Jaguars Preview: Week One in Houston

The Jacksonville Jaguars look to notch a season-opening road victory for the first time since 2004 on Sunday.  While many aspects of the Jaguars are different (Tom Coughlin) but the same (Blake Bortles), the two-time defending AFC South champion Houston Texans are built around their defense with playoff aspirations.  It is another season and another starting quarterback for Houston with Tom Savage replacing the long-gone Brock Osweiler and rookie Deshaun Watson waiting in the wings.  The Jaguars will need Blake Bortles to limit mistakes, feed the run game – mainly rookie Leonard Fournette – and hope the Jacksonville offensive line can hold off multiple talented Houston pass rushers.  The Jaguars and Texans face off Sunday at NRG Stadium with kickoff at 1 p.m.

Meeting: 

Jacksonville is 11-19 all-time versus the Texans.  The Jaguars dropped the last meeting at NRG Stadium 21-20 after a second-half comeback by the home squad.  Nick Novak’s four field goals and Blake Bortles’ 92 passing yards greatly impacted the final result.

Player Connections: 

A.J. Bouye was signed by the Texans as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2013.  His last four seasons in Houston produced totals of 130 tackles and six interceptions.  Sunday will be the first time facing his former team.  The Jaguars signed the cornerback in March to a five-year, $67.5 million deal with $26 million guaranteed.

What to Watch:

Calais Campbell and Barry Church – two of the Jaguars free agents additions – can make this defense better?  And not just with allowing yardage, will they provide the offense with improved field position and turnovers?

Allen Robinson has a catch in 42 consecutive professional games.  His streak is currently the sixth-longest in franchise history.  No Jaguar has had a streak this impressive since Maurice Jones-Drew from 2007 to 2010.

Last season Yannick Ngakoue set the rookie franchise record with 8.0 sacks.  Can that momentum carry over into his second year?  We sure hope so.

Trying to Figure Out: 

Blake Bortles – since he is 0-6 against the Houston Texans.  Will the offensive line be able to protect him some?  He’s been sacked 24 times in those six games.  Which preseason/training camp version of him shows up this weekend?

Rookie running back Leonard Fournette is our main player to watch.  Is he capable of sparking this offense?

Does head coach Doug Marrone make it abundantly clear he is a better in-game coach than Gus Bradley?

About the Opponent: 

The Houston Texans are trying for a third straight AFC South title.  They went 9-7 during the 2016 regular season.  More impressively, Houston was 7-1 at home.  The Texans will focus on getting the ball to running back Lamar Miller and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.  Will the offense and quarterback Tom Savage be greatly hurt with left tackle Duane Brown still holding out?  The defense will be the heart of this Texans team with a strong secondary and pass rushers in J.J. Watt – returning from two back surgeries, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney.

Lockdown Matchup: 

Seeing Jalen Ramsey and former Texan A.J. Bouye in the Jaguars secondary will be a delight.  How well do they click in the secondary?  And how often does Bouye face Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins?

This Equals a Win: 

Like Tom Savage did in his comeback win over the Jaguars last season, Jacksonville has to protect the football and have productive drives.  However, the Jags are 2-16 in September since 2012.  A win Sunday would work wonders on energizing the local fan base.

How to Listen:

Frank Frangie, Tony Boselli and Jeff Lageman will provide the call on 1010XL and 92.5 FM with Rick Ballou working the sidelines. The Sawyer Gas Kickoff Show begins at 10 a.m. The simulcast will be on WGNE 99.9 FM.  It’s the fourth season of the Jaguars being on Jacksonville’s sports superstation.

Where to Watch: 

The Jaguars-Texans will air on CBS and locally on WJAX 47 at 1 p.m. Sunday.  Andrew Catalon will provide the play by play with James Lofton for color commentary.  Steve Tasker will report from the sidelines.  Keep in mind that Hurricane Irma coverage could alter or impact Sunday’s broadcast.