After Deshaun Watson threw the first interception of his career, my mom turned to me and said, “Well at least it wasn’t returned for a touchdown? If this was Matt Schaub, it would have been a pick-six.” You know things are bad when fans are complimenting your quarterback’s tackling abilities.
As Texans fans, we should have known by now that strong tackling form is a prerequisite of playing quarterback for this franchise. In that respect, Watson shedding a blocker and bringing down Tashaun Gipson late in the fourth quarter was an exhibition of his franchise quarterback material. In many ways though, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ full-throttle steamrolling of the Texans made it abundantly clear that this team has a long way to go.
First, the Jaguars are definitely better than I expected. Their defense is loaded with young and veteran talent and added a shutdown corner in 2016 named A.J. Bouye to a solid unit. They deserve a lot of credit for the beating the Texans’ offense took. That said, the offense’s performance was completely, utterly unacceptable.
The offensive line was atrocious. An “F” grade doesn’t even come close. Xavier Su’a-Filo hasn’t improved since he came into the league and was routinely beaten Sunday. Jeff Allen was supposed to stabilize the revolving door at right guard and has been far from consistent. Kendall Lamm is a decent blocking tight end but a disaster at left tackle. And Breno Giacomini started five games for the Jets last year.
Many fans will call for Duane Brown to end his holdout after the Week 1 fiasco, and still others will say that Brown holds significant leverage in negotiations now. The fact remains that even with Brown, the offensive line assembled by Rick Smith and thrown out there by Bill O’Brien is hilariously overmatched and liable to get whomever is playing quarterback killed.
Calais Campbell set Jacksonville’s record for sacks in a game before halftime. The Jaguars got after the quarterback so often that the team’s official Twitter changed its name.
By the end of the second quarter, the fans in the 500/600-levels of NRG Stadium were chanting, “we want Watson!” Tom Savage was thrown to the wolves this week and cannot be solely blamed for the offense’s putrid performance in the first half. Yes, Savage held the ball for too long and was culpable for at least three of the sacks he took by my count. Yes, Savage showed a complete lack of mobility, seemingly refusing to step up in the pocket or move off his spot unless he was backpedaling straight into oncoming rushers. Yes, Savage also seemed to struggle with keeping hold of the ball when he took sacks. Yes, Savage’s checkdowns looked pretty similar to a year ago. Ok, so Savage can shoulder a good amount of blame. Savage’s poor mobility and indecisiveness are a worst case scenario for the sorry state of the Texans offensive line.
In addition to the offensive line and quarterback play, the blame should be shared by the Texans wide receivers, Rick Smith and Bill O’Brien, in ascending order.
Decimated my injuries and suspensions, the Texans receiving corps struggled to gain separation from Bouye and Jalen Ramsey all game. DeAndre Hopkins was the only player to consistently look open. Neither Braxton Miller nor Bruce Ellington had a catch and were only targeted three times combined. By the end of the game, running back Tyler Ervin was lining up in the slot. Considering the absences of Will Fuller and Jaelen Strong, the passers were set up for failure by a lack of depth and talent at the wide receiver position.
The blame for a lack of depth falls predominantly on the shoulders of Smith, whose talent evaluation skills early in his career with the Texans have blinded owner Bob McNair to the reality of the team’s situation. Houston’s starting lineup has top tier talent at several positions, but when injuries pile up and depth is tested, the cupboard is bare in the worst way.
O’Brien certainly shares a portion of the blame re: personnel decisions. On Sunday, he was out-coached in every way by Doug Marrone. Doug freaking Marrone. Thanks to O’Brien, the Texans lost to the Jaguars for the first time since 2013. He’ll tell you the same thing.
In the six games that the Texans had faced Blake Bortles before today, all Houston victories, the Jaguars’ quarterback has completed just 53.4% of passes, thrown eight interceptions (and just six touchdowns), and been sacked 24 times. And yet, O’Brien and defensive coordinator Mike Vraebel seemed to gameplan to stop him instead of the No. 4 overall pick and undercover Mack truck Leonard Fournette. The Jaguars took some of the air out of the crowd early by marching 51 yards for a field goal on the game’s opening drive. Kevin Johnson was beaten twice for big gains after Fournette pounded through the Texans front seven on the game’s first two plays.
That the Texans offensive line was outmatched was clear after just the first drive. Lamar Miller was stuffed at the line of scrimmage on the first play. Savage was dropped for a seven-yard loss on the second as Campbell busted through the middle. On the third, Savage and Hopkins failed to connect on a deep pass down the sideline as the Jaguars again pressured the pocket. Even in the stands, we knew it was going to be a long day.
Ask any high school quarterback—how do you outmatch a strong pass rush? Quick passes and yards after the catch. But O’Brien continued to call five-step drops, and the Jaguars defensive line had their ears pinned back. They were on the hunt, and by the time O’Brien adjusted at halftime, it was too late.
The Texans lost this game with poor talent, poor scouting and poor depth.
Next up for Houston is a Thursday night matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals. But hey, at least they looked just as bad today!