Jaguars offense vs. Texans defense
There was not as much overhaul on these two units, and it’s easy to see why. The Texans allowed the third fewest yards in the league last season and tied the Cardinals for seventh in points against. The Jaguars were 10th in passing yards and 14th in points scored last season, but there still were areas that could be improved, which is why they signed running back Chris Ivory to back up T.J. Yeldon and signed left tackle Kelvin Beachum from the Steelers.
The Texans defense was great over the second half of the season, led by the best player in the league, Mr. J.J. Watt. Watt led the league with 17.5 sacks, in what was called a “down year” for him. I’ll take that as a down year any day. There was also a resurgence from pass rushing linebackers Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney. Those two young players, both former first round picks (and #1 overall in Clowney’s case), both had some flashes of brilliance last year, it will be a matter of getting them to play consistently every week. The run defense was a real struggle during the first half of last season, ranking near the bottom of the league in that category over the first eight or so weeks. The Texans need some more depth and some more size up front, because Vince Wilfork cannot handle as big of a load as he used to. He will likely be around one more season before moving on or retiring. Jared Crick remains unsigned and I imagine will be moving on despite the Texans desire to keep him. The Texans corners are solid with Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson and 2015 first round pick Kevin Johnson as the top three and interception machine Andre Hal back there too. But the current group of safeties leaves something to be desired. The starters could very well be Eddie Pleasant and free agent signing Antonio Allen, formerly of the Jets.
For the Jaguars, Blake Bortles improved significantly in year two as a pro, throwing for 35 touchdowns, second in the league. However he threw 18 picks, which led the league. The Texans accounted for five of those interceptions. Bortles should be even better this coming season, though I imagine both of those numbers will fall. If the Jaguars are not behind as much he won’t throw the ball as much which will drop both of those totals, and he’ll just have more experience and make better decisions. He has a bevy of weapons with Pro Bowler Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns at receiver and Julius Thomas at tight end. He was sacked 51 times last season, so upgrading the line is paramount. They will get right guard Brandon Linder back from injury, and more than likely the loser of the left tackle competition between Beachum and Luke Joeckel will be the starting left guard while A.J. Cann moves to center and Jeremy Parnell stays at right tackle. If the line can protect Bortles even adequately and improve even nominally in run blocking, they could have a rather dangerous offense.
The Texans still have the edge here. But make no mistake, the Jaguars are closing the gap quickly.