Running for Their Lives

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October 12, 2007
Running for Their Lives
by Jimmy Mohr

As the Texans venture into Week 6 of the 2007 season, Gary Kubiak and his troops should be feeling pretty good about themselves. Their record of 3-2 represents the best start in team history, and they have accomplished the feat without the services of Andre Johnson and Ahman Green for the past three games. The Texans expect Green back in the lineup for Sunday’s road game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and his return couldn’t have come at a better time. The running game has been in shambles since he went down with a sprained knee, and the Jags defense has allowed only 2.6 yards per carry over their last three games.

After sweeping the season series last year, the Texans have won 6 of their 10 meetings with Jacksonville. If they plan on running their win total to 7, they will have to figure out how to run on the Jaguars nearly impenetrable defensive front. Since the Titans raped the Jags for 282 rushing yards in Week 1, their run defense has regrouped and allowed only 139 in their last three games combined. On the flip side, since Ahman Green was forced to the sideline, the Texans have tumbled to 29th in the league in yards per carry (3.2). While his presence in the lineup should be a big boost, it remains to be seen how sharp he will be after resting his knee for last two-plus weeks.

With a defense that ranks 11th in the NFL (9th run, 15th pass) one would think that the Texans have little concern when their offense is on the sideline. Despite their statistical success, there are glaring issues that have emerged in recent weeks that Richard Smith’s defense must address. Over their past three games, the defense has had trouble pressuring the quarterback (4 sacks), creating turnovers (1) and stopping opponents on 3rd down (51% success rate). Amplifying the severity of these issues is the fact that two of their last three opponents hadn’t won a single game. These three facets will have to improve this Sunday or the Texans can kiss their winning record goodbye.

Good times are being had by all in Jacksonville these days. Head Coach Jack Del Rio has his team riding a 3-game winning streak and his players have done it playing his old school style of football with a tough defense and an efficient offense.

Defensively, 10 starters from last year’s 2nd ranked unit have returned for 2007, and while they have slipped to 7th in total defense, they allow only 10.2 points per game (2nd NFL). What should concern the Texans offense is their ability to stop the run. They limited Chiefs RB Larry Johnson to 12 yards rushing last week and have to be licking their chops to have the 25th ranked running game coming to town. The Jags’ main run stoppers are DT Marcus Stroud, SS Sammy Knight and MLB Mike Peterson.

Behind QB David Garrard, Jacksonville’s offense ranks only 25th in NFL in scoring (15.8/game), but is 4th in time of possession and tied with the Colts for fewest turnovers committed. Garrard has yet to throw an interception in 102 attempts and his 105.4 passer rating ranks 4th in the NFL. His success is due to the effectiveness of his two running backs, Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. They have led Jacksonville to top ten ranking in rushing yards and have accounted for nearly 40% of the team’s total yardage.

What to Expect When the Texans have the ball…
Gary Kubiak’s running game faltered again last week, managing only 74 yards against the league’s worst run defense. He has spread the blame amongst Ron Dayne, the offensive line, and his own play calling. With Ahman Green returning this week, his speed should allow Kubiak to run the ball to the outside more often. As aggressive as the Jaguars are against the run, any success the Texans have should open up play action and allow them to hit a big play. If the running game falters, it will be back to the drawing board for Coach Kubes.

Matt Schaub and the passing game have held their own since Andre Johnson and Jacoby Jones were sidelined with injuries. In their absence, TE Owen Daniels and WR Andre Davis have been huge; in fact, Daniels now leads the team in receptions (24) and receiving yards (293). Jones is expected to return to the line-up this week and his presence will give the receiving corps some much needed speed. While the Jaguars secondary is solid, they are susceptible to the deep ball having allowed three completions of over 30 yards in their past three games.

When the Jaguars have the ball…
Jacksonville loves to run a ball-control style of offense behind their two horsemen Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. The pair has combined for 389 yards on 97 carries and they are the main reason their team holds the ball for an average of 33:11 per game. Taylor is in his 10th year in the league and needs only 280 yards to eclipse 10,000 for his career. He will start on Sunday, but Jones-Drew will see considerable time in the backfield as well, especially on third down. He is the bigger threat as a receiver and ranks third on the team with 9 receptions for 86 yards.

The Jaguars passing attack makes the most of their receptions, ranking 29th in the NFL in attempts per game, but they are 3rd in yards per catch with 8.3. WR Dennis Northcutt leads the team with 15 receptions for 242 yards and owns 5 of the team’s 11 completions of 20+ yards. The three tight ends on the Jaguars roster are Garrard’s favorite targets having combined for 21 of his 68 completions. Of the three, Marcedes Lewis leads the pack with 12 receptions for 131 yards.

Match-Ups to Watch

Gary Kubiak vs. Jack Del Rio
This game will pit two head coaches who are both former players. The offensive minded Kubiak has a 9-12 record as the Texans head coach and has turned around a team that won only two games in 2005. Despite his mild success while at the helm, his offense remains a work in progress. The running game, the bread and butter of his offense, has been pathetic. With his #1 running back returning this week, if the ground game continues to falter, he can expect the losses to begin to pile up.

