The Jaguars head west this week to take on their divisional rivals, the Houston Texans. Off to an 0-4 start, the reigning AFC South champions have struggled through a difficult opening schedule, so much so that they fired Bill O'Brien, who served as their head coach, play-caller, and general manager. With Romeo Crennell now at the helm, the Texans represent a much bigger threat than their record might suggest.
The Jags and Texans have combined to lose seven straight games, but most of those contests have been competitive. Whichever club wins the most critical individual matchups will have the best chance at taking home a W.
Let's dive in!
CJ Henderson vs Will Fuller
CJ Henderson might have been the best cornerback in football during week one against the Colts, and he had a strong follow-up game in week two against the Titans. But on a short week, he struggled mightily against the Dolphins and then missed almost the entire contest against the Bengals in week four after suffering a shoulder injury on the opening drive. Henderson missed Wednesday practice but returned in a limited capacity on Thursday, so there's a reasonable chance he'll suit up for the Jaguars on Sunday, and they'll need him. The Jaguars have struggled to slow down opposing passers, and CJ Henderson represents their best chance to do so against Deshaun Watson in week five. He'll have some one-on-one matchups with Will Fuller, who might be the single most talented receiver Henderson will have faced to this point. Fuller's combination of length, speed, and overall athleticism make him a challenging cover for even the most skilled cornerbacks. Henderson will need to slow down this deep ball extraordinaire if the Jaguars hope to win for the first time in nearly a month. Lining up across from DJ Chark in practice should give Henderson a good idea of how dangerous Fuller can be.
DJ Chark vs the Texans' Outside Cornerbacks
Because the Texans don't have a lockdown cornerback, DJ Chark could see multiple opponents trying to slow him down on the outside. Vernon Hargreaves and Bradley Roby are the top two outside cover cornerbacks for the Texans, and let's just say they've struggled to this point in the season. Hargreaves has allowed a passer rating of 104.5 in coverage, while Roby has surrendered a passer rating of 123. Neither of these corners can reasonably matchup with DJ Chark, who has been insanely efficient in 2020, catching 15/16 targets with three touchdowns in his three games played. Jay Gruden will need to make sure to feature Chark early and often.
Brandon Linder vs PJ Hall
The Texans have not been doing much well on the defensive side of the ball, as evidenced by their 126 points allowed over the first four games of the season. Brandon Linder returns to the lineup for the Jaguars this week after missing last week's contest with a knee injury. His ability to create push up the middle for James Robinson will be key. Hall has been the Texans' best interior run defender so far this season.
Cam Robinson & Jawaan Taylor vs JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus
Watt and Mercilus have combined for just four sacks so far in 2020, but they've been getting some pressure on opposing QBs with 19 combined pressures so far. The Jaguars' offensive tackles have done a solid job this season, giving Minshew the time he needs to pass the ball, and they'll need to so again this Sunday. Cam Robinson is dealing with a minor knee injury but practiced in a limited capacity on Thursday. For the Jaguars' offense to reach its full potential, these two young offensive tackles will need to do a better job in one-on-ones than they did against the Texans last year, and the entire O-Line will need to be prepared and ready to take on some exotic blitzes.
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