Houston Texans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday, September 28, 2008, 1:00 p.m.
Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, Jacksonville, FL
Records: Houston 0-2, Jacksonville 1-2
Series history: Houston leads 7-5.
Last season: Teams split.
Houston offense 25th overall (21st passing, 19th rushing); Scoring- 28th – 14.5 ppg. vs. Jacksonville defense 14th overall (17th passing, 17th rushing); Scoring- 11th- 19.3 ppg.
The Texans offense seems to be ill-timed at this point in the season, and quarterback Matt Schaub is playing at a low level. Schaub is the 30th ranked passer in the league with a 50.3 QB rating and has thrown just one touchdown and five interceptions, albeit facing two of the best defenses in the league in Pittsburgh and Tennessee.
Rookie running back Steve Slaton is coming off a career high 116 yards rushing against the Titans, and if he can get to the edges against the Jaguars defense, there may be some long runs in store for Houston.
When Schaub goes to the air, he has several options and the best of which is Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson. Johnson is a difficult matchup for anyone, as he is a polished route runner, is tough over the middle, and possesses deep speed. Opposite Johnson is possession guy Kevin Walter, and the "other Andre," Andre Davis is a deep threat in his own right. Tight end Owen Daniels also has soft hands, and can find open spaces in a zone.
Teams have found success running at the edges against Jacksonville as both defensive ends Reggie Hayward and Paul Spicer have had troubles holding the point of attack, and the linebackers and corners have missed several tackles.
The Jacksonville linebacking corps was supposed to be a team strength, but they are playing average at best early on in the year. Mike Peterson looks slow, Daryl Smith is taking bad angles, and Clint Ingram is susceptible to play-action.
The Jaguars secondary makes big plays, but also allows big plays. Cornerbacks Drayton Florence and Rashean Mathis have spent numerous time chasing opposing wide receivers, and safeties Brian Williams and Reggie Nelson have blown coverages, and missed tackles.
Best offensive matchup for Houston: Andre Johnson vs. Drayton Florence- Whichever receiver that will be lined up on the other side of Florence, the Texans will likely throw to. Florence has blown numerous coverages in the Jaguars first three games this season, and this looks like a complete mismatch.
Best defensive matchup for Jacksonville: Paul Spicer vs. Duane Brown- Spicer should be able to take advantage of the rookie by bull-rushing and utilizing his great swim move.
Jacksonville offense 24th overall (25th passing, 13th rushing); Scoring- 26th, 16.3 ppg. vs. Houston defense 19th overall (6th passing, 27th rushing); Scoring- 30th – 34.5 ppg.
Jaguars quarterback David Garrard has been underwhelming in 2008, as he has already surpassed his interception total of a year ago (3). Garrard has been accurate on short passes, but has made poor decisions as the Jaguars offense had one of the lowest third-down conversion rates in the NFL at just 28%, prior to going 8/14 against Indianapolis. At this point it is unclear if WR Jerry Porter will play on Sunday, but Garrard still has Reggie Williams, Dennis Northcutt, a motivated Matt Jones, who leads the team in receiving, Mike Walker, and speedster Troy Williamson. Tight end Marcedes Lewis appears poised for a big season, and his 6'7" frame will cause big matchup problems for opposing linebackers or safeties.
The Jaguars return to rushing dominance was evident a week ago as they pounded the smaller Indianapolis Colts defensive line to the tune of 48 rushing attempts for 236 yards. Both Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew had better than 100 yards on the ground, and the ball-control offense was back. The Jaguars will try to continue that same game plan against a Texans team which is in the bottom five of the league in stopping the run.
The Texans biggest question mark on defense is their pass rush, as they have few people that can get after the quarterback aside from Mario Williams. Nobody aside from Williams recorded a sack or even much pressure in the Texans season opener. Amobi Okoye seems poised to take the next step toward being one of the elite DT's in the game in just his second season. The team will likely stack up the line of scrimmage to try and stop the Jaguars rushing attack which should open up one-on-one coverage downfield.
The Texans group of linebackers is one of the best in the league featuring Pro Bowler Demeco Ryans and surprising second-year star Zac Diles. Throw in Morlon Greenwood and there is an active group of backers that can play sideline to sideline.
The Houston secondary has struggled without Dunta Robinson who began the year on the PUP list (knee). Corner Fred Bennett is a physical player, but can be beat deep, same as free agent acquisition Jacques Reeves. Demarcus "Petey" Faggins is a solid nickel corner.
Best offensive matchup for Jacksonville: The Jaguars offensive line vs. the Texans defensive line- Even with three new starters, the Jaguars line should move the Texans off the line of scrimmage and the running game should continue to be strong.
Best defensive matchup for Houston: Mario Williams vs. Khalif Barnes- Although Barnes had a great game against Dwight Freeney a week ago, Mario Williams is a much more physical presence. Jacksonville will have to chip with a running back or tight end to keep Williams away from quarterback David Garrard.
Houston: PK Kris Brown, P Matt Turk, LS Bryan Pittman, KOR Andre Davis, PR Jacoby Jones
Jacksonville: PK Josh Scobee, P Adam Podlesh, LS Joe Zelenka, KOR Maurice Jones-Drew/Brian Witherspoon, PR Dennis Northcutt/Brian Witherspoon
Special teams advantage: The Jaguars have a better coverage unit, and the more explosive return men. Kicker Kris Brown is about as good as it gets, and Matt Turk is a solid punter, but the Jaguars have a slight advantage overall.