Jack Del Rio is in his fifth season as Jacksonville’s head coach and owns a 37-31 record. His forte is defense and over the past four seasons his defense is fourth in yards allowed (296.6/game) and third in points surrendered (16.1/game). His 4-6 record against the Texans is not exactly the highlight of his resume, so he should have his team pumped up for this Sunday’s game.

Dexter Wynn vs. Maurice Jones-Drew
With Jerome Mathis out yet again with a leg injury, it is up to Dexter Wynn to set the Texans up with good field position. He has done an adequate job averaging 31.2 yards per return, nearly 10 yards above his career average. His one major flaw is his lack of speed. In 74 career returns, his longest is 39 yards which he accomplished this year.

Jones-Drew has excellent speed and has the Jaguars ranked #1 in kick return average. Of his 37 career kick returns, 7 have gone for 40 yards or more with one of them resulting in a touchdown. With an offense that is not going to score many points, field position is crucial to the team’s success.

Kris Brown vs. John Carney
There is a greater than 50/50 chance that this one comes down to a field goal. Considering the Texans needed five Kris Brown field goals last week to squeak out a win against a poor defense, they are likely to need plenty of three pointers this week as well. He has hit on 13 of his 14 attempts this season and has connected on all three of his attempts outside of 50 yards.

Carney is in his 18th NFL season and is filling in for Josh Scobee while Scobee recovers from a quadricep injury to his kicking leg. Carney’s range is not what it once was, having only attempted a single field goal greater than 50 yards in his last 35 games, so expect the Jaguars to shy away from attempts outside of the Texans 30-yard line.

Three Keys to Victory 1. Control the clock
Jacksonville has lost just a single game this year, and it’s no coincidence that it was the only time this season they have not held the ball for more than 30 minutes. In order for the Texans to accomplish this task, without question they will have to run the football. Gary Kubiak says he has spent this week concentrating heavily on the running game knowing full well that without success on the ground they will be dead in the water on Sunday. The Jags offense has scored only six touchdowns in their four games and rank 25th in scoring with 15.8 points per game. The less scoring chances they have the more likely the Texans are to keep the game in hand.

2. Schaub to Daniels Without his biggest weapon to throw to in Andre Johnson, Schaub will have to utilize his newest favorite target in TE Owen Daniels. Last week, Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez caught 8 balls for 100 yards against the Jags, both season highs. Daniels has been a fantasy stud in recent weeks and needs to come thru with a big game this Sunday. Surprisingly, he has yet to score a touchdown this year despite his 24 receptions. This would be a perfect game for him to get off the schneid.

3. Mix-up the Playcalling
When is the last time the Texans ran a trick play? While Kubiak’s nature can be best described as conservative, why not run a reverse or two? The running game needs help and a reverse would at least keep the Jaguars front seven honest. The Titans ran one against them in week one on their seventh play from scrimmage and it gained 19 yards. Was it the reason Tennessee went on to rush for 282 total yards? Maybe not, but it certainly didn’t hurt their cause.

Views on the Game

Blake says: Prediction under construction.

Bob says: No Carr. No Leftwich. Do we still have their number? Texans 16, Jaguars 13…in OT

Jimmy says: The Jags are just too tough against the run and without it the Texans can’t beat good teams. Jaguars 16, Texans 13

Keith says: Sadly, it might be time to feel the teal, and yes, I think it’s gross too. Jaguars 17, Texans 16

Mike says: LJ could’nt run on them, neither can we. Jaguars 24 Texans 16

Ric says: They owe us a beat-down. Jaguars 27, Texans 13

Roy says: They can’t pass and we can’t run. Unfortunately, they will pass better than we run. Jaguars 24, Texans 13

Warren says: The Jags are due another bitter defeat. Texans 17, Jaguars 16

2007 Regular Season Records
Blake 4-1; Bob 3-2; Jimmy 4-1; Keith 3-2;
Mike 3-2; Ric 1-4; Roy 3-2; Warren 2-3

Week 6 Jacksonville Jaguars
2007 Record: (3-1)
10.14.07 | 12pm
Jacksonville, FL Texans Leaders Matt Schaub
111/157, 1,299 yds, 5/4 Ron Dayne
62/179, 2.9 YPC, 1 TD Owen Daniels
24/293, 12.2 YPC, 0 TD Jaguars Leaders David Garrard
68/102, 848 yds, 4/0 Fred Taylor
55/207, 3.8 YPC, 0 TD

Dennis Northcutt
15/242, 16.1 YPC, 1 TD

2007 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.11 Chicago 19-20 08.18 at Arizona 33-20 08.25 Dallas 28-16 08.30 at Tampa Bay 24-31 Regular Season 09.09 Kansas City 20-3 09.16 at Carolina 34-21 09.23 Indianapolis 24-30  09.30 at Atlanta 16-26 10.07 Miami 22-19 10.14 at Jacksonville 17-37 10.21 Tennessee 36-38 10.28 at San Diego   11.04 at Oakland   11.11 BYE  — 11.18 New Orleans   11.25 at Cleveland   12.02 at Tennessee   12.09 Tampa Bay   12.13 Denver   12.23 at Indianapolis   12.30 Jacksonville     Overall Record 3-4