Texans @ Jaguars
Final Score: Texans 13, Jaguars 6
Writer: Erik Smith (@ErikSmithQBL on Twitter)
On a balmy 81-degree day in Jacksonville, the Texans and Jaguars played like two teams waiting for the other to make the first mistake. As a result, they headed into halftime tied 6-6. Trevor Lawrence would make the first major mistake in this game, throwing a bad interception in the end zone after the Jaguars marched down the field on the opening drive of the second half. Houston took over backed up on their own goalline and flipped the field position; wiping out nearly the whole third quarter in the process as they continued to play conservative ball-control offense. The game remained tied into the fourth quarter, and as the Texans seemed destined to punt on 3rd and 20, Jacksonville’s number one overall pick Travon Walker jumped offsides and drew a completely inexcusable roughing the passer penalty to extend the Texans’ drive past midfield. Dameon Pierce‘s physical running put the final nail in the coffin, as the Texans scored to go up a touchdown with three minutes remaining. A lack of playmakers would ultimately be the Jaguars’ downfall, who were held without a touchdown at home against a lackluster Texans defense.
Davis Mills: 16/24, 140 Yards | 2 Carries, 2 Yards
Houston refused to put the game in Davis Mills‘ hands from start to finish, as the offense leaned ultra-conservative with its playcalling. On the first drive of the game Mills’ timing looked off on a third and 5 intended for Brandin Cooks, resulting in an incompletion and a punt. After two runs to start the next drive, Jacksonville brought pressure and Mills looked rushed, resulting in a poor incompletion and another punt. This would be the theme of the first half, as late blitzes and pressure up the middle forced Mills out of his rhythm and into late throws.
As a result, the Texans generally took the air out of the ball. There was a 3rd and 4 on the outskirts of field goal range where they chose to run up the middle. The Texans did not convert and kicked a 50-yard field goal. Another first-half drive started shakily but was extended with a defensive holding early. Mills then took a delay of game on first down instead of getting a timeout in, and then fired an attempt very quickly on a 3rd and 9 down the sideline that had almost no chance, a play where some more patience would have been helpful.
The Texans put together a long drive off of Trevor Lawrence’s interception but primarily moved the ball through the running game and short passes to the tight ends. The drive ended as the Texans punted on 4th and 1 near midfield as Mills’ check down was short of the sticks on a third and manageable. The next drive Mills took a sack on first down, and the Texans all but gave up on the drive after that.
Later, on a 3rd and 2 in the middle of the fourth quarter, the Jaguars brought the house and Mills lobbed a well-underthrown pass where Nico Collins bailed him out with a jump ball win. After a holding on the Texans line, Mills had a poor first down attempt that went incomplete where he didn’t give anyone a chance to get their hands on the ball, then checked down incomplete to Pierce to set up third and long. After being bailed out by a Jaguars penalty, Mills completed his biggest pass of the day to Akins for exactly 10 yards on third and 10 where he showed some decent touch on the pass.
From my recollection of Mills down the stretch last year, he appears to have regressed, as the Texans gave him very few downfield throws and he was asked to make very few plays. This does not look like a passing game that wants to open things up when the game is close.
Dameon Pierce: 26 Carries, 99 Yards, TD | 5 Targets, 3 Receptions, 14 Yards
Rex Burkhead: 3 Carries, 15 Yards | 3 Targets, 2 Receptions, 13 Yards
Dameon Pierce started off on the right foot with a move in the backfield on penetration from the Jaguars’ defensive line to make positive yardage out of nothing. He later had a high pass go through his hands off a play-action, a tough catch but one he could have made. Early on, Houston mainly ran Pierce into the line like a battering ram, with lackluster results.
Towards the end of the first quarter, Pierce had a nice 12-yard run up the middle where he showed nifty footwork and cutting, and then followed the run up with a seven-yarder where he drug multiple tacklers along with him. On the very next play, Pierce broke a long run on a cutback where he stopped on a dime and took advantage of the over-pursuing Jaguars’ defense. On the same drive on 3rd and 4, Houston stubbornly ran Pierce up the middle and he was swallowed immediately by the defense.
Pierce picked up momentum in the second half and did a nice job finding holes up the middle where it seemed there was nothing. The Texans drew up a play-action screen pass to Pierce on the same drive for a nice 10-yard gain and a first down. Pierce at one point took a hit and was spelled by Burkhead for one play, but was right back in the game and was clearly the lead back throughout. Pierce dropped an easy check down on 2nd and 20, so he didn’t show off much in the passing game, but they did look his way often. On the game-winning drive, Pierce broke multiple tackles on the back-breaking run of the game, setting up a short touchdown for himself on the ensuing series after the Texans kept calling his number at the goal line. Pierce was a physical runner throughout and is clearly talented, but the Texans may not be able to funnel the offense solely through Pierce in most matchups. He will need the passing game to wake up to take some pressure off of him as the year progresses.
