Jacksonville Jaguars: Facing Watt, Texans Again
If you read message boards and follow fan reaction, the 2014 season for the Jacksonville Jaguars has been a mixed bag of excitement, disappointment and following the same mantra as they have for seven years now – wait until next season.
Now that 16 weeks have passed and the final game of the season is upon us, the Jaguars need this win for many reasons. Momentum, stopping a potential playoff berth of an AFC South rival, and matching last season’s four wins. There are no such things as moral victories in football, but four wins this season looks more like success after a rocky start to the show.
The Houston Texans are a team on the upswing. A win, coupled with some luck and lots of prayer, may get this franchise back to the playoffs. Anything could happen, and with the Jaguars tasked with stopping the Houston running game and the abuse of defensive end JJ Watt, it could be a long day in Houston.
Here are 10 things to know about this contest, according to Jaguars.com senior writer, John Oehser.
Protect the ball
This is back to No. 1. Blake Bortles didn’t throw an interception last Thursday against the Titans. That was the second time in four games he went without an interception. The Jaguars won both of the games.
Block J.J. Watt
This barely needs an explanation anymore. OK, we’ll explain. Watt is the Texans’ defensive end. He’s great. He’s otherworldly. He had three sacks the last time the teams played, and although he didn’t overwhelm the entire game, three sacks are three sacks. He affects things more than any other defensive player in the NFL. You must get him blocked and you can’t design plays that leave him unattended (more on this later).
Stop Arian Foster
The Texans want to control tempo with Foster. When the teams played in Jacksonville December 7, he rushed for 127 yards on 24 carries. That helped limit the Jaguars’ pass rush. Stop Foster and you get your strength – the defensive line – in position to be strong.
Pressure Case Keenum. Yes, you must stop Foster first. If you do, the reward is the Texans are playing their fourth quarterback of the season. Injuries have decimated the Texans at the position and Keenum is expected to start the finale. Keenum’s not bad. He earned his first NFL victory last week. But he’s young. Young quarterback make mistakes. Pressure him. The opportunity for big plays defensively is real.
Feed Marqise Lee
OK, “feed” may be a bit much, because Lee’s not at the stage where you lock in and feed him the ball. But, since a Week 10 bye the rookie wide receiver has been the team’s most dangerous offensive weapon. He has earned opportunities, and besides, he’s getting to be fun to watch. Get him the ball.
Get Toby Gerhart carries
What a difference three weeks makes. Few would have considered this a must-do a month ago. Or three weeks ago. But in the last two weeks, Gerhart has run with power, giving the Jaguars yards after carry and getting them into some third-and-manageable situations. The more of those for a rookie quarterback the better.
This hasn’t been the disaster many well-informed media members believe, but neither has it been good enough. There have been too many times when rushers come free unblocked (remember we mentioned this when discussing Watt? You must account for him). Whether the unblocked rushers in recent weeks have been about communication, mental errors or whatever … it has to improve.
Dirt the ball
This hasn’t been as much of a thing as last week. Maybe we moved on to another topic as Christmas approached. Still, Blake Bortles has to help the offensive line more. He improved here against the Titans. He has to continue to do so.
Block J.J. Watt
Have we mentioned the need to know he’s on the field?
Yeah, it keeps sounding corny, but it keeps being true. The players on this team believe in each other, in Head Coach Gus Bradley – yes, even in “Victory,” as evidenced by the post-game giddiness after each victory. Whatever they believe in, this team remains together. No reason to think that will change Sunday.