How Houston Matches Up With Jacksonville: Post Free Agency

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With the bulk of free agency completed, let’s take a look at how the Houston Texans matchup with all of their divisional opponents; starting today with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Texans offense vs. Jaguars defense

Jan 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback
Jan 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback /

There are a lot of new additions on both sides of the ball here. The Texans acquired Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller in free agency to reshape their backfield and added Jeff Allen to the offensive line to take over for Brandon Brooks, who left for a big contract in Philadelphia. The Jaguars, known for big spending in free agency, acquired defensive lineman Malik Jackson, safety Tashaun Gipson and cornerback Prince Amukamara this offseason. All are talented players, but they have a lot of improvement to make on defense that was 24th in yards allowed and second last in points allowed last season.

As for what remains the same, for the Texans DeAndre Hopkins is still around and he torched the Jaguars during their first meeting in 2015 in Jacksonville. He caught ten passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns. However, the Texans are limited in receiving options outside of Hopkins. The tight ends caught a combined 41 catches for 448 yards all of last season, mostly from Ryan Griffin and C.J. Fiedorowicz. Jaelen Strong had his moments in 2015, scoring three times on just 14 catches. But he will need to become a more consistent to be the player he was drafted to be, a #2 option to Hopkins. The offensive line will be different this season with a new center and Allen on the interior of the line, but three of the five starters will return. Duane Brown suffered an injury in week 17 last season but he will be back and should hopefully regain his form as one of  the best left tackles in the league. Xavier Sio-Fila will return at left guard and Derek Newton will return at right tackle. We’ve seen some ups and downs from Newton and Sio-Fila is steady. A lot will be determined on who the Texans pick up as their center, particularly if they draft one with the intent to start immediately, such as Alabama’s Ryan Kelly.

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For the Jaguars, they have an expensive defensive line beyond Jackson. Jared Odrick was signed to a sizable free agent deal last offseason, and he rotates in with Roy Miller and Sen’Derrick Marks, a very good pass rushing tackle, on the defensive line. The key for the Jaguars defense is Dante Fowler. The former #3 overall pick missed his rookie year last year with an achilles injury. How he comes back from that will determine much about how good the Jaguars defense can be. Their linebackers are okay with solid veteran Paul Posluzsny in the middle and playmaking Telvin Smith on the outside. Davon House was solid at times last year but he’s more a #2 corner, which he will be able to play with Amukamara in the fold. The two of them and Aaron Colvin could be a solid trio of corners. Gipson will start alongside Johnathan Cyprien at safety, which has been a problem area for years. Gipson is injury prone, as is Amukamara, but both are good players when healthy.

As far as who has the edge, there are a lot of unknowns on both sides. For the Texans, if Osweiler can play like he did last year in Denver or be even better this offense could be good. I expect a breakout year from Miller after not being utilized enough during his time in Miami. If the Jaguars defensive line can be all they have spent money for it to be an their revamped secondary can stay on the field, they could have a reasonably good defense in 2016. But considering how well free agency has worked out for them recently, I have my doubts. I give the Texans a slight edge here.