Jaguars vs. Texans: 3 Keys to a Jaguars Victory - Sports ...

198 01/11/2021

The Jacksonville Jaguars will kick off their 2021 campaign this afternoon, facing a divisional rival in the Houston Texans. The Jags are favored by three, but that doesn’t change how Head Coach Urban Meyer is feeling ahead of his first NFL game.

“I get horrified — what are you talking about? No, no, just kidding, no, I am not there yet,” joked Meyer last Monday, as he prepared for his first game week. “I will get there — all coaches get there and if they tell you they are not then they are probably not being truthful with you.

“I am one of those people, if you remember, it’s every T crossed, every I dotted and every tip sheet ‘why didn’t we dot the I on this tip sheet’ so instead of players, I drive coaches crazy. I just want to make sure those players have a shot.”

For those players to have a shot, it’ll require an attention to detail—dotting their own I’s—with these three keys to the game.

Keep Taylor In the Pocket

Houston will be starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, in absence of the embattled Deshaun Watson. He has a mobility that can be dangerous, rushing for over 500 yards in back-to-back seasons for the Buffalo Bills in 2015 and 2016; furthermore, 23% of his career touchdowns coming from his own legs.

“They want to be physical and run the football, they have an athletic quarterback, Tyrod [Taylor]. I mean, he can run—playing against him over the years,” noted Jags defensive coordinator Joe Cullen during the week. “So, the thing is, we’ve got to do a great job knocking the run out and making them one-dimensional.”

Making Taylor and the Texans one-dimensional boils down to making them throw. Cullen goes on to note that Taylor is what he considers a good deep-ball passer. But Taylor doesn’t take a ton of risks. It leads to a low touchdown-interception ratio, but it also means that if the secondary forces tight window throws in the intermediate area of the field, it can force Taylor into mistakes.

“We’ve got to do a great job, so when we went back to all [Taylor’s] time at Buffalo; we opened the season with them when we were at Baltimore [as the Ravens defensive line coach] and the biggest thing we wanted to do was make sure we kept him in the pocket.”

Hammer Ball Security

While watching the Texans go 2-1 in the preseason, one thing stood out blatantly: Houston’s ability to force and grab turnovers, 10 in total.

“They’re going to get after the football. I mean that’s the thing right now that impresses me the most,” noted passing game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. “They had ten turnovers in the preseason itself in three games, so that’s really the main focus for me is making sure that our guys are very conscious of the ball, take care of it.”

Added quarterback Trevor Lawrence, “They forced 10 turnovers this preseason, which is three games. That’s a lot of turnovers, so that’s one thing that jumps out off the page when you’re looking at just their stats, but just the way they fly around has been impressive to watch.”

The Jaguars protected the ball well enough in their three preseason games, turning it over three times in that span of time. Lawrence though, for his part, is heading into the season with his eyes wide open..

“[We] definitely like what we’ve seen from our group, but they do a good job, zone eyes, really good job reading the quarterback.”

Play Smarter, Not Harder

This first week, a new coach and a new quarterback who will undoubtedly demand eyes, there’s a temptation to show-off, so to speak. To put the ball in the air and brag about how Lawrence can be heads and above his fellow league quarterbacks.

Meyer and Lawrence want to do the exact opposite in the all-important game.

“We have to be smart as coaches — do what he does well and you know there is some naturalness to him,” explained Meyer.

Added Lawrence, “This won’t change every week, but just do what I do, don’t try to do too much. That’s the thing, I have great players around me, just trusting those guys, trusting [Offensive Coordinator] Coach Bev[ell], [Passing Game Coordinator] Coach Schotty [Schottenheimer], everybody to put me in a good position, which they have, and just go play.”

This is even more important when it comes to playing the Texans, according to both Meyer and Lawrence. Under associate head coach and defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, Houston chooses to play smart and solid, as opposed to aggressive and overcomplicated. It forces the offense to do the same.

“He lets them play,” Meyer said of Smith’s defense. “A lot of the times, you see coaches over move [players]. You let talented players play and I’ve always been a big fan of that as well, but sometimes you get over-creative and you start dropping players that should be rushing and moving players that should be [not moved]. Just let them play. With Lovie, I think you’ll see they’re the best of the best.”

Lawrence, in his official rookie debut, won’t have to worry about disguises and baits, tricking him into mistakes. Instead, he see’s the Texans forcing him to beat them on execution alone. If he plays smarter, not harder, he should be able to flex his talent and skill and do just that.

“[They’re] just a really sound defense. They don’t try to necessarily trick you. They don’t have a bunch of crazy looks and all these different coverages,” explains Lawrence. “They keep it pretty simple, but the tough thing about that is when you keep something simple, everyone’s exactly where they’re supposed to be, so it makes those windows tighter. They do a really good job when they play man coverage of not giving up big plays, so that will be a challenge.”

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