The Texans defense will look to rattle another young quarterback this Sunday when they head to Jacksonville to take on second year quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars. Familiarity has bred contempt between these two teams over the last ten years and this should be an interesting game despite the two teams going in different directions at the moment. The Texans currently own a 11-9 record against the Jaguars including winning the last three games in a row. The Texans are the obvious favorite going into the game on Sunday, but the Jaguars are more capable than the Dolphins in taking advantage of a slow start if the Texans are sluggish again early in the game. Here are a couple of key areas to look at where the game will be won or lost.
Blaine Gabbert - The Jaguars took Gabbert in the top 10 of the 2011 draft and he struggled to say the least during his rookie season. Overall in 2011 Gabbert threw for 2,214 yards (147.6 per game), completed just 50.8% of his passes, with 12 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. Many people, including myself, were ready to write off Gabbert as a bust after his rookie season, but he's shown improvement during the pre-season this year and in their week one game against the Vikings. During the pre-season, Gabbert completed 61% of his passes and threw three touchdowns and zero interceptions. In their week one loss to Minnesota, Gabbert threw for 260 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Of course, it was just the pre-season and it was just the Vikings, but the Gabbert of last year would have stunk even in those scenarios. This week against the Texans will be his first true test to whether or not he's turned the corner. The Texans intercepted three passes last week against the Dolphins; I expect them to put pressure on Gabbert consistently and force at least one interception on Sunday.
Texans Run Game - The run game of the Texans struggled last week against Miami and could have similar problems this week in Jacksonville. In their first meeting last season the Texans ran for 159 yards, but on just 4.0 yards per carry; half a yard under their season average. In their second meeting, the Texans rushed for 88 yards on 31 carries; a pathetic 2.83 yards per carry. To be fair, the last game was without Schaub so the Jaguars crowded the box and sold out against the run the entire game, so the number was artificially deflated. Overall the Jaguars ranked ninth in rushing yards allowed and were tied for fourth in rushing yards per carry allowed (3.8) last season. If the right side of the Texans line doesn't improve, the rushing lanes will again be small and force the offense again to win the game with the passing game. Matt Schaub is capable of beating the Jaguars through the air, but a balanced attack that doesn't expose the quarterback to possibly taking more hits is preferable.
Follow me on Twitter: @sackedbybmac
For more on the Texans, check out the Battle Red Blog!