Rex Burkhead was on the field for the first third down of the game but didn’t see a ton of action overall. He caught a swing pass while spelling Pierce, but was quickly back off the field. Burkhead made a linebacker miss on third and long to convert a simple run for a first down. He later received a toss where he looked fresh, and he was generally solid — but he just isn’t on the field much at this point, and is the clear complementary option to Pierce.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Nico Collins: 6 Targets, 4 Receptions, 65 Yards
Jordan Akins: 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 22 Yards
Brandin Cooks: 6 Targets, 4 Receptions, 20 Yards
Mason Schreck: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 6 Yards
O.J. Howard: 1 Target
There wasn’t much to analyze at the receiver position with just 24 passing attempts on the day. Nico Collins caught a deep slant early on off play-action for a nice gain. Later Collins drew a deep sideline target on 3rd and 9 that really had no chance at completion. He had a huge catch in the fourth quarter on an underthrown ball where he won the jump ball battle, probably the unsung play of the game up to that point. Collins made another tough catch in tight coverage later in the drive, and while he wasn’t gaining big separation, he was one of the few players on the Texans’ offense making plays.
Brandin Cooks was a relative non-factor in this one. Houston looked his way early, with one of his catches on a bubble screen, and he had a couple of early near completions on the sideline with plenty of defensive coverage looking his way. Cooks caught a quick hitter for three yards backed up in their own end zone and followed that up with another quick, short reception. Cooks saw almost nothing thrown his way downfield, and without the big-play yardage in this one, there was just nowhere near enough passing volume for a productive fantasy day.
Jordan Akins had a big 3rd and 10 catch for a first down on the game-winning drive, extending late for the first down. He was hardly noticeable otherwise.
Trevor Lawrence: 25/47, 286 Yards, 2 INT | 4 Carries, 29 Yards
On the opening 3rd and 9 of the game, Trevor Lawrence had Zay Jones open, but the pass was thrown high and off the fingers of his receiver. Jones had a chance to catch it, but Lawrence could have placed the ball better as well. Jacksonville started the second drive backed up in their own end zone, and it was the run game that moved them downfield. Lawrence was high again over the middle to Marvin Jones Jr., an early theme, for an incomplete pass. Lawrence then threw well short of the sticks on a check down to Zay Jones to set up a 4th and 5. Later Jacksonville drove into the red zone primarily on runs, read options, and play action. The play sequence from first and goal from the nine went stuffed run, an incomplete high pass in the end zone, and a pressured third down where Lawrence was forced to roll out and throw it away to set up a field goal.
The Jaguars started out an early second-quarter drive with three straight runs, including a 3rd and 1 designed run from Lawrence that barely converted the first down. He then got a play-action roll out where he finally got to push the ball downfield, and he rifled a big gain to Jones Jr. Lawrence tried to force a play-action to Jones Jr. later on the drive and was nearly intercepted as the pass was a bit late. On a 3rd and 8, the Jaguars chose to run the ball to set up a manageable 4th and 3, where Lawrence then fired over the middle into tight coverage off the defenders’ hands.
Lawrence found most of his success over the middle, and on a 2nd and 18, he lasered a pass down the seam to Evan Engram over the linebacker for one of his best throws of the day. Later Lawrence found Dan Arnold near the sideline for a solid gain in the two-minute offense. Lawrence then entered the red zone and began checking down too quickly, and the Jaguars had to use a timeout with the clock stopped in a relatively poor time-management display. Lawrence made a nice play with a pass rush coming up the middle, hitting Etienne in stride, who unfortunately dropped the ball. Jacksonville settled for a field goal to cap the two-minute drive.
Lawrence started the second half with a nice seam pass to Engram for a 20+ yard play, and his best plays on the day were downfield looks where he got to open things up and show off his arm. They had a similar chunk play over the middle to Jones Jr. later that drive, the same area of the field where all of their big plays seemed to be. The Jaguars looked like they were really rolling to start the half. After driving the length of the field, Jacksonville was faced with a 2nd and 1 inside the ten, and Lawrence forced an awful pass for an interception to end the drive. He was rolling out and completely missed Derek Stingley Jr. coming off of his man and threw it right to him.
On the next drive, Lawrence had a nice throw down the field over the middle to Jones Jr. for a big gain. When he was able to push the ball downfield he looked good, but Lawrence often never got there on his progressions, or the play call was geared toward a short throw. On a 3rd and 5 late, he bought time in the pocket and scrambled well for a first down, something I would like to see more of. He does an excellent job keeping himself out of harm’s way in general, but I’d like to see him take off and run when the game is on the line.
