so they could select the NFL’s generational quarterback prospect. They accidentally beat Los Angeles and Cleveland in back to back one score games, opening the door for the Jaguars to pounce on their savior.

Every scouting report says the same thing. Trevor Lawrence is perfect and beautiful. He can make every throw to perfection. From one hash to the sideline, deep down the sideline, and rockets in between holes in the zone coverage. He has the speed to be a threat in the run game, is able to consistently slide for more, and can run the occasional zone read. He doesn’t make mistakes, and rarely turns the ball over. His hair is luscious and overflowing. Adam’s apple bulging. Scouts drooling.

He’ll get his first start against the 29th ranked pass defense by DVOA a year ago, that has added a slew of aging veterans to improve one of the worst units in the league. Houston doesn’t have a coverage answer for Laviska Shenault, Marvin Jones, DJ Chark, or hell, even Tyron Johnson. As long as the pass rush is competent, it should be a monster start to a lustrous career.

6. IS IT REALLY REAL

From the onward, something must change: the projection, the extrapolation, the sort of pantographic excess that constituted the charm of science fiction are all impossible. It is no longer possible to fabricate the unreal from the real, the imaginary, from the givens of the real. The process will, rather, be the opposite it will be put to decentered situations, models of simulation in place and to contrive to give them the feeling of the real, of the banal, of lived experience, to reinvent the real as fiction, precisely because it has disappeared from our life. Hallucination of the real, of lived experience, of the quotdian, but reconstituted, sometimes down to disquietly strange details, reconstituted as an animal or a vegetable reserve, brought to light with a transparent precision, but without substance, derealized in advance, hyperrealized.