Harris Hits: Week 2 vs. Jacksonville

Y’all’s hearts doing okay? Whooooo boy, that was more uncomfortable than we all wanted, but a win is a win is a win, especially after a gut-punch loss like the one on Monday night. The Texans held on by inches to win 13-12 on Sunday afternoon. Here are my Harris hits from the first win of the season.

The run defense was outstanding all day long. Jags running back Leonard Fournette is a headache waiting to happen, but the Texans front seven was excellent. It never gave Fournette any downhill runway, minus one run of his 15 carries, and that was the key to stopping him on the ground. Defensive linemen Angelo Blackson and D.J. Reader won’t get enough credit for the way they held the point of attack, but I’ll tip my ball cap to them. Tremendous day.

Two years ago in the opener, it felt as if the Jaguars physically took over the game. Ever since? The Texans have been the more physical team in three straight games. Three straight wins.

Linebackers Benardrick McKinney and Zach Cunningham were all over the place tackling Fournette. The two inside stars combined for 17 tackles, one sack (Cunningham), a TFL and a quarterback hit. One thing I love about the way they played was that they rarely, if ever, missed a tackle and hardly ever gave up yards to Fournette where he fell forward for extra yardage. When they hit him, Fournette stopped on the spot.

The star on defense for the second straight week was outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus. That spin move in the fourth quarter? Sick. He hit left tackle Will Richardson with one of the best he’s ever thrown and it propelled him right into Jags quarterback Gardner Minshew. He dislodged the ball and J.J. Watt somehow ripped the ball from about three Jaguars on the ground. The Texans desperately needed a turnover with the offense grinding its gears a bit in the second half. He had another strip sack early in the game. That gives him three sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception in two games. Just outstanding.

The defensive play of the game, though, was the goal-line stop on the two-point conversion. Fournette pounded into three defensive linemen and it looked like he was stoned on arrival. But, he spun out of it and stayed on his feet. But, Justin Reid was reading his keys and playing his assignment. He told me after the game that he was responsible for the back on the cutback, so he was right there to make the play and held Fournette out of the end zone. Barely. I mean, close doesn’t even tell you how close. I was standing in the back of the end zone and when Fournette spun, I held my breath for a quick second but Reid was, literally, on the plane of the goal line and didn’t budge. He said he knew he had stopped him because he didn’t go backwards and he knew exactly where he was on the field. Just, wow!

One of the reasons why the Texans may have struggled a bit was the drive starts. The Texans started three of their drives inside their 10-yard line and once at their one-yard line. Their average drive start was the Texans 27-yard line, but that included starting on the Jacksonville 11-yard line after the J.J. Watt fumble recovery and the Jacksonville 48 after the onside kick recovery. Take those out and the average drive start was the Houston 16-yard line on its other nine drives.

Running back Carlos Hyde ran his butt off, yet again. He certainly had some help from the offensive line that gashed the Jacksonville front, especially in the first half. On one run in the first half, I remember seeing the entire right side of the Texans offensive line just completely wipe out the Jags defensive line and Duke Johnson ran four yards downfield before he was even approached by a Jaguars defender.

The best throw Deshaun Watson made all day was the throw he made to Will Fuller V on the Texans sideline in the first half. You talk about a dime... WOW! He just dropped one right over the right shoulder. Fuller V made that over the shoulder catch look WAY easier than it is. Fuller’s ball skills have improved immensely in his four years in the league and that was clearly evident on that tremendous catch.

Offensive tackle Roderick Johnson started for the first time in his NFL career over at right tackle and after the game he had a smile on his face from ear to ear. Guys were congratulating him for starting for the first time and he held up fairly well from what I was able to see. I thought Jaguars star defensive lineman Calais Campbell would give him some issues, but Rod held his own against his power, especially early in the first half. Now, dealing with rookie Josh Allen is going to be difficult for everyone in this league, but Johnson will only get better from here on out.

Gardner Minshew’s scrambles were killers all day long. He’s going to be a problem for teams that underestimate his athletic prowess. Plus, teams are going to learn to not rush beyond him in the pocket. The Texans did plenty of that and he made them pay for that, frequently.

Prior to the Monday night contest against New Orleans, Deepi Sidhu and I did our pregame show near our sideline. Rookie Charles Omenihu was inactive for that game and talked to a few people on the sideline right next to us. I could see that he was disappointed that he wasn’t dressed out ready to play. He came back today with a vengeance. He rushed inside and outside. He racked up the first sack of his career, a strip sack at that, from the outside. Then, he did a solid job pushing the pocket from the inside. He knows that he has plenty of room to grow and was really excited, yet determined, after the game when I talked with him.

Linebacker Brennan Scarlett didn’t get credit for any pass rush stats (sacks, hurries), but he should have. He nearly got the sack on Omenihu’s strip sack and his bull rush on left guard Andrew Norwell moved Minshew off the spot and allowed Whitney Mercilus the opportunity to keep rushing the edge to get the sack. What I like is that BScar (famous now for BScar TV) rushed from the inside on one play and the outside on the other. That versatility helps tremendously for this defense.

On the first play of the last drive of the second quarter, the Texans ran a draw out of the shotgun. Rookie fullback Cullen Gillaspia DRILLED fellow rookie linebacker Quincy Williams to help spring Carlos Hyde for a big run. I remember seeing Gilly go into the game and then into the shotgun. I thought they might throw one to him in the flat, but then he inserted himself right in front of Hyde and nailed Williams. I think Williams was shocked with what Gilly brought to the party, so to speak, and that opened up a huge hole for a 14-yard Hyde run.

The tight ends didn’t get a ton of targets, but they both made a couple of huge plays for this offense. On the last play before the two minute warning in the first half, the Texans faced a 3rd-and-16. The Jaguars brought the nickel as a blitzer in the B gap on a scheme that had gotten a sack earlier in the game. This time, Jordan Akins worked down the middle of the field and Deshaun Watson spotted him before Jaguars nickel D.J. Hayden could get to him. Akins caught the ball about four yards short of the first down and safety Ronnie Harrison hit him about three yards short of the first down. But, Akins stretched his 6-5 frame out as Harrison held on to get that first down on that drive, which led to three key points before the half.

After the Jaguars cut the lead to 13-6, the Texans faced a 2nd-and-9 from the 26-yard line. Deshaun Watson got a little heat from his right side and he started to escape to his left. Then, he saw Darren Fells. He threw to Fells who caught it and immediately was hit by Jags linebacker Quincy Williams. Fells was about four yards short of the first down, but, like Akins, Fells fought through the tackle, spun out of Williams’ clutches and picked up a first down that allowed the Texans to run even more time off the clock at the end of the game.

Alright, I’ll finish this here. Good W, no matter what, but it’s time to go to Los Angeles and get a win against a really good Chargers squad.

Houston Texans take on the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium for the second game of the 2019 NFL season.

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