September 12th seemed like such a faraway date when the Texans 2021 schedule was released in May. Yet, we're now inside a week away from the Texans taking on the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week one of the 2021 schedule. So, here we go.
AFC South foe.
New NFL season.
Fans in the stands.
1 overall pick in the 2021 draft making his debut.
Two 1st time NFL head coaches making their debut as well.
Texans eighth opening day starting quarterback ready to step under center.
Other than that, not much is going on. Of course, my tongue in cheek attempt at humor won't gloss over the fact that it might be week one of a long season, but it is WEEK ONE of a long season with a lot on the line as noted above.
Urban Meyer took over as the Jaguars new head coach after being out of coaching since the end of the 2018 season. His hiring was one that got everyone's attention throughout the NFL and it was clear that with the overall number one pick he wanted former Clemson star Trevor Lawrence to be the face of Jacksonville's franchise for the foreseeable future. Lawrence was named the starting quarterback heading into week three of the preseason and proceeded to have his best performance of the preseason against the Dallas Cowboys, completing 11 of 12 passes for 139 passing yards and two touchdowns. He was seemingly no different facing the Cowboys than he was in a big college game at Clemson - accurate beyond belief outside the numbers, taking profit when available everywhere else.
So, let's get nutty and start this season off with an AFC South bang. As such, let's get to Know Week One Foe - the Jacksonville Jaguars, again.
2021 Schedule (0-0)
Week 1 - @ Houston Texans - Sunday, September 12th, 12 Noon
Week 2 - Denver Broncos
Week 3 - Arizona Cardinals
Week 4 - @ Cincinnati Bengals (Th.)
Week 5 - Tennessee Titans
Week 6 - Miami Dolphins
Week 7 - BYE
Week 8 - @ Seattle Seahawks
Week 9 - Buffalo Bills
Week 10 - @ Indianapolis Colts
Week 11 - San Francisco 49ers
Week 12 - Atlanta Falcons
Week 13 - @ Los Angeles Rams
Week 14 - @ Tennessee Titans
Week 15 - Houston Texans
Week 16 - @ New York Jets
Week 17 - @ New England Patriots
Week 18 - Indianapolis Colts
Jaguars OFFENSE (in 2020 regular season)
Rushing Yards Per game - 94.9 ypg (29th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Per game - 231.2 ypg (21st)
Total offense per game - 326.1 ypg (28th)
Turnovers lost - 25 (14 INT, 11 Fumbles lost)
Expected Jaguars starting offense for Week One
QB - TREVOR LAWRENCE
RB - James Robinson
WR - D.J. Chark Jr.
WR - Laviska Shenault Jr.
WR - MARVIN JONES
TE - CHRIS MANHERTZ/James O'Shaughnessy
LT - Cam Robinson
LG - Andrew Norwell
C - Brandon Linder
RG - A.J. Cann
RT - Jawaan Taylor
Other Key Offensive pieces
TE - LUKE FARRELL
RB - CARLOS HYDE
OG - Ben Bartch
OC - Tyler Shatley
OT - WALKER LITTLE
Italics - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New to team in 2020
Keys to winning v. the Jaguars Offense
1. Now you see it... - Watching the University of Georgia defense dominate its game last Saturday night, I was struck by how many different ways the Bulldogs D altered or changed its looks for the Clemson offense. From second to second before the ball was snapped. From play to play. From series to series. It was clear that Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning loved showing one scheme, forcing the offense to go study how to adjust to it only to throw a different look at the Tigers a little while later. He'd show it one way, one time, then something completely different the next. How does that relate to this matchup? Glad you asked. Jaguars rookie QB Trevor Lawrence has seen a lot in his football career, but at the NFL level, this is the first time. Disrupting his comfort in the pocket with various, ever changing looks will be paramount to limiting his success throughout the entire game.
2. No sales at the Gap - If there's one thing that stuck with me more than anything else about the 2020 Texans defense, it's that there was a serious lack of gap integrity in the front seven. That was last year, though, but the threat remains the same. Against a run game that features second year budding star RB James Robinson, the Texans will get GASHED in a quick minute IF the defensive front doesn't account for all gaps in the run game. Thankfully, gap integrity was exceptional during the preseason and must carry over to the regular season to limit the Jacksonville run game.
3. Quick Change - The first game of the year is always an exciting one, but the one major stress of every first game of the season is that there are going to be things neither team has seen. The Jaguars could come out and dial up the Run n Shoot (they won't, but they could) and the Texans would have to adjust in a hurry. Defenses can make adjustments a bit better and quicker, seemingly, than the offense yet it must happen simultaneously so as to not get caught napping. Throughout the first quarter, in particular, the Texans must make those adjustments faster than fast between plays and, without a doubt, between serieses.
