The Jaguars are currently 6-point underdogs headed into Sunday’s game in Houston and they definitely have a battle ahead. Houston will be on an emotional high as their community rallies around the destruction from Hurricane Harvey. There will be a lot of factors the Jaguars will have to overcome if they want to win, especially weathering the early storm from the Texans as they’ll no doubt come out amped and ready to play, pun intended.
The biggest thing the Jaguars will have to control if they want to win the game however, is the line of scrimmage. Both the Jaguars and Texans have questionable offenses and good defenses, so the key is going to be first and foremost who can limit turnovers and then whoever can play well on the line of scrimmage on offense. The two teams have similar offensive line issues, but in past meetings the Texans defensive line has pushed around the Jaguars offense, especially in the passing game.
“It’s very difficult. I think they do a great job of scheming, they have great players on that side of the ball and you got to make quick decisions,” Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said about pass protection against the Texans the past few seasons. “There’s a lot of things that go into it, but, again, it’s a lot about matchups. They do a hell of a job matching people up and, at the end of the day, someone is going to have to step up and perform against probably a couple of the best players in the league.”
The Texans are well aware the Jaguars are starting rookie left tackle Cam Robinson, so they’ll undoubtedly target him as an area to exploit when blitzing and rushing Blake Bortles on Sunday. The Texans did it when Luke Joeckel was the Jaguars starting tackle, as it seemed like J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus fought with each other over who would get to get the next sack off Joeckel in one game in particular in 2014.
Houston has multiple pass rushers who will come from different places on defense and they make they money setting up match ups to give their best players one-on-ones, which is how they win on defense. The Jaguars offensive line in pass protection is going to have a tough time matching up and will almost need to play above their heads to slow it down.
Not only that, but in the run game the Jaguars are going to have to stick with it even if it’s not working well out of the gate. The past few seasons have seen the Jaguars be one of the worst teams running the ball and it has been especially bad against Houston, as Jacksonville hasn’t scored a rushing touchdown (with a running back) against Houston since Maurice Jones-Drew was on the team.
“Yeah, this is a tough team to run against,” Marrone added about not abandoning the run game against the Texans defense. “That is probably a little more game plan stuff, so I am not going to sit here and say we are going to force it or we are going to go to this. I think the game plan will work themselves and we will see where we are during the course of the game.”
A lot of the hope for the Jaguars 2017 season stems from the final two games of the season after Marrone took over, as the team no longer appeared listless and was able to do things like run the ball and have explosive offensive plays. While it appeared that way, the reality was the Jaguars were still pretty bad at running the ball, but they didn’t abandon the run and just go totally pass heavy as they did in the past.
That’s going to be key on Sunday, because as mentioned Houston’s offense hasn’t been anything stellar lately either. If the Jaguars can’t open running lanes and can’t protect the quarterback, they’re going to be in for a long day.