The Jacksonville Jaguars return to action on Sunday, looking to bounce back immediately from the frustrating defeat to Kansas City in their last outing. As the early schedule delivers another key divisional matchup, here are three matchups to look out for as they take on the Houston Texans:
Shaq Griffin vs Christian Kirk
Veteran corner Shaq Griffin expected to be primary replacement for injured #Texans corner Derek Stingley Jr. @KPRC2— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) September 21, 2023
A former Pro Bowl selection with #Seahawks cut by #Jaguars in March , Griffin has been targeted twice this season, allowing one catch for 29 yards. Griffin has 329…
A key injury to both teams creates an intriguing battle on Sunday. Doug Pederson acknowledged earlier this week that starting receiver Zay Jones could miss the game against Houston, with the medical staff determining his knee injury as ‘day to day’. That might see Christian Kirk move to the outside from the slot - a position he played most of last year, and a role he picked up when Jones limped out of the game against the Chiefs. Kirk had a monster outing on Sunday, reeling in 11 catches for 110 yards. He could still see some time at the slot depending on which backup earns more snaps. But the betting is Jamal Agnew picks up duties in the middle of the field, leaving Kirk free to work opposite Calvin Ridley.
Kirk might be up against a familiar face on Sunday. Derek Stingley’s injury means that Shaq Griffin will assume a starting role for the Texans. Presumably, DeMeco Ryans will have starter Steven Nelson line up opposite Ridley, and Griffin face off against Kirk. Unless the former Jaguar has had an injection of talent since he was cut by Jacksonville back in March, Kirk could be in line for another big day on the stats sheet.
Anton Harrison vs Will Anderson
I think it’s fair to say Anton Harrison had a rude awakening on Sunday. After coping well against the toothless Colts in Week 1, Chris Jones gave the rookie left tackle an education with consistent pressure on every snap. Whilst Harrison won’t have to face a defensive lineman of that caliber every week, he will have another stiff test ahead of him this weekend.
Fellow rookie Will Anderson looks to have brought all of his disruptive qualities with him from Tuscaloosa. The former Alabama pass rusher has racked up nine tackles, three QB hits and one sack through his first two games in the NFL. These impressive numbers are undoubtedly aided by working in the DeMeco Ryans defensive scheme, and no doubt the pair of them will be concocting ways to attack Harrison as we speak.
With Walker Little dominating on the left side, Harrison is likely to come under some extra attention as he finds his feet in the pro’s. Sunday delivers another opportunity to prove he is set to be a legitimate protector for Trevor Lawrence for the next decade.
Dameon Pierce vs Folorunso Fatukasi
With a rookie quarterback under center, the Houston Texans have been keen to establish a run game so far this season. Going behind early in games has stopped them from doing that, but a bigger concern is the lack of production from their running backs behind what is considered one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Leader Dameon Pierce, who impressed as a rookie in 2022, has just 69 yards through the first two weeks - at a paltry 2.7 yards per carry. Backup Devin Singletary follows a similar pattern, averaging just 2.6 yards per tote. An ineffectiveness on the ground puts extra pressure on CJ Stroud, something that will work into the hands of the Jaguars defense.
Folorunso Fatukasi was not a happy man after the Chiefs game, and made it clear that the defense can get better despite praise from the coaches. The 320lb nose tackle was part of a defensive line that failed to corral Isaiah Pacheco last week, allowing the running back 70 yards off just 12 touches. For context, the Chiefs running back had just 23 yards against the Detroit Lions the week before. Fatukasi will want to improve on his three tackles for the year - and stonewall a Texans run game that will be hell bent on correcting the stats after two embarrassing outings so far.
Which matchups are you looking forward to watching on Sunday?