JAX-HOU Grades: Career day from Mercilus as Texans rout Jags
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Texans’ 30-6 win over the Jaguars.
– Luke Joeckel has had an improved season, but he was overmatched in this game, surrendering five of the Jaguars’ eight sacks allowed, and generally finding himself completely unable to block either J.J. Watt or Whitney Mercilus. The silver lining is that he wasn’t abused to the same extent in the run game, but the Jaguars had just 16 run plays, so that’s not much consolation.
– Jacksonville didn’t have much going for them in this game, but the play of Roy Miller on the D-line and Hayes Pullard at linebacker were genuinely impressive and worthy of note. Pullard was aggressive in attacking the run, blowing up the lead block on a couple of occasions and was the man to deliver the hit on Duane Brown that popped a tendon in his thigh and put him out for the season. Miller, for his part, was the one man on the D-line that wasn’t being consistently moved in the run game.
– Blake Bortles has had a much improved season, but this was not his best outing, and he ended with a passer rating of just 50.4 overall. He was under pressure a lot in the game – sacked eight times, pressured 17 – but both of his interceptions came when he was kept clean in the pocket so his passer rating without pressure was just 39.6, or exactly the same as if he had just tossed the ball into the turf every play and not bothered at all. Bortles made a couple of big mistakes, but also executed some nice throws and his future remains bright.
DI Roy Miller (+4.2)
LB Hayes Pullard III (+3.5)
C Stefan Wisniewski (+2.1)
RB Jonas Gray (+1.2)
CB Aaron Colvin (+0.9)
– J.J. Watt did J.J. Watt things, but perhaps the bigger story on the Houston defense was and is the play of Whitney Mercilus, who has finally emerged as a legitimate complementary piece this season. In this game he did it with no help from Jadeveon Clowney, and had arguably the best game of his career. He notched four sacks, had three additional hurries and was a constant source of pressure for the Jacksonville offense to contend with. Watt was again dominant, but he is no longer a one-man band for the Houston defense.
– The Texans were able to dominate this game because Jacksonville couldn’t deal with any of the running backs they deployed throughout the game. Alfred Blue had 102 yards on 21 carries and the team had 160 on the ground overall, but lost 65 additional rushing yards from Blue thanks to an unnecessary holding penalty and a 55-yard catch and run from Akeem Hunt for the same reason. If the Texans can maintain that kind of running game in the postseason they are a far more formidable force.
– If there was a black spot on this Houston performance, it came from the performance of Ben Jones at center. Jones had the worst game of his season and at times looked like a man that wished he had stayed in bed that day. He was flagged twice for false starts, was moved in the run game and simply missed his man on more than one zone run, and was beaten for a sack and hurry in pass-protection. Sometimes things just don’t go your way, but this also marks the eighth negatively-graded game of his season.
DI J.J. Watt (+7.3)
ED Whitney Mercilus (+5.4)
RB Alfred Blue (+2.4)
RB Akeem Hunt (+2.3)
WR DeAndre Hopkins (+2.0)