The Houston Texans are traveling to Florida after the bye week to face the Jacksonville Jaguars as both teams look to improve their 1-6 record.
Week 9 Preview: Houston Texans Versus Jacksonville Jaguars
Houston needs their depleted defense to hold up against Jacksonville's lackluster offense
The Houston Texans' defense is starting on the wrong foot after the bye week. They will be without Whitney Mercilus, Dylan Cole, and Jacob Martin due to the NFL's COVID-19 protocol. Martin tested positive early in the week, and they will now join Max Scharping, who tested positive during their BYE week.
According to a press release by the Texans, cornerback Bradley Roby will reportedly also miss this game due to personal reasons.
Houston is likely to rely heavily on their rookie class for the first time in their second-rounder Ross Blacklock and third-round selection, Jonathan Greenard. These aren't the ideal circumstances for both young players to receive significant playing time, but they need to contribute sooner than later with where they were selected.
This is the game where Houston can play their rookie defenders after the BYE week (Ross Blacklock, Jonathan Greenard, John Reid) and not suffer horrifying consequences. The Texans are facing another 1-6 team in Jacksonville that will be starting a rookie quarterback.
Blacklock has slowly seen an uptick in playing time, and the BYE week was perfect for the coaches to work out a game plan to get him more snaps. The same goes for Greenard, who struggled with an ankle injury early on that limited the number of practice reps through training camp and the first weeks of the regular season.
Houston could also rely on their players from the practice squad in Nate Hall and Emmanuel Ellerbe due to their current shortage at linebacker. The Texans currently have Brennan Scarlett, Jonathan Greenard, Zach Cunningham, Tyrell Adams, and Peter Kalambayi ready to go.
Kyle Emanuel was ruled out for this game after sustaining a concussion that prevented him from practicing. According to Patrick Storm, Davin Bellamy is unlikely to be relied upon this week after undergoing a medical procedure earlier this week.
Having Greenard and Scarlett as the only edge rushers aren’t enough for the Texans, so they‘ll likely sprinkle in more J.J. Watt and Charles Omenihu against Jacksonville.
It’s intriguing to see if Texans elevate Corey Liuget to their active roster for the first time this season if they use Watt and Omenihu more as edge rushers. Liuget is a veteran player the Texans like, and they have him protected, so teams aren’t able to poach him off the practice squad.
Texans are really limited to what players can play with such short notice since they need to clear COVID protocol beforehand. Hall and Ellerbe are the only linebackers on the practice squad that could play this Sunday if elevated.
The Jaguars have the 20th best passing offense in the league with Gardner Minshew. It will be interesting to see if Jacksonville can, at the very least, replicate that production with Jake Luton under center.
Jaguars' rushing attack (96.6 yards per game) ranks 30th in the NFL, and that is a sight for sore eyes with Houston's rush defense ranking 31st ( allowing 165.9 yards per game).
The Texans are fortunate to face a struggling offense in Jacksonville as they adjust their defense due to several players sidelined due to COVID-19. This defense is far from its best squad, and they will need to make do with the squad they currently have to keep the Jaguars' offense in check.
Deshaun Watson's magic needs to continue through November
Deshaun Watson played some of the best football of his career for the Houston Texans through October, and that will need to continue through the remaining stretch of this season.
The Texans made no major moves at the NFL trade deadline despite being in talks to Will Fuller to the Green Bay Packers. Fuller has been the best Texans' receiver through seven games and leads the team with 492 receiving yards and 5 touchdown receptions.
Fuller has emerged as a solid number one option in this offense and has a touchdown reception in his last five games. Brandin Cooks is another receiver that could be poised for a big game after having his best performance of the season in his first encounter in Week 5 against the Jaguars.
The Texans rushing attack could also see some success Sunday as David Johnson had a season-high 96 yards against the Jaguars' defense in their first go-around.
Unlike the defense, Houston's personnel on offense is mainly intact, except Max Scharping (COVID-19). According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, the Texans have reportedly promoted Greg Mancz from their practice squad.
The Texans have the fifth-best passing game through Week 9, with an average of 282.7 passing yards per game. Houston's top five aerial attack has compensated for their poor run game, which ranks dead last in the league (84.9 yards per game).
The Jaguars have the 28th pass defense (281.9 yards) and rush defense (142.6 yards)in the NFL. Those numbers are favorable for the Texans offense, and they will have to put in most of the grunt work if Houston's defense struggles against Jacksonville on the road.
The Houston Texans should win this game in a convincing fashion due to possessing the superior offense, but Jacksonville has the advantage of playing at home.
Houston has no film on Luton, and he will have the opportunity to play in a friendly environment against a defense that is missing several starters. Despite the obstacles ahead, the Texans should be in the position of getting their second win of the season.
This will be an ugly game to watch, but a win in the win-loss column goes a long way to helping the morale of this team for the remaining eight games of this season.