Lawrence took over with three minutes left in the game and down a touchdown, and the drive went dropped pass, missed connection downfield to Engram, batted ball at the line of scrimmage, and a forced throw on a double move deep to Engram that had no chance and landed out of bounds. Jacksonville would get a final desperation drive, where Lawrence’s second interception came on the final hail-mary attempt. Overall, the Jaguars’ offense looked like it lacked playmakers in general, which sapped any big-play ability that Lawrence may possess.
Travis Etienne Jr.: 10 Carries, 71 Yards | 5 Targets, 3 Receptions, 43 Yards
James Robinson: 10 Carries, 27 Yards | 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 12 Yards
JaMycal Hasty: 1 Carry, 6 Yards
Travis Etienne Jr. looked like the Jaguars’ most explosive playmaker today. Early on he really shined, starting with a nice early run on a well-blocked play, with a cutback where he was able to flash his speed. He then broke a 30-yard run showing off his speed again on a read option. Etienne later produced a big chunk play off of play-action, a play designed to get Etienne in space.
Houston then seemed to begin to focus on the run, and Etienne was blown up for a 3-yard loss on a play that had no chance. Etienne had a shifty run for nine yards on 1st and 10, using his speed to produce forward momentum through tacklers. He had a nice red zone reception called back by offensive holding, and he really does look like Alvin Kamara at times, in part because of how he wears his uniform, but in part because of his pass-catching ability and speed. Etienne caught the next pass for a nice gain but fumbled the ball, though the play was reviewed and reversed to a dropped pass and incompletion.
Etienne received the opening handoff in the second half so he was not penalized for the drop, but the Texans’ defense really locked down on Etienne to start the half. He nearly had daylight on a wide run but stumbled to no gain. In the red zone, Jacksonville drew up an end around for a solid gain that had a shot at a touchdown. But Lawrence was intercepted to end the drive on the next play. Etienne was very impressive overall, and his speed is a much-needed element to this Jaguars offense that lacks yards after the catch options in the passing game. Outside of a couple of drops, Etienne looked like a very impressive young running back.
James Robinson took a read option up an open hole for an 8-yard run early in the game and then converted the ensuing rush for a first down. It was relatively downhill from there, however. Robinson took over for Etienne after a run in the two-minute drive and caught a pass for a first down. Otherwise, Robinson was clearly the second option in the running game, as the read options and wide runs that were available seemed to suit Etienne better. Robinson was stuffed on a crucial 4th and 1 read option and played 30 snaps to Etienne’s 40 on the day. With no big rushes, no touchdowns, and a limited pass-catching role, there are going to be days like this for Robinson’s fantasy managers.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Marvin Jones Jr.: 11 Targets, 7 Receptions, 104 Yards
Evan Engram: 10 Targets, 6 Receptions, 69 Yards
Dan Arnold: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 20 Yards
Chris Manhertz: 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 15 Yards
Zay Jones: 8 Targets, 3 Receptions, 12 Yards
Christian Kirk: 3 Targets, 1 Reception, 11 Yards
Jamal Agnew: 1 Carry, 3 Yards | 1 Target
Marvin Jones Jr. had a 37-yard reception on a play-action bootleg from Lawrence where Jones crossed the whole field before making the reception. He had a late developing first-down reception on 3rd down on a short pass. He caught another tough pass on an in-breaker on the final drive of the game and was consistently racking up chunk plays, although he brought very little run-after-the-catch ability to the offense. Jones was the most reliable option in the offense on in-breaking intermediate routes, as the Texans’ two deep safety looks made this the best area to attack. Lawrence likely earned some of Lawrence’s trust in this one, though there are enough other options in this offense that he is unlikely to be a consistent high-volume receiver.
Christian Kirk was the target of a 4th and 3 past midfield in the second quarter, and Houston had coverage both in front and behind Kirk and the ball never made it to him. He had a short dump-off reception in the two-minute drill that did more harm than good in running time off the clock and gaining minimal yardage. Kirk did draw a holding call on a third down that won’t show up in the box score, but was relatively non-existent throughout. Houston seemed to bracket him with coverage often, which was clearly seen when he was the target of a play-action deep shot that had no chance of completion. Lawrence did not force the ball Kirk’s way, and the Jaguars did little to scheme him the ball. If teams look to take Kirk out of the game with double coverage often, there could be more disappointing performance coming for Kirk.
Zay Jones caught a screen just outside the red zone where the Texans were playing two deep safety for a first down and was also the target on the red zone interception. Jones received another screen for a short gain and had a downfield target over the middle that was just off his fingertips. Jones was on the injury report all week but still saw a healthy amount of targets, but expecting him to be a consistent option may be pushing our luck.
Evan Engram was eating over the middle of the field on seam balls, and caught a pass on 3rd and 7 where he really battled for yardage to nearly gain the first down. He did have a typical drop on an easy first down catch late in the game, but Engram was one of the only options for Jacksonville that was able to get open downfield. With the lackluster options at wide receiver, especially if teams look to take away Kirk, Engram will likely be needed as a key piece of this passing game.