Week 1? A tough, gut-punch loss, on the road, to a Super Bowl contender.
Week 2? Divisional opponent without its starting quarterback.
Sound familiar? It should because it was just one year ago that the Houston Texans faced a nearly analogous situation to start the campaign. After losing to the Patriots in Foxboro in Week 1, the Texans traveled to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans. It was a Titans team without its starting quarterback, two starting offensive tackles and one key backup offensive tackle.
It sounded too good to be true, but it was. Marcus Mariota, Jack Conklin, Taylor Lewan and Dennis Kelly sat out the Week 2 matchup with injuries, yet the Titans capitalized on what little offense they could muster and brilliant special teams work to win 20-17, leaving the Texans dazed, confused and 0-2.
Now, on the surface, there are three things different about this matchup against the Jaguars. First and foremost, the Texans played much better, especially offensively, against the Saints in Week 1 than they did in Week 1 vs. the Patriots in 2018. Two, this AFC South divisional matchup takes place at the cozy confines of NRG Stadium as opposed to a road venue. Third, the Texans defense is facing a rookie quarterback starting for the first time in his career.
Will those three things work in the Texans favor on Sunday? Here's hoping so, because this team needs a win in the worst way. The Texans haven't won a regular season/playoff game at home since the Monday night win over Tennessee back in December 2018. Furthermore, after winning nine straight last year, the Texans are 2-4 in their last six games, including last year's playoff loss to the Colts.
Defensively, the Jaguars have some of the best young talent in the league, including Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Calais Campbell. But, edge rusher extraordinaire Yannick Ngakoue will miss this one with a hamstring issue. On offense, the question is whether rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II has some magic in his young right arm that can carry the Jaguars to a victory over the Texans.
Without further ado, let's get to know our old friends, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
2019 Schedule - Record 0-1
L, Kansas City 40-26
Jaguars offense (in 2019):
Rushing yards per game - 81.0 ypg (23rd in the NFL)
Passing yards per game - 347.0 ypg (9th)
Total offense per game - 428.0 ypg (11th)
Turnovers lost - 2 (1 INT, 1 Fumble lost)
Projected Jaguars starting offense for Sunday's game vs. Texans:
QB - GARDNER MINSHEW II
RB - Leonard Fournette
WR - Dede Westbrook
WR - D.J. Chark
WR - CHRIS CONLEY
TE - James O'Shaughnessy
LT - Cam Robinson (missed game one, questionable for Sunday) / Will Richardson
LG - Andrew Norwell
C - Brandon Linder
RG - A.J. Cann
RT - JAWAAN TAYLOR (rookie)
Other key offensive pieces:
WR - Marqise Lee (questionable for Sunday)
RB - RYQUELL ARMSTEAD (rookie)
Key offensive pieces lost:
QB - Blake Bortles
RT - Jermey Parnell
**All caps indicates a 2019 addition
Keys to stopping the Jaguars offense:
1. Gap discipline is needed against Leonard Fournette.
2. Clean and effective tackling is needed against Leonard Fournette.
3. Tackling in space is needed against Leonard Fournette (have I made my point?
4. No deep balls.
5. Make this rookie quarterback have to grind out 9-10 play drives with regularity to win.
6. Don't get caught on double moves; don't get "rubbed" out on pick plays in man - this is John DeFilippo as OC we're talking about here, straight out of the Doug Pederson/Philly playbook. Remember that game last year? Pick routes, double moves and deep shots. Rinse, lather and repeat.
Jaguars defense (in 2019):
Rushing yards allowed per game - 113.0 ypg (15th in the NFL)
Passing yards allowed per game - 378.0 ypg (3rd)
Total offense allowed per game - 491.0 ypg (29th)
Turnovers generated - 0 (Jaguars are -2 in TO margin after Week 1)
Projected Jaguars starting defense for Monday Night Football vs. Texans:
DE - JOSH ALLEN (rookie)
DT - Abry Jones
DT - Marcell Dareus
DE - Calais Campbell
WLB - QUINCY WILLIAMS (rookie)
MLB - Myles Jack
SLB/Nickel - D.J. Hayden
CB - A.J Bouye (questionable for Sunday)
S - Ronnie Harrison
S - Jarrod Wilson
CB - Jalen Ramsey
Other key defensive pieces:
DT - DONTAVIUS RUSSELL (rookie)
DT - Taven Bryan
DE - Dawuane Smoot
ILB - Najee Goode
CB - Tre Herndon
**All caps indicates a 2019 addition
Keys to winning vs. the Jaguars defense:
1. Slowing down Calais Campbell from the outside. Rookie star edge rusher Josh Allen is one thing, but handling Campbell is quite another. More than likely, he'll move outside more in this game with Ngakoue out with a hamstring issue.
2. Occupy Myles Jack, who returns after missing most of the first game after getting ejected. He can be a thorn in the side of screens and horizontal runs/passes. Someone, anyone, has to get a helmet on him throughout the game.
3. See nickel (five defensive backs), run the ball. The Chiefs did a nice job adjusting to just six in the box and checking to runs. The Texans had success against the Saints similarly.
4. Use their aggressiveness against them. Screens. Bootlegs. Counters. Get this defense to fast flow and then counter punch.
5. Find matchups with the inside passing game that work. Use slot receivers and/or the tight ends to win on the inside, quickly and effectively.