Each week this season I'm going to try to bring a statistical outlook to the Jaguars and their upcoming opponent.This week brings the Houston Texans to town.
The Texans in week 1 won by creating turnovers against an offense with a rookie quarterback and a team without real passing threats. Sounds an awful lot like the Jaguars last year, but this is 2012 and the Jaguars showcased a new and improved offense against the Vikings. The Jaguars will have to be even better this week. Gabbert was sacked twice and hit another 7 times. Eugene Monroe was a franchise tackle on Sunday keeping Jared Allen off of Gabbert, but the RT spot, either Bradfield or Whimper, was a revolving door all day. The Jaguars must find a reliable blocker on that right side if they expect to win many games this season. A quick look at some numbers from the Texans 2011 season.
The Texans 2011 Record: 10-6
Pythagorean Wins: 10.9
Offense DVOA: 9th
Defense DVOA: 6th
Turnover Differential: +7
The Texans are due for some major regression on defense putting up similar advances in 2011 that the Jaguars did. The scary thing with this Texans team is that with a second year in the Wade Phillips system and another year for their young defense they could buck that trend. They are large and fast unit headlined by DE J.J. Watt, MLB Brian Cushing and CB Johnathan Joseph. All three had good seasons last year and each one had an impressive Week 1 accounting for 15 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5 passes defensed, 2 quarterback hits, 2 interceptions and 1 fumble forced combined.This will create difficult matchups on every level of the defense for the Jaguars to overcome. On offense the Texans are not as strong as they were a year ago. By needing to resign Arian Foster to a big money deal they had to part ways with their starting RG and RT. The Texans offense is predicated on it's offensive lines ability to dominate. The Jaguars front seven must take advantage of the weaker line the Texans have this year. In week 1 they averaged 2.4 yards on their 35 rushes for 83 yards total against one of the worst teams in the NFL. They were not able to the run the ball effectively throughout the game and that greatly impacts what they want to do on offense. Against the Dolphins they scored 24 of their 30 points off of turnovers. Given long fields to cover the Texans drives stalled regularly. Their average starting field position for the game was their own 34 yard line. Their average starting field position on scoring drives was the opposition 47. Key in this game will be ball security. There were 4 fumbles in the Jaguars Vikings game and the Jaguars were able to fall on two of those with one of there own going out of bounds. If the ball is put on the ground that much they will have a hard time recovering that many week to week. Teams can be good at creating fumbles but there is no statistical evidence that shows a team can be good at picking fumbles up. The Jaguars can't just try to limit the turnovers they have to limit the chances of turnovers with accurate passing and good ball security.
Regression for the Jaguars defense has already started.They gave up 389 yards of total offense to the Vikings a far cry off the 313 yards a game mark from 2011. Yes it's small sample size but this was the Vikings we are talking about. That offense isn't going to be setting records this season. The defense must make some adjustments this week if they hope to keep the offense in the game. First and foremost they must stop the run. On early downs the defense should come out with a big line by putting Alu Alu on the end for Branch and playing Knighton and Mosley in the middle. The Texans have a light offensive line the Jaguars need to maul the offensive lineman to allow the linebackers to penetrate and create havoc in the backfield. On passing downs they should move Alu Alu back to the tackle spot and bring Branch on to rush the passer. The Jaguars didn't struggle getting off the field on third downs in week 1 as the Vikings converted only 20% of their third downs. Where they struggled was in first and second down and the Texans will look to run more to set up the play action pass. Secondly the Jaguars must create pressure on Matt Schaub to try and help the secondary stick with Andre Johnson. This will be a difficult task for the secondary as they struggled defending any wide receiver the Vikings had. The Special Teams units must be better at kicking and coverage than they were a week a go to put the Texans in a disadvantageous spot.
On offense, the Jaguars have matchup problems all over the field. Cushing is a big linebacker that is a sideline sideline presence and could help control the middle against Marcedes Lewis. On the outside the Texans have talented corners and will try to take advantage of Gabbert still finding the chemistry with his receivers. The Jaguars must look to there slot receivers as this will give them the best matchups. Try to force the Texans out of their base 3-4 defense and into the nickel and have a good mix of run and pass plays. The Jaguars were excellent on third downs converting 50% against the Vikings. They were equally effective from third and long as they were on third and short. The key will be gaining good yards on early downs to move the ball into scoring position. When in scoring position the Jaguars must take advantage of their opportunities and put the ball in the endzone. Field goals from the one yard line will not get it done any week let alone against the Texans.
For the Jaguars to win this week the offense must execute like last week and take advantage of every opportunity and the defense must be markedly improved in execution than they were a week ago. This is a game that everything must break the right way for them to put the Texans away.