Game Preview: Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars

Dameon Pierce needs the ball more. Photo courtesy of Houston Texans

Game Preview: Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars

The Matchup:

Houston Texans (0-3-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)

Game Time: Sunday, October 9, Noon CT

TV/Radio: KHOU-11 (CBS)/ KILT-AM 610/KILT-FM 100.3/KLOL 101.1FM (Spanish)

What’s at stake: The Texans are seeking their first win of the season; they are 0-1-1 in the division. Houston is looking for consistency both offensively and defensively. After three straight late-game failures, the Texans’ second-half rally fell short in Week 4.

The Jaguars sit atop the AFC South at 2-2 (tied with Tennessee) and are 1-0 in the division. Jacksonville is looking to build on a solid start and continue to push their rebuild forward.

When the Texans have the ball: RB Dameon Pierce has been the lone consistent positive for Houston. He ran for a career-high 131 yards in Week 4, and the Texans have stated they need to get him the ball more. Pierce’s 75-yard TD run in Week 4 is the 3rd longest in team history. Davis Mills has been under heavy fire for inconsistent play and has failed to reach his level of play from the final five games of last season, let alone progress from there. Brandin Cooks has struggled to get going as well, and the Texans’ top receiver will need to break through as the receivers group will be without Chris Moore (Out).

When the Jaguars have the ball: Second-year QB Trevor Lawrence has looked much more like the 2021 first-overall pick this season. He is completing 65.7% of his passes for 946 yards, 8 TD, and 2 INT. However, he is coming off five turnover games, including four lost fumbles. His top target is WR Christian Kirk, who leads the team with 327 yards and 3 TD. The Jaguars employ a two-headed monster in the backfield with James Robinson (259 yds, 4.4 YPC) and Travis Etienne Jr. (144 yds, 4.2 YPC), which they will use to try to exploit the Texans 31st ranked run defense.

Key Texans to watch:

WR Brandin Cooks: Cooks has gotten off to a slow start this season, struggling to get on the same page with QB Davis Mills. He has only 20 receptions through 4 games on 36 targets for 215 yards and 1 TD. Cooks has five 100-yard games and 5 TD in six games versus Jacksonville and would like to add to those totals Sunday.

RB Dameon Pierce: Pierce is coming off his best game of the season and has shown to be the team’s most consistent offensive weapon. Pierce is a fierce runner who runs defenders over as well as making them miss and has excelled at gaining yards after contact. Texans offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said earlier this week that the team needs to get Pierce the ball more, and they also need to do a better job of mixing up plays between Pierce and RB Rex Burkhead. The team has gotten predictable in their play calling, depending on which back is in the game. Burkhead has only three carries in the last three weeks, all against the Bears in Week 3.

DL Mario Addison: Addison will make his season debut this week. Head coach Lovie Smith has remarked about the speed Addison brings off the edge and how it brings a very different dynamic to the pass rush. Addison has also established himself as a leader on the defense, and multiple teammates, including Jon Greenard, have expressed excitement at his return.

LB Christian Harris: The 3rd round pick from Alabama is also expected to make his season debut Sunday after spending the entire season on IR with a hamstring injury suffered early in training camp. Texans LB coach Miles Smith called Harris “pure athleticism.” His speed will bring a much-needed dimension to a linebackers group that has been the weakest unit on the defense thus far. His speed has impressed coaches and teammates alike. With Blake Cashman (Out) in the concussion protocol and Jake Hansen added to the injury report Friday and listed as Questionable, Harris could be pressed into more service than the team initially planned.

The Bottom Line: The frustration is mounting for the Texans. Head coach Lovie Smith is clearly tiring of giving the same answers each week as to what is going wrong. QB Davis Mills’ accuracy and decision-making have been inconsistent at best, and the clock must be ticking on the team’s faith in him regardless of their public statements. The pass rush was non-existent in Week 4 vs. the Chargers, and they will need to pressure Trevor Lawrence and try to force turnovers to get their first win. The Texans have won 8 straight vs. Jacksonville, and a win over their division rivals would help get the team back on the right track in their development.

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