I'll say this for Texans head coach (and de facto general manager) Bill O'Brien — if he is pushing all of his chips into the middle of the table for 2019 (and certainly, his behavior indicates that's precisely what he is doing, even if his words contradict that), he is not leaving any stones unturned. There are no boring days with the 2019 Texans.
On Tuesday, the team was announcing a contract extension for center Nick Martin
in the morning, and by the afternoon, they were signing cornerback (and Rice graduate) Phillip Gaines to replace ousted slot cornerback Aaron Colvin, who was roasted so badly by the Saints on Monday that he probably has griddle marks across his ass.
I have no idea if all of this results in anything better than an 8-8 season (I've predicted the Texans will go 10-6, and actually feel better about that prediction now than I did before the loss to the Saints on Monday night), but I'm here for the drama, and you should be, too! Now, here come the Jacksonville Jaguars, who entered the season a slight favorite to reclaim the AFC South crown after Colts QB Andrew Luck decided to retire. However, that was before the Jags' new QB, Nick Foles, broke a clavicle in Week 1. As a result, rookie Gardner Minshew (and actual football player, not a Shakespearian drama professor, as his name seems to indicate) will be under center for the Jags. Good times!
Let's quick hit a few storylines and give you all a prediction on what shapes up as an early season "must win" for the Texans. Here is what I'll be watching...
4. Laremy Tunsil
It wasn't the best game for the Texans' new left tackle on Monday, as Tunsil allowed four quarterback pressures and a couple sacks. Some disjointedness is to be expected, what with Tunsil arriving in Houston after the entire preseason was over. Now, the game on Sunday, you could argue, is the exact reason why the Texans gave up a couple of first round picks for Tunsil. Back in the 2017 season opener, the Jaguars sacked Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson a combined ten times. On that day, Kendall Lamm was the starting left tackle for the Texans, and he had one of the worst games I've ever seen a tackle play for this team (which is saying something, considering what this team has trotted out there at tackle). Tunsil will get a heavy dose of rookie Josh Allen and Yannick Ngakoue, and it will be imperative he keep those guys off of Deshaun Watson, and equally imperative that he opens holes for Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson, who combined for nearly 140 yards rushing on Monday night, in the run game.
3. J.J. Watt
For the first time in his NFL career, on Monday night, J.J. Watt was held completely off the box score. No tackles, no sacks, no passes knocked down, no QB hits, nothing. Even with Jadeveon Clowney (and the attention he would garner from opposing offensive lines) now gone, I fully expect Watt to bounce back, if for no other reason than I watched every practice at training camp, and Watt looked like the 2014-2015 version of himself. Sunday afternoon should be a nice "get well" game for Watt, as he will be lined up across from rookie right tackle Jawaaan Taylor, and I would expect Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to find some creative ways to free up Watt, after he pretty much ran head first into conventional double teams for 60 snaps on Monday night. Speaking of Crennel....
2. Romeo Crennel
The 72 year old defensive coordinator caught a lot of heat for what appeared to be some questionable strategy late in the game on Monday, specifically on the Saints final snap from scrimmage before the wining field goal, in which Drew Brees took a necessary 10 yards of cushion that Colvin was giving on wide receiver Ted Ginn, and moved the Saints into position to kick the wining field goal. As it turns out, judging by the team's termination of Colvin on Tuesday (not to mention all the other defensive backs on the field playing some form of press coverage), it was probably more a Colvin issue than a Crennel issue. Now, this Sunday, Crennel will get his favorite dish served to him — a rookie quarterback starting on the other side in Minshew. Last season, Crennel was 3-0 against rookie starting quarterbacks.
1. The law firm of Hopkins, Fuller, and Stills
On paper, the Jags have a very good pass defense, led by cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. However, in Week 1 against the Chiefs, the Jags had given up over 300 yards passing to Patrick Mahomes by halftime, and that was with the Chiefs playing without WR Tyreek Hill for most of the half. The tackling was poor and the coverage was shoddy, and the Texans wide receiving corps will be looking to similarly expose the Jags' secondary. Hopkins has always saved his best for his battles with Ramsey, but now entering a game with Fuller healthy and with the additions of Stills and running back Duke Johnson, it's truly a "pick your poison" situation for the Jaguars. If the offensive line can give Watson time — HUGE if — he should have similar success to what Mahomes experienced last week.
SPREAD: Texans -9
PREDICTION: Texans 24, Jaguars 16
SEASON RECORD: 1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS
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