The Jacksonville Jaguars are set to square off with the divisional foe Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon at TIAA Bank Field. This feels like a must-win game for the Jags, as the team has dropped two straight contests in embarrassing fashion. Meanwhile, the Texans are riding a three-game winning streak (all of which by one score).
To help us prepare for the matchup, I spoke to Brett Kollmann of Battle Red Blog — SB Nation’s leading source for all things Houston Texans. Check out what Brett had to say about Deshaun Watson, Houston’s offensive line struggles, the AFC South and more.
1. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans have gone in complete opposite directions the past couple of weeks, and Sunday’s game has big implications in the AFC South. There is currently a three-way tie for first between the Jags, Texans and Titans. Going into the season, the Jaguars were the easy favorites to win the division again, but through the first six weeks of the season, how do you see the division playing out now?
Brett: Right now it’s probably anybody’s division to win, except maybe the Colts of course. The Titans, Jags, and Texans all cannot seem to get out of their own way for various reasons (Texans bad red zone offense, Blake Bortles throwing picks, Marcus Mariota taking sacks, etc), and to be honest I fully expect all of them to split their respective series with each other. Not necessarily because they all are that *good* that they will split, but rather that they all are that *inconsistent*.
I of course hope that the Texans will fix their issues and win the division in the end, but the South is as close to a coin flip as you can get at the moment.
2. Houston’s offensive line is an issue, and despite somewhat of a lack of production in terms of sacks, the Jaguars still have one of the scariest defensive lines in the NFL. Jacksonville recorded a ridiculous 14 sacks in two games against the Texans last year. Do you expect more of the same on Sunday, or do you think Houston’s offensive line will protect better this time around?
No, we’re screwed. The line is even worse than it was last year, if you could believe it. Deshaun (Watson) has already been hit 70 times in six games, and he’s already got a broken rib and a partially collapsed lung. The Jags defensive line is basically the last thing we need right now.
3. How has Deshaun Watson looked this year? Obviously he’s not putting up the eye-popping numbers from last year, but he’s playing hurt and we’ve mentioned poor offensive line play. Is there still plenty of hype regarding Watson, or are we starting to see what kind of quarterback he will be in the league?
Brett: It’s tough to say exactly what Watson will be as long as his protection is this bad and he’s playing hurt. The kid is extremely tough, and at least between the 20s he has been fantastic this year, but his terrible offensive line has really affected his decision-making in the red zone, and affected his accuracy even more so. I think we won’t really have a final verdict on him for at least another year or two as they continue to replenish the offensive line, but man...for now, seeing him get hit like this has been hard to endure.
4. Defensively, the Texans seem to be much improved this year, ranking No. 9 in the NFL in total defense and No. 10 against the run. Of course, that is expected when J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney are all healthy. If you were an opposing offensive coordinator, how would you attack this defense and mitigate the impact of the three aforementioned players?
Brett: Definitely the cornerbacks. I know that (Johnathan) Joseph got a pick six last week, but for the most part he has played far below his usual level this season, and it’s not like the rest of the corners on this team have been much different. If you want to mitigate this Texans pass rush, just find ways to attack these corners quickly and mercilessly with the short passing game, and work the ball down the field with long, brutal, sustained drives through the air. Think death by a thousand paper cuts, but on a football field.
And don’t worry about taking deep shots on these corners, if you feel so inclined. They can’t stop those, either.
5. Lamar Miller has struggled a bit in the running game, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry, and he is yet to find the end zone on the ground. The Texans currently rank in the middle of the pack in terms of rushing offense with Miller and Alfred Blue getting the most reps, while D’Onta Foreman remains sidelined. What does Houston need to do to get a better ground attack going?
Brett: Honestly without all of the extra yardage from Deshaun Watson’s scrambles from pressure, the Houston run game would be near the bottom of the league. This offensive line is simply not good enough to move anyone off the line of scrimmage at all. Hell, this is the only offense I can remember seeing where their chances of scoring actually went DOWN the closer they got to the end zone.
This line is a travesty, and unfortunately it’s dragging down every other part of this offense - quarterback, running back, and receiver alike.
Bonus: score prediction?
Brett: Both teams have major issues, and the game will almost certainly be an ugly one, but at the end of the day I trust Jacksonville’s defensive talent more than I trust Houston’s. Jaguars 13 - Texans 9.
Thank you to Brett for taking the time to provide his thoughts and insights on Sunday’s matchup. You can follow him on Twitter, and be sure to check out his impressive film room work as well. If you want to keep up with all Houston Texans news, follow Battle Red Blog on Twitter.