3TFO: Jaguars @ Texans, Week 11
Two AFC South opponents face off this Sunday in Houston as the 8-1 Texans take on the 1-8 Jaguars. These two teams’ lopsided records are indicative of their lopsided Week 2 matchup in Jacksonville . The Jaguars could not move the ball at all, while the Texans ran for 216 yards and the final score was 27-7 — although it was never as close as the scoreline suggests. Since then both teams have provided little reason to believe that this game’s outcome will be any different. The Texans can still pound the ball on the ground and are fresh off a slugfest in Chicago where the Texans ran for 127 yards on a tough Bears D and came away with a W. The Jaguars played the Colts on Thursday night and Andrew Luck outplayed Blaine Gabbert, who was eventually knocked out in the fourth quarter. Gabbert is still going to play this Sunday, but for Jags fans it might not even matter at this point. The young quarterback’s initiation period is over and the people of Jacksonville are starting to call for results.
This is the NFL and crazy things do happen, but an upset in this one would probably be the biggest of the season so far. So if the Jaguars are going to win I think they have to dominate the matchup in each one of these three to focus on.
Uche Nwaneri vs. JJ Watt
Earlier this week, our very own Ben Stockwell broke down how the Bears were able to hold J.J. Watt to a grade of only +1.9 on Monday night. While it’s unlikely that head coach Mike Mularkey is going to be reading the article, you can be sure that he will be watching the Bears tape and doing some game planning around Watt. In Week 2 it appeared as though the Jaguars were unprepared for the second-year breakout defensive end, and Watt tore them up to the tune of two sacks and five stops. This led to Jacksonville’s lowest yardage total of the season with only 117 total yards.
To think that the Jags defense will be able to completely shut down the fifth-ranked scoring offense is unlikely, so if they want to have a chance in this game it will start here. Going up against Watt will be Uche Nwaneri and Cameron Bradfield on the right side of the line. Bradfield didn’t play and Nwaneri had one of his worst games of the season in that Week 2 matchup, but Nwaneri has been solid giving up only one hit and nine hurries since. It will be worth watching whether they choose to focus on Watt and let others beat them or if they have confidence in both men to take him one-on-one consistently. Either way, they will have their hands full and their offensive efficiency will depend on their play.
This week Mularkey said he wanted to see Gabbert ‘let it go’ more. The problem has been, though, that Gabbert hasn’t been accurate, and his accuracy problems are only exacerbated on throws down the field. He’s completing 25% of passes over 20 yards (25% last year), 53% on 10-20 yards (39% last year), and 65% on throws 0-10 yards downfield (58% last year). This explains why only 28% of his attempts are over 10 yards down the field (33% last year). That does show progression, but it clearly has not been enough and when Jaguars fans see guys like Christian Ponder and Jake Locker make large strides from Year 1 to Year 2, it is difficult to see Gabbert stagnate.
Houston’s defense provides a unique challenge for Gabbert in their ability to stop the run and pass. They also provide a chance to show some improvement. In Week 2 he completed only seven passes for 53 yards. If he is able to move the offense, then he just may hold on to his starting job a little longer.
Give Him Time
Every quarterback is better when they are un-pressured when they throw, but not every quarterback does better when they take more time to throw. Only 11 of the league’s starters have higher passer ratings when they take more than 2.5 seconds to throw, and Matt Schaub is one of them with a 10-point difference in passer rating when afforded time. Much of this comes from Schaub’s 32.1 point difference between throws when the Texans use play action and when they don’t. In the Texans only loss this year Schaub’s average time to throw was 2.37 seconds, his lowest of the season. It is clear that the Texans passing game is better when they protect Schaub– now will they do it?
The good news for the Texans is that they are going up against one of the league’s worst pass rushing defenses. For the season, the Jaguars have only 10 sacks and 110 total pressures (the Texans have 29 sacks and 127 total pressures for comparison). In the previous matchup the Jaguars were able to get only 10 pressures and no sacks, but that doesn’t mean it will be the same this time around. Neither George Selvie nor Austen Lane played in that game and they have been the most adept pass rushers for the Jaguars this season. Selvie and Lane have amassed Pass Rushing Productivity scores of 11.5 and 11 respectively. The particular matchup I’ll be watching here is Lane going up against Derek Newton. Newton has the 38th-ranked pass blocking efficiency at 94.2 and has been a definite step down from Eric Winston. If the Jaguars can force some obvious pass situations, this is one to look at.