September 12th seemed like such a faraway date when the Texans 2021 schedule was released in May 2021. Yet, here we are now 14 weeks from that first game in which the Texans left NRG Stadium that day with a 37-21 win over the Jaguars. In those 14 weeks? My gosh, things have gone sideways for both organizations. So, what's changed?
Well, glad you asked.
The Texans will have potentially just three offensive starters from the 11 that started in week one presumably starting on Sunday against the Jaguars. Furthermore, there are potentially just two of them in the same position (Brandin Cooks & Justin Britt), depending on tight end/perimeter pass catcher alignment and such. The Texans defensive front four has just one starter remaining (Maliek Collins). There might not be one linebacker on the field that started in week one; unfortunately, COVID has contributed to absences at that position.
For the Jaguars, it's more about the tone at the top. They started the 2021 season with Urban Meyer as a first year NFL head coach, but after just 14 weeks, Meyer was released from his duties on Wednesday night leading up to this game. Furthermore, both teams now start rookie quarterbacks - Trevor Lawrence who has started all year for the Jaguars and Davis Mills for the Texans coming off of a 331 yard/one TD/no INT performance against the Seahawks. So, uh, yeah, things are quite different from that September 12th meeting at NRG Stadium.
The similarities, other than changes in playing and coaching personnel, are found in the exact same 2-11 records for the AFC South foes. The Jaguars won in London and Duval County, whereas the Texans' last win came on the road at Tennessee against the division leading Titans. This is the first non-COVID trip to Jacksonville since 2018 on one of the crazier trips to Jacksonville. Hope the result is the same. Regardless, let's get to Know the Texans' Week 15 Foe - the Jacksonville Jaguars - again.
2021 Schedule (2-11)
Week 1 - L @ Houston Texans 37-21
Week 2 - L Denver Broncos 23-13
Week 3 - L Arizona Cardinals 31-19
Week 4 - L @ Cincinnati Bengals 24-21
Week 5 - L Tennessee Titans 37-19
Week 6 - W Miami Dolphins 23-20 (London)
Week 7 - BYE
Week 8 - L @ Seattle Seahawks 31-7
Week 9 - W Buffalo Bills 9-6
Week 10 - L @ Indianapolis Colts 23-17
Week 11 - L San Francisco 49ers 30-10
Week 12 - L Atlanta Falcons 21-14
Week 13 - L @ Los Angeles Rams 37-7
Week 14 - L @ Tennessee Titans 20-0
Week 15 - Houston Texans
Week 16 - @ New York Jets
Week 17 - @ New England Patriots
Week 18 - Indianapolis Colts
Jaguars OFFENSE (in 2021 regular season)
Rushing Yards Per game - 102.7 ypg (21st in the NFL)
Passing Yards Per game - 200.4 ypg (28th)
Total offense per game - 303.1 ypg (30th)
Turnovers lost - 25 (14 INT, 11 Fumbles lost)
Expected Jaguars starting offense for Week 15
QB - TREVOR LAWRENCE
RB - James Robinson
WR - Laviska Shenault Jr.
WR - TAVON AUSTIN
WR - MARVIN JONES
TE - James O'Shaughnessy
LT - Cam Robinson
LG - Andrew Norwell
C - Brandon Linder (if healthy - missed last week w/injury)/Tyler Shatley
RG - Ben Bartch
RT - Jawaan Taylor
Other Key Offensive pieces
TE - LUKE FARRELL
RB - CARLOS HYDE
WR - LAQUON TREADWELL
OT - WALKER LITTLE
Italics - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New to team in 2021
Keys to winning v. the Jaguars Offense
- Repeat - Heading into the opener against rookie QB Trevor Lawrence, I compared what he needed to see that afternoon to Houston traffic. Start, stop, speed up, slow down, slam on brakes, whatever is going on, it's always changing. Against a rookie QB, that means play some zone, some man, some mix, some blitz, some drop eight in coverage and force him to decipher it all. In that first matchup, Lawrence struggled to keep the ball away from the Texans with three interceptions and he threw four last week to the Tennessee Titans. Consistently changing those looks may not produce three interceptions again, but, hopefully, it disrupts Lawrence's rhythm and timing.
