Sidney Jones had an opportunity Sunday. A big opportunity.
He took full advantage.
And while the performance didn't mean a Jaguars victory, it was a memorable one for a player thrust into a difficult situation by difficult circumstances.
"He had an opportunity, came in and did some big things," Head Coach Doug Marrone said following the Jaguars' 30-14 loss to the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday.
Jones, a cornerback who signed to the Jaguars' practice squad September 8 – the week of the regular-season opener – played an extensive role Sunday because of injuries to starting corner CJ Henderson and nickel corner DJ Hayden. With Tre Herndon moving inside in passing situations and rookie Chris Claybrooks starting for Henderson, Jones played outside corner in passing situations and defended four passes with an interception Sunday.
"I think that he is someone that can help us down the road now," Marrone said.
Jones, a second-round selection from Washington by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2017 NFL Draft, had an interception in the first half that led to a field-goal opportunity. Kicker Stephen Hauschka missed short from 49 yards as the half ended.
Jones in the third quarter deflected a pass into the air that safety Jarrod Wilson caught and returned 47 yards to the Texans 27. Rookie running back James Robinson's lost fumble on 4th-and-1 from the 8 ended that possession.
"Sid had a really good game today," Wilson said. "He came to play. He wasn't with us during training camp, but he had an amazing game. He got his hand on a couple of footballs and definitely contributed to us having both turnovers on defense. He had a really good game."
Jaguars safety Josh Jones was ejected early in the third quarter for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who made a 23-yard reception on the play. Rookie Daniel Thomas replaced Jones and led the Jaguars with seven tackles. Marrone said afterward he was fine with the call that led to Jones' ejection. "From the angle I have, I understand that," Marrone said. "We're trying to protect players and player safety, so I'm behind that 100 percent. I don't think that Josh was malicious where he tried to do that. I think he was just trying to make a play and some things happened; it's probably the right call, not having seen it in slow motion."
A turning point of the game came when Robinson fumbled on 4th-and-goal from the Texans 8 in the third quarter. Robinson took a snap from shotgun formation and fumbled as he ran to his right looking to throw. "We worked on that play a bunch," Marrone said. "You work on things in certain situations and I think that we felt very comfortable with it. I don't think we did a good job executing it. I don't think we sold it well enough because the corner was able to get off on it. You work on something during the week, you feel comfortable about it, you know when you're going to call it in that situation, and we just didn't execute it. If I had to go back and knowing it wasn't going to work, would I rather run something else? Obviously I would. But that's what we worked on and that's what we were preparing for."
A struggling Jaguars pass rush had one of its more disruptive games of the season, with defensive end Dawuane Smoot registering a sack and three quarterback pressures. Smoot's was the Jaguars' lone sack of the game, but – despite the absence of edge rusher Josh Allen – the Jaguars forced Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson on multiple occasions. "We changed a lot of things up today," Marrone said. