Jacksonville's week two matchup with divisional foe Houston is a pivotal contest for the Jaguars, who are looking to get back to .500 after an embarrassing week one loss at the hands of the Chiefs. To not fall behind in the AFC South race, the Jaguars desperately need to pick up a win in Houston.
Achieving victory won't be easy, especially with the Jaguars' defense reeling. But the Jaguars will be able to take advantage of the Texans in several areas. What I want to look at here, is the Jaguars' passing offense against the Texans' secondary.
The Jaguars should be able to take advantage of a Texans' secondary that lacks talent, cohesion, and production.
The Texans' defensive backs were shredded on Monday Night Football by Drew Brees and the Saints' offense. They allowed a completion percentage of 74 en route to 362 yards through the air for the Saints. The secondary's showing was so weak that Aaron Colvin — yes, that Aaron Colvin — got released by the team on Tuesday.
You can't blame them too much for that single performance. Drew Brees is a legend, surrounded by tons of offensive talent, and is nearly impossible to beat inside the Dome. But it was a horrific showing. Jonathan Joseph, the Texan's best cornerback, allowed five of six passes to be completed in coverage. Bradley Roby also allowed five of six passes to be caught. Tashaun Gipson was targeted three times in coverage. The result? Three completions. You see where I'm going here?
Looking back at the Texans in 2018, their pass defense wasn't much better. Houston allowed 4,167 yards through the air last season, the fifth most in all of football. That was with the recently departed Tyrann Mathieu in the defensive backfield and Jadeveon Clowney terrorizing offensive lineman. Now, with no Mathieu at safety, the secondary looks wholly lost.
In recent years the Texans' pass rush was able to mask some of their deficiencies on the back end, but it doesn't look like that'll be the case in 2019. With Jadeveon Clowney now in Seattle, Houston's pass rush is much less fearsome. JJ Watt's still there, but he can't get the job done alone when teams can roll protection towards him. The Texans picked up just one sack in week one.
The question is, can the Jaguars take advantage of the Texans' secondary?
Early indications suggest that the answer will be a resounding yes.
Gardner Minshew had one of the best NFL debuts of all time in week one. Despite not taking any reps with the starters leading up to the game, Minshew completed his first 13 passes in the NFL and went 22-25 overall. His completion percentage of 88 is the highest in franchise in history (min. 25 attempts). Magic Minshew added two touchdowns through the air.
The numbers from the rookie from Washington State were impressive. But even more impressive was how he achieved those stats.
Minshew looked poised in the pocket. When he had time, he was able to deliver accurate passes to every area of the field. Short, intermediate, deep? It didn't matter.
When under duress, Minshew used his sneaky athletic ability to maneuver inside and outside of the pocket; to gain yards with his feet or find a passing window. Gardner Minshew might not be the next Tom Brady or Drew Brees, but after one week, he certainly looks like it.
The Jaguars' receivers also stepped up in a big way. DJ Chark got open early and often. Chris Conley was consistent throughout the contest. Dede Westbrook, despite being shadowed by Kendall Fuller, was still able to haul in six passes and find the end zone. All three scored touchdowns in week one.
One more fundamental aspect of the passing game? Pass protection. The Jaguars' offensive line surrendered only one sack against the Chiefs' talented defensive line in week one. Even without Cam Robinson at left tackle, the Jaguars' pass pro was impressive.
Only a week ago, we may not have been able to predict this set of circumstances. But with the Jaguars' passing offense functioning at a high level, and the Texans' defensive backs struggling to hold up, the Jaguars should be able to move the ball through the air in week two.
If John DeFilippo can get the Jaguars' receivers in favorable positions against the Texans' secondary, the Jags will be in great shape to get their first W of the young season. But the Jaguars' defense will need to do its part too. Whether or not they can do that remains to be seen.
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