3TFO: Texans @ Jaguars, Week 14
This Thursday Night Football matchup could decide who gets the No. 1 pick in the draft next season. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans are two teams that are trending in different directions. We all knew Jacksonville would struggle this season, but they are 3-1 since their bye in Week 9. The plan for Gus Bradley and David Caldwell is starting to work.
The Houston Texans will be considered among the most disappointing teams this season. With aspirations of a playoff run, the Texans have collapsed to the worst record in football.
In Week 12 the Jaguars beat the Texans 13-6, while the game will be remembered for being second win of the season for the Jags. For anyone who watched the game though, it should be remembered for the performance of J.J. Watt. Watt finished the game with an overall PFF grade of +12.1, the highest ever 3-4 defensive end ranking. While it would be easy to talk about how the Jags try to stop Watt, here are three different matchups to focus on.
Houston’s Running Game
The Texans’ offense revolves around their running game. The zone stretch running attack allows for the deep passing game to develop off the bootleg-action. But for the deep passing game to work they need the running game to be working. In Week 12 Ben Tate struggled for 1 yard on seven carries before leaving the game, however in Week 13 against the Patriots Tate rushed for over 100 yards. For the Texans’ running scheme to work the offensive line needs to operate in harmony to open up holes. This year only Chris Myers (top-ranked center with a +15.4 run blocking grade) and Brandon Brooks (seventh-ranked run blocking guard +7.6) have run-blocked well, and the performance of Duane Brown will be disappointing. Last season Brown graded out as the third-highest run blocking tackle and second-highest overall. This season Brown has graded outside the Top 40 run blocking tackles at -2.0.
The Texans should have some success running the ball against the Jags’ nickel defense. This season the Jags have given up 5.9 yards per attempt on 93 attempts. When the Jags are in their base defense they have fared much better against the run, where they have allowed only 3.6 yards per attempt on 261 carries. In week 12 the Jags put the emphases on stopping the run, putting eight men in the box on a consistent basis and making Case Keenum beat them.
Keenum vs Jags Secondary Part II
In Week 9 on Sunday Night Football Case Keenum exploded on to the scene by connecting with Andre Johnson repeatedly on deep passes (Johnson caught three passes for 133 yards and two TDS on targets over 20 yards), however since then the Keenum–Johnson connection has gone cold, Johnson has only two catches for 63 yards. The strength of Keenum’s performance so far this season has been his willingness, and ability, to throw the ball deep. In passes over 10 yards Keenum has graded out +1.0 or higher in every sector. However, where he has struggled is in passing under 10 yards. Keenum has struggled on ‘hitch’ routes and ‘out’ routes, going 23 of 41 for 299 yards, no TDs and two INTs.
The Jaguar secondary started the season with a lot of issues, none more so than the play of John Cyprien. However, since Week 11 the light has seemingly started to come on. In the 10 prior weeks Cyprien graded at -21.1 , never grading positively, but in the past three weeks he has graded positive in every game with a +3.7 overall grade. The biggest addition to the secondary has been the return of Dwayne Gratz. Gratz slowly made his way back in Week 7 and Week 8, and since the bye week he has graded in the green three times. On paper the Jags secondary looks like it should be a weakness, especially after Josh Gordon gained 261 yards last week, but the the unit has actually had a good season — it will be interesting to see if Keenum can learn from his performance the last time these two teams faced off.
In Week 12 of 2012 against the Texans Chad Henne put together his second-best career performance, when he started for the injured Blaine Gabbert. Since that game he has only one other positive performance, which ,you guessed it, was Week 12 of this year against the Texans. When he is not under pressure he can put together performances that show he is a competent quarterback. Over the years Henne has struggled when he is under pressure and this week is likely to be no different as he will be seeing a lot of J.J. Watt. In their previous meeting the Texans managed to get five sacks, 10 hits and nine hurries. Despite this, Henne managed to produce a +1.1 grade under pressure and if he can perform well under pressure again it might be enough for the Jags to win their third game in a row and put the Texans in prime position to pick first in May.
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