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Pre-Game Recon: Five Questions With Big Cat Country

BRB spoke with sister site Big Cat Country to talk about Sunday’s London contest.

NFL: SEP 10 Jaguars at Texans Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In order to get a better understanding of the current state of affairs of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Battle Red Blog spoke with Big Cat Country contributor Ryan O’Bleness.

Thank you Ryan for participating in our conversation!

You can catch what I had to say with Ryan here.

1. The Jaguars are on a two-game win streak. What have been the keys to success during the winning streak?

Well, the opponents have certainly helped -- the Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets have a combined 1-14 record between them. But beyond that, it’s been the defense forcing turnovers and getting pressure, while Gardnew Minshew II and Leonard Fournette have led an efficient offense. Prior to Week 7 against the Bengals, Jacksonville had only forced two turnovers on the season. Now, in the past two games combined, the Jags forced seven turnovers and had 10 sacks. Fournette has looked rejuvenated this year, as he’s currently second in the league with 791 rushing yards (only behind Dalvin Cook). He had 207 yards combined in the past two wins. Minshew completed 56 percent of his passes for 534 yards, with four touchdowns and zero interceptions in that timespan. He also rushed for 76 yards in the two games. All of these things were key factors in the win.

2. What is the biggest matchup going into the game?

I asked you this same question and we both agree that it is A.J. Bouye versus DeAndre Hopkins. Without Jalen Ramsey in the fold, who would have epic battles with Hopkins in the past, it’s up to Bouye to step up and try to limit Hopkins’ impact. Nuk will get some catches, but if Bouye can limit the big plays and scores, Jacksonville will be set up to win. I also think the trenches are going to be important, as Jacksonville’s menacing pass rush faces a struggling, but maybe somewhat improved offensive line. If the Jags get pressure on Watson, that makes Bouye’s job (or whichever player is guarding Hopkins at the time) that much easier.

3. The game is in London, which is an annual trip for the Jaguars but a trip the Texans have yet to make before. How big is this advantage for the Jags?

I think it’s a good advantage for the Jags. Many of the players and coaches are used to the travel and jet lag associated with a trip like this, and likely have a routine to get ready for the game. I’ve seen teams really struggle in London against the Jaguars (watch the 2017 game against the Baltimore Ravens) and I can’t help but think those teams were maybe worn out from the travel and from being in a completely different time zone. Or maybe Jacksonville plays with an extra sense of engery across the pond. Either way, the Jags have had success there. But at the end of the day, it’s still a football game and the Houston Texans are a very good team with a guy named Deshaun Watson at the helm.

4. How much has the loss of Jalen Ramsey affected the team?

Honestly, not much, or at least not near as much as I thought it would. Obviously, he’s a generational talent and probably the best cornerback in football, so a loss of his caliber is going to hurt. But the two games where Jacksonville’s defense had the most blame for losses this year was Week 1 against the Kanas City Chiefs (in which Ramsey played) and Week 5 against the Carolina Panthers (before Ramsey was traded, but he did not play in the game). Prior to the trade while Ramsey was out with a “back injury,” Jacksonville was able to see what it had without Ramsey and ultimately felt comfortable trading him away. In the two games since Ramsey was traded, the The Jags have allowed an average of just 212 passing yards per game. Former undrafted rookie cornerback Tre Herndon has really stepped up, as he had two interceptions last week. Again, I don’t want to downplay it or act like losing Ramsey isn’t a big deal, but the team has been playing better defense in the past two or three weeks without Ransey in the lineup than it did earlier in the seaosn.

5. Is Gardner Minshew a legitimate candidate for Rookie of the Year? Why or why not?

Absolutely, even if the current staff is for some reason oblivious to this. He does need to work on ball security, as he has lost five fumbles this season, but other than that he has played lights out. He has multiple Rookie of the Week awards, and multiple NFL and franchise rookie records already. Minshew also has a 13:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, is averaging 247 passing yards per game and has a quarterback rating of 98.8. Oh, and he’s led the Jaguars to four wins in his seven starts and has kept the Jaguars alive in the AFC South race, which is one of the most competitive divisions in football this season. Not bad for a sixth-round rookie who wasn’t expecting to see the field this season. The question becomes, does he hang onto the job when Nick Foles is eligible to return in Week 11? We will soon find out.

Bonus - Score prediction?

Jaguars 28, Texans 24.