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Friday, 5 December 2014

Jacksonville Jaguars: Learning From Win on Sunday

The Jaguars are fresh off a win over the New York Giants and for their victorious ways, are rewarded with a visit from the much improved Houston Texans and JJ Watt and the Texans pass rush.

If I were the Jaguars, I would be slightly uncomfortable knowing what Watt has done this season and also knowing the left tackle position – namely Luke Joeckel – has been a little shaky this season.

When he was in Houston, Connor Barwin made it well known he was excited about playing the Jaguars and used to abuse the backfield like it was his own playground. It appears Watt has picked up where Barwin, now in Philadelphia, has left off.

The Jaguars will certainly focus on Watt, but will also be well aware of the Texans weapons on both offense and defense.

Here are some key matchups and news from

The buzz is that the buzz needs to get louder.

If there’s a prevailing feeling around the Jaguars this week, that’s it – that while a historic victory over the New York Giants Sunday was memorable and needed, it was just one victory.

The Jaguars rallied from a 21-point first-half deficit for a 25-24 victory over the Giants at EverBank Field. It was the largest deficit the Jaguars have overcome to win in their 20-year history, and featured a dominant defensive second-half performance that included four sacks, three takeaways and two defensive touchdowns.

It also was the first come-from-behind victory for rookie quarterback Blake Bortles.

As important, it was an emotional victory for a team that had lost four consecutive games since a Week 7 victory over Cleveland, not to mention an important victory for players who believed they had improved this season and that they are a better team than a 2-10 record indicates.

The Jaguars’ focus entering the season’s final month is to build on the victory, to play more consistently. That’s especially true of an offense that struggled against the Giants before a 55-yard game-winning drive set up a 43-yard field goal by kicker Josh Scobee with 28 seconds remaining.

The task defensively? Maintain its high level. The unit has produced nine sacks and forced eight fumbles in the last two weeks, and two fumble recoveries for touchdowns were critical in the second-half rally Sunday.

The Jaguars defense is good, but Houston presents fast-moving defenders that could cause the offensive line much trouble on Sunday. While the Jacksonville defense has been a sack machine this season, the team leads the league in sacks given up.

The Jaguars gave up seven sacks to the Giants and the front line was constantly in the backfield, causing issues for Blake Bortles.

Three matchups to watch

  • Jaguars’ right tackle Josh Wells or Sam Young versus Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. You can’t play Houston without accounting for Watt, the NFL’s best defensive player, and a threat to change the game on every play. This matchup is tricky under any circumstance, but making it more difficult for the Jaguars is that right tackle Austin Pasztor is likely out for the season with a ruptured hamstring.

Watt lines up all over the line but his primary spot is left end. That means lining up often across from Watt will be Wells – a rookie free agent – or Young, a fifth-year veteran who has been inactive the last six weeks.

  • Jaguars pass rush versus Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick threw a career-high six touchdown passes in a victory over his former team, the Titans, this past Sunday. That makes pressuring Fitzpatrick key for the Jaguars – and it means the Jaguars’ best, most-consistent area again needs to play well. The Jaguars’ front has been key to a pass rush that has been consistently disruptive this season.

The Jaguars rank third in the NFL with 37 sacks. They also have eight forced fumbles in the last two games, and could need a similar game Sunday.

  • Jaguars middle linebacker J.T. Thomas and safety Johnathan Cyprien versus Texans running back Arian Foster. This isn’t a true one-on-one matchup, but stopping the run is key for the Jaguars. It wasn’t until the defense slowed Giants running back Rashad Jennings this past Sunday that the pass rush changed the game. Foster is sixth in the NFL and averages five yards per carry, so until you stop him you don’t stop the Texans.


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