The 2023 Houston Texans are essentially the 2021 Jacksonville Jaguars. Over the past three years, the Texans are 11-38-1. In the three years leading into the 2021 season, the Jaguars were 12-36. Before the 2021 season, the Jaguars drafted Trevor Lawrence onto a pretty bad team. In 2023, the Texans drafted CJ Stroud onto an otherwise bad team. Lawrence took some time to develop, and Stroud is taking some time to develop. The Jaguars had the first pick in the 2022 draft, and it is looking like the Texans will be competing for the first pick in the 2024 draft. If they get it, hopefully, they will learn one thing from this Jaugars team. If you have the chance to pick between Aidan Hutchinson and Travon Walker, pick Hutchinson!
After three years with Lawrence under center, the Jaguars are a good football team. They did not play particularly well over the first two weeks of the season, but they are 1-1 and should beat the Texans. Houston, on the other hand, has struggled. Stroud has good numbers, but he has not looked great. He has picked up a lot of his statistics when the game was already out of reach. The bottom line is that the Jaguars should beat the Texans and they should do it with very little trouble.
Can the Houston Texans Beat the Jacksonville Jaguars?
At the time of this writing, the Jaguars are a nine-point favorite. That nine-point spread should be one of the safest in the NFL. Of course, the Texans can beat the Jaguars. For that to happen, everything would have to go right. If CJ Stroud plays above his potential, the offensive line opens up some holes in the running game, and the defense can shut down the Jaguars passing attack, the Texans would still need the Jaguars to play poorly. In the NFL, anything can happen, just don’t expect the Texans to win. Here are three things that Jaguars need to do to ensure a big win on Sunday.
Get Pressure on CJ Stroud
The Jaguars pass rush is not very good. Josh Allen had three sacks against the Colts, but two of them were simply pushing Richardson out of bounds a yard short of the line of scrimmage. The Jaguars did not really pressure Mahomes or Richardson in the first two games. This week, Mike Caldwell has the dream scenario for a defensive coordinator. He has a somewhat mobile, rookie quarterback behind a below-average offensive line with a struggling running game and bad receivers. The Jaguars should be able to get pressure on Stroud even if K’Lavon Chaisson played 60 percent of the snaps.
Stroud has shown that he is capable of completing a lot of passes for a lot of yards. Most of those yards, however, have come in garbage time and the Texans have not yet won a game. With a rookie taking the snaps, the Jaguars have to shorten the decision-making time for Stroud. They should send blitzes, rush linebackers, and push the pocket. Put the game out of reach early by forcing Stroud to make mistakes. Good teams win games like this one in the first half, and the Jaguars are good enough to do just that.
Figure Out the Red Zone Offense
The best word to describe how the Jaguars looked in the red zone last week is “lost.” When they got the ball on the one-yard line after a pass interference call, they did not run the ball up the middle once. With both Tank Bigsby and Travis Etienne available, the team decided to run a bootleg with Trevor Lawrence around the left end. He lost yards. Rather than trying to get the yards back with a run between the tackles, the Jaguars passed on second down and then again on third down. Each play was more bizarre than the last and the team kicked a field goal. When the Jaguars get the ball in the red zone on Sunday, they have plenty of options. They have big, strong running backs, a good quarterback, a huge tight end with great hands, one of the best slot receivers in the game, and a true No. 1 wide receiver. It is up to Press Taylor, unless Pederson mercifully takes back the play-calling duties, to figure out how to get the ball into the end zone.
Figure Out the Offensive Identity of the Team
After two games, the Jaguars do not have an offensive identity. The offensive line has not been good in either the run or the passing game. The play-calling has been suspect. The team gets gimmicky in short-yardage situations and predictable on first and second downs. On third and fourth downs this season, this offense is hard to watch. They have at least as much talent in their offensive skill positions as the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles but they are just not producing.
The Jaguars do not know who they are yet. If they want to win their division, get home-field advantage, and advance in the postseason, they first have to figure out their identity. The funny thing is that it is not very difficult to figure out. The Jaguars are a pass-first offense with one of the best receiving corps in the NFL. They should pass to set up the run and use their speed to get to the outside. Let Lawrence throw the ball and open up the offense a little. Get the football to Ridley and Kirk early and often. Be creative and less predictable, except for when predictability is what the situation warrants. The bottom line is that this offense has to figure out what it is and play to its strengths.
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