Skip to main content

Texans at Jaguars | 5 Things to Watch

The Texans (2-11) and Jaguars (2-11) square off on Sunday in Jacksonville. It's the final meeting between the two clubs in 2021, as Houston took the Week 1 showdown at NRG Stadium, 37-21. Here are five things to watch when the AFC South rivals kick off at noon CT in TIAA Stadium.

1) More from Mills – Rookie QB Davis Mills starts for the eighth time this season. Last week against the Seahawks, Mills began the game by completing a franchise-best 14 straight passes. He helped the Texans take a 7-0 lead by finding fellow rookie Brevin Jordan for a touchdown on the opening drive. After those first 14 completions, though, he was 19-for-35. He, along with the rest of the team, wants to play better as the game progresses and he explained what he needs to do to make that happen.

"Continue to protect the football," Mills said. "Make smart decisions, make quick decisions and also just find ways to get the ball in the end zone."

WR Brandin Cooks, who caught eight balls last Sunday for 101 yards and now has 845 receiving yards in 2021, thinks Mills "has a great chance to be great". He pinpointed what the young quarterback needs to keep doing.

"I think the biggest thing for him is just to continue to grow, like I talked about, from his first start to his last one, his decision making," Cooks said. "When the play is not there, being able to find your back and take the check down and keep the chain moving and being efficient."

2) Speaking of Cooks – Cooks has always played very well against Jacksonville. In 2015 with the Saints, he caught a 71-yard touchdown pass and finished the day with five grabs for 123 yards. Two years later, in the AFC Championship game as a Patriot, all five of the passes he caught were for first downs and Cooks finished the day with 100 receiving yards total. He also drew a pair of pass interference calls, one for 32 yards and another for 36.

In three games as a Texan, Cooks has 16 receptions for 376 yards and a pair of scores.

So in five career contests versus Jacksonville, he's averaged just over 22 yards per catch, and his team has won every time, but Cooks said the Jaguars secondary is more impressive than it was earlier in the season when he snared five passes for 132 yards.

"I think they've been playing at a much higher level than the last time we played them," Cooks said.

Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly is glad Cooks is a cornerstone of the offense.

"Brandin has a career full of production, and he's doing the same thing this year doing a great job of producing for us, making big chunk plays when we need him to," Kelly said.

3) Young faces – WR Nico Collins and Jordan continue to make plays for Houston in their first NFL seasons. Collins caught a 30-yard pass to help set up Jordan's touchdown against the Seahawks, while Jordan found the end zone for the third time in 2021. He only has 15 total receptions on the year, so he's scored once every five times he's caught a pass.

In the case of Collins, fellow rookie Mills has seen a big leap in improvement since arriving.

"He's been great," Mills said. "A lot of progress from the start of the season. The more he's gotten chemistry with the quarterbacks back, there including myself. The way he has progressed in the offense and kind of knows his role, but he has loads of potential, and it's starting to show."

Collins has 23 receptions this year for 297 yards. He described how getting better at the little things has ultimately helped pay bigger dividends in his overall game.

"It really comes down to small details, creating separation on the DB, little head nod, footwork," Collins said. "Just little things like that I really didn't pick up in college that I know now. Those small little nuggets like that can really separate you. I feel like that's what I am working on now. Just trying to figure out what best fits me and my game so I can produce on the field."

Jordan, meanwhile, has 15 catches for 113 yards. He didn't practice Friday and is questionable for Sunday because of a hand injury. While Jordan's happy he's scoring, he still seeks more.

"I want to finish out the year strong, so next year the coaches can look at me and be like, 'he's a three-down tight end,'" Jordan said. "I want to improve on blocking. I want to be able to show my yac (yards after the catch). I want to be able to win vertical routes, man-to-man coverage, winning zone, everything. I just want to be able to finish out the year strong."

4) Defensive depth hits – COVID-19 has done a number on the NFL this week, as several games have been pushed back to Monday and Tuesday. The Texans depth has taken a hit as well. As of 2:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon, Houston put a total of seven players from the 53-man roster—six from the defense—on the Reserve/COVID-19 list this week. Starting LBs Kamu Grugier-Hill and Christian Kirksey went on it, as did starting cornerback Terrance Mitchell. Safety and key special-teams contributor A.J. Moore also went on the list.

Starting safety Justin Reid won't play because of a concussion.

Some of the COVID-list players might be able to come off in time to play, according to Head Coach David Culley.

"Once a guy gets COVID, the NFL has protocols that he has to go through," Culley said. "We go through it. All of our guys are vaccinated that have gotten COVID, so the thing is, we just move on and wait until they are able to pass the tests consecutively and see if they are able to get on the field or not. Other than that, the next man moves up."

In response to the uptick in COVID cases, Culley and the Texans made some changes to their workweek.

"We basically went virtual starting yesterday," Culley said. "Everything is virtual as far as our meetings. We actually get to be on the field with them just like normal, except any time we're off the field is basically a virtual thing. Everybody has to wear a mask at all times other than when we're on the field. It's the same thing when we travel, but basically, we're just going with the protocols that they've assigned us to do."

5) Shakeup in Jacksonville – The Jaguars fired Head Coach Urban Meyer on Wednesday evening. Darrell Bevell is the interim head coach, and he'll continue to call plays as the offensive coordinator. The Texans went through an in-season coaching change last year, as the team parted ways with Bill O'Brien and installed Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel as the interim head coach.

Despite the changes in Jacksonville, Cooks believes the Jaguars will be ready to play.

"The biggest thing that I remember was understanding that we still had a job to do," Cooks said. "It was just about us and sticking together and keeping the train moving. That was the biggest thing that I could remember during that time."

DL Jacob Martin, who was also here for the O'Brien-to-Crennel switch in 2020, expects the Jaguars to come out "trying to win the game" after the coaching moves.

"For them, they may see it as a challenge," Martin said. "They may take it as a challenge themselves and prove that they didn't or don't need a head coach to win games, or didn't need that head coach to win games. So, I'm just excited for the dog fight."

Catch the Texans at NRG Stadium on December 26 when they take on the Los Angeles Chargers. Kickoff is set for noon CT. Click here for tickets.

Check out the best photos from the Houston Texans practice on Thursday.

Related Content