- Where's the run game? - One thing I'm completely sure of is that the Jaguars will run the ball more than eight times in this matchup against the Texans. Eight is how many times they ran it last week at Tennessee and that won't happen again. I'd imagine upwards of 20+ attempts will be the ticket, especially with interim head coach Darrell Bevell calling the shots on the offense as well. Now, he ran the offense last week too, but it's all him making those calls now. The lack of touches for RB James Robinson has mystified many in Jacksonville and Bevell will more than likely change that, especially so after seeing what Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny did to the Texans last week. The Texans' defensive run fits must be pristine in this matchup because they weren't quite that last Sunday (and that's being kind). Bevell will challenge them in the run game for certain.
- Who's the new Agnew? - Midway through the 2021 season, Weapon X Jamal Agnew was the Jaguars most explosive and versatile weapon. The Texans were well aware of his presence when he came into the game on offense in week one even though he didn't do much in that game. He still emerged as a big-time weapon for the offense as the year continued. However, he was injured a few weeks ago and placed on IR but no one has stepped up into that void to provide big play dynamics for the Jaguars. WR D.J. Chark was put on IR early in the season. Agnew is now gone. The Jaguars have candidates to break out and put some pressure on the Texans defense, but who's it going to be? Shenault? Marvin Jones? The Texans must force the Jaguars to keep looking for that weapon heading into week 16 and beyond.
Jaguars DEFENSE (in 2021 regular season)
Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 115.7 ypg (21st in the NFL)
Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 241.5 ypg (16th)
Total offense Allowed per game - 357.2 ypg (21st)
Turnovers generated - 6 (5 INT, 1 Fumble recoveries - Jaguars are -19 in TO margin)
Expected Jaguars starting defense for Week 15
OLB - Josh Allen
DL - Dawuane Smoot
DE/DT - MALCOLM BROWN
DE - ROY ROBERTSON-HARRIS
WLB - Myles Jack
MLB - DAMIEN WILSON
CB - TYSON CAMPBELL
S - Andrew Wingard
S - Rayshawn Jenkins
S - Rudy Ford/CB - Tre Herndon (if healthy - missed last week at Tennessee)
CB - SHAQUILL GRIFFIN
Other Key Defensive pieces
OLB - K'Lavon Chiasson
DE/OLB - Lerentee McCray
DT - DaVon Hamilton
DT - JAY TUFELE
DT/DE - Taven Bryan
LB - Shaq Quarterman
S - ANDRE CISCO
Italics - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New starter in 2021
Keys to winning v. the Jaguars Defense
- Expect it, again - In week one, Jaguars defensive coordinator Joe Cullen didn't tap into his Baltimore Ravens blitz roots as much as I expected. But, that was with veteran Tyrod Taylor taking snaps for the Texans. Taylor's mobility, I'd imagine, was a key factor in Cullen's decisions, but with rookie Davis Mills under center, my gosh, it's COMING. Watching the Jaguars defense against the Titans, it was clear that Cullen wasn't going to let Titans QB Ryan Tannehill sit in the pocket with time to scan downfield and find receiving answers. The Jaguars sacked him four times and the blitz/fire zones/extra pressure packages were a big reason why. Expect it. Prepare for it. Make sure all potential blitzers are accounted for. Get rid of the ball quickly. Don't fall prey to the blitz when you know it's coming.
- Jack of all Trades - Back in 2016, when Jaguars LB Myles Jack was entering the league, there was talk about an arthritic knee that was SUPPOSED to short circuit his playing career by year number five. Well, one major extension and six years later, Jack is still leading the way for the Jaguars at the ripe old age of 26 (tongue lodged firmly in cheek). After the 2020 season in which he piled up nearly nine tackles per game to lead the Jaguars, he's on a similar pace with 91 tackles in 12 games. Beyond the tackle numbers, he's the soul of that defense, even if he does play some wrong notes at times. His emotion can get the best of him, but when he's on, look out. He can do so many things for this defense and his presence is a major reason why this Jaguars unit is a bit underrated in my opinion.
- THE problem - There's been many issues for the 2-11 Jaguars as there has been for the 2-11 Texans, but the one MAJOR issue for the Jaguars that hasn't been present in Houston is the Texans' penchant for taking the ball away. The Texans are ninth in the league in takeaways with 21, while the Jaguars, similar to the pace that the 2020 Texans were on, are 32nd in the league with just six. The Jaguars have a scheme philosophy and some dudes on defense to have more than six takeaways but this can't be the week that they realize that and start stealing the ball left and right. The Texans were +3 in week one and won that game 37-21. The magnitude of those extra possessions was off the charts, so keeping the ball out of the hands of the Jaguars second/third level players is paramount to a winning performance in Duval County.