The Jaguars take on the Texans in Houston today at 1 pm. Here's 10 storylines to follow!
1. The Jaguars haven't beaten the Texans in their last six tries. Blake Bortles has never beaten the Texans. This will be Doug Marrone's first opportunity to take down the Texans as the head man in Jacksonville. The Jaguars also haven't won a season opener since 2011. If the Jaguars are to win this game they'll have to break a couple of highly disappointing streaks.
2. The Jaguars must run the football. In 2016 the Jaguars offensive line struggled greatly to open up running lanes for Jaguars runners. But this year is different. This year the Jaguars have Leonard Fournette aka the Duval Destroyer. He'll be asked to help control the clock and grind out yards to extend drives and shorten the game.
3. Speaking of run blocking, pass blocking may be an issue for the Jaguars as well. The Texans boast one of the scariest defensive fronts in football. With JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus all coming off the edge the Jaguars tackles will face a HUGE test. Add in LB Bernardrick McKinney, who got to the QB 5 times in 2016, and you have a devastating group of pass rushers. The Jaguars will need to get the ball out of Blake Bortles hand quickly in this one.
4. Marqise Lee will have an expanded role. Lee, who missed much of his first two years in the NFL with injury, was able to stay healthy in 2016. This year he enters the season with much higher expectations. Lee will be one of the team's two starting receivers on the outside and will also return kicks and punts for the Jags.
5. Jason Myers will need to improve his accuracy. During the preseason the Jaguars K Jason Myers was extremely close to losing his job. After a disappointing two weeks to start the preseason for Myers, the Jaguars brought in a couple of kickers for a workout, but both left Jacksonville unsigned. Myers has the starting job, for now. He finished the preseason strong, but will need to regain the trust of the Jaguars faithful.
6. The Texans will be without their best offensive lineman Duane Brown. Brown has been holding out all offseason, hoping for a new contract. The Texans haven't budged on the contract negotiations and thus they'll be without their startling left tackle. The rest of the Texans offensive line leaves a lot to be desired too. The Jaguars defensive front that features two players making over $15 million a year and a plethora of draft picks will need to dominate the line of scrimmage and get Tom Savage off his game.
7. Tom Savage lit up the Jaguars in their final matchup of 2016. He didn't throw a TD pass, but when Brock Osweiler was yanked from the starting lineup Savage was able to pick up the slack and guide the Texans to a win despite trailing when he entered the ball game. The Jaguars will need to create pressure and get Tom Savage out of his regular progression in order to have success on defense.
8. The Jaguars will be without TJ Yeldon, who figured to be the team's leading man on third down. He excels as a receiver out of the backfield and in pass protection. None of the other Jaguars running backs have proven effective in pass pro. Keep an eye on who's out there at RB for the Jaguars on third down and whether or not they are able to help keep Texans pass rushers away from Blake Bortles.
9. Ramsey and Bouye vs DeAndre Hopkins. The Jaguars will face more explosive passing games in 2017 than they will today, but in terms of individual receivers they don't come much better than DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins and Ramsey famously went after each other on and off the field in 2016. Now, Ramsey will have the help of Hopkin's former teammate AJ Bouye in trying to slow down the Texans star receiver. Keep an eye out for the trash talk and the physical play between these three.
10. The Jaguars need a fast start. This is true in more ways than one. The Jaguars offense has been infamously slow to start football games since, well, it's been a long time. The team regularly has to fight from behind to stay in ball games. That's certainly not a recipe for success. The Jags also struggle to get off to fast starts to seasons. The team is regularly behind the eight ball in terms of wins by the time the first month of the season is over. Winning on the road in Houston to start the season would be a major step for this franchise.
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