4. Keep Chark in front - Slowing explosive Jaguars WR D.J. Chark has been a key every time the Texans face the Jaguars. I knew it would come to fruition at some point and the last time the Texans faced the Jaguars, he roasted them for a 76-yard touchdown on the third play of the game. Lawrence isn't scared to launch deep so keeping Chark in front becomes a major key alert.
5. Oh, let me count the ways - When Urban Meyer was hired in Jacksonville, the first Jaguars player I thought of was Weapon X Laviska Shenault Jr. I absolutely loved him coming out of Colorado but he has to be utilized a certain way to truly be effective. Meyer has experience using players of his ilk in the right way from his college coaching days. Curtis Samuel. Percy Harvin. Now, those players were more whippet quick speedsters whereas Shenault is a bull in a china shop. The common thread, though, is that their usage is similar - jet sweeps, push passes, now screens, any way to get the ball in their hands in space was/is key. No doubt, Shenault Jr. will be a major part of this offense at some point.
Jaguars DEFENSE (in 2020 regular season)
Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 153.3 ypg (30th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 264.4 ypg (27th)
Total offense Allowed per game - 417.7 ypg (31st)
Know your foeTurnovers generated - 17 (12 INT, 5 Fumble recoveries - Jaguars were -8 in TO margin)
Expected Jaguars starting defense for Week One
OLB - Josh Allen
NT - DaVon Hamilton
DE/DT - MALCOLM BROWN
DE - ROY ROBERTSON-HARRIS
WLB - Myles Jack
MLB - DAMIEN WILSON
OLB - K'Lavon Chiasson
CB - SHAQUILL GRIFFIN
S - ANDRE CISCO/Andrew Wingard
S - Rayshawn Jenkins
CB - C.J Henderson/Tre Herndon (more than likely out with an injury)
Other Key Defensive pieces
DE - Dawuane Smoot
DT - JAY TUFELE
DT/DE - Taven Bryan
LB - Shaq Quarterman
S - Andrew Wingard
Italics - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New starter in 2020
Keys to winning v. the Jaguars Defense
1. Expect it - Jaguars defensive coordinator Joe Cullen spent the last five years with the Baltimore Ravens as their defensive line coach. If he's anything like his former boss, the blitz is coming...and ALL kinds of different ones too. Baltimore defensive coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale was known for bringing relentless heat on the quarterback. He'll bring fire zone schemes, overload to one side, then bring numbers on the other side once offense adjusts to the initial look. It's coming. All of it. Be ready.
2. Violence early, set the tone - This one is pretty simple. The Jaguars defense doesn't have a half dozen Pro Bowlers like it did in 2017, but, BUT, this unit, led by Joe Cullen, will play hard. It's evident on preseason game film, especially against Dallas. These guys are looking to play some bully ball and it's imperative that the Texans offense take that same violent fight right to this Jags defense.
3. The New Guy - We all know that when we talk about the new guy on the Jacksonville offense, it's in reference to rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence. But, there's a new guy on the Jaguars defense that flies well under the radar - DL Ray Robertson-Harris. From the time that he came into the league as a college free agent, he flashed a ton of potential for the Chicago Bears and when he signed with Jacksonville, it worried me because of his twitch, explosiveness and versatility. He'll move around the defensive line and will find one-on-one matchups to his liking. It may take a man and a half or two men to slow him down on the interior.
4. The Sound of Fury of Two - Number two for the Jaguars is Rayshawn Jenkins and he plays with a ferocity and an aggressiveness that can't be allowed to run amok. He'll play near the box like a will linebacker and get involved in the run defense. Quite honestly, he has to be treated like he plays - like a linebacker. Numerous times against Dallas in the preseason, he inserted himself into the run defense, in particular, the way that a linebacker would. So, account for him at all times when he chooses to live in the box.
5. Light Heavyweights - Watching the Jaguars defense, it's pretty clear that the edges are the tale of two groups. Josh Allen and K'Lavon Chiasson aren't light by any means, but they're certainly not heavy edges like Jihad Ward and Dawaune Smoot. The two former first round picks - Allen and Chiasson - are the pass rushers, the guys who can put pressure on Tyrod Taylor, while Ward and Smoot are heavier, set the edge better against the run but nowhere near as twitchy off the edge. However, in combination, those four can roll in and out and present problems, but it's key to understand who's on the edge and where the advantage lies in the matchup.