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First Glance: Texans at Jaguars
December 15, 2017 09:48 PM | Drew Dougherty


The Texans (4-9) travel to Jacksonville (9-4) for a matchup with the AFC South leader. The Jaguars took the first meeting this season when the two squads met at NRG Stadium in Week 1. Here are five things to watch when the Houston squares off with Jacksonville at EverBank Field.

1. T.J. Time- For the first time since 2015, T.J. Yates will start under center for the Texans. He came off the bench last Sunday and promptly tossed a pair of touchdown passes to DeAndre Hopkins. Yates would finish the day completing 53.8 percent of his passes for 175 yards.

Not too shabby for someone who hadn't taken any first-team reps this season. Hopkins said Yates' ability to practice with the 1's this week has yielded some improvement.

"Of course, without a doubt," Hopkins said. "He's been here before in this offense for a little while, but he's definitely improving."



While Yates has a comfort level with Hopkins, so too do the Texans with Yates.

"He's been there before," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "He knows our system. He's a smart guy. I thought he did some good things on Sunday in a tough spot. It's not hard to get him ready, you know what I mean?"

For Yates, sliding back into game action wasn't tough, because of his familiarity with the organization.

"I'm comfortable with the guys up front, comfortable with the receivers I was throwing to," Yates said. "Guys and coaches and players that I've been around before, so it definitely made it a lot easier."



2. Hop vs. Ramsey/Bouye- Speaking of Hopkins, he leads the NFL with 11 touchdown receptions this season. He caught one against the Jaguars in Week 1, and finished that contest with seven catches for 55 yards. Hopkins was matched up against the NFL's finest cornerback tandem in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. That duo has spearheaded the League's top-ranked pass defense, as Jacksonville allows an average of just 174.2 yards per game.



Hopkins, though, is up for the challenge. He said it's "what I live for", and he loves matching up against the best. He respects both, and shared his thoughts on the "good, young" Ramsey.

"I know what he likes to do on the field, I know his game," Hopkins said. "I think it's fun. It's entertaining. If you're not having fun, why are you out there on the field?"

Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone, meanwhile, has the utmost respect for Hopkins.



"DeAndre Hopkins is a tough matchup for anyone," Marrone said. "We've played a lot of good receivers this year and it's not a matter of one defensive back, whether it's A.J., Jalen or T-Gip (Tashaun Gipson) or (Aaron) Colvin or Barry Church. We all have to play well in the scheme."

In addition to his NFL lead in scoring catches. Hopkins is second in the League in receptions (88), yards (1,233), catches of 20 yards or more (21), yards per game (94.8) and receptions for first downs (63).

3. Protection plus- The last time these two teams met, the Jaguars rang up 10 sacks. The offensive line, like the rest of the team, struggled mightily in that game. But since, they've steadily improved. Protecting Yates and giving him time is a must if the Texans want to win, and Houston has to mix up what they do up front.

"You have to change it," O'Brien said. "You can't do what you did in the first game. You have to change up how you protect the edge of the front. You have to change up how you run the ball. You have to change up your routes. You have to change everything because nothing we did in the first game was any good."



To mitigate the pass rush of the Jaguars, Yates said he must have a quick trigger.

"It's definitely going to be a point of emphasis for us," Yates said. "We know what type of defense we're going up against and how talented they are up front and in the backend, so we have to be sharp. Definitely the ball has to come out quick."

4. Take over turnover battle- The Texans are minus-8 this season in turnover differential, which is tied for 27th in the NFL. The Jaguars are atop the League in turnover differential at plus-14. That's a huge improvement over their minus-16 from 2016.

In Week 1, the Texans turned it over four times, and didn't generate any takeaways. Defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel pointed out how careful the Jaguars have been on offense this season.



"They've taken care of the ball," Vrabel said. "I know they've only had 14 turnovers and they've gotten 30. So, that's going to be huge for us."

At second in the League with 19 interceptions, the Jaguars' defense has impressed one of the NFL's best defenders in Jadeveon Clowney.

"They're really trying to lean on their defense, pick the ball, make us try to make turnovers," Clowney said. "Exactly what we did the year before, lean on that strong defense and try not to make turnovers and keep the game tight and try to push everything in."

The newfound success in that category has spurred Jacksonville to the AFC South lead.

"In the past, that wasn't their deal," O'Brien said. "They were turning over a lot and they weren't getting a lot of takeaways. They've flipped that script."

5. Limit the run- In the season opener, Jacksonville ground out 155 yards rushing, with rookie Leonard Fournette accounting for 100. Blake Bortles attempted just 21 passes, and wasn't called upon to win the game with his arm.

"They have a way that they want to play the game," Vrabel said. "They want to play it physical. They want to play it with Fournette, with (Chris) Ivory, with (T.J.) Yeldon, with their backs."

The Jaguars lead the League with 149.9 rushing yards per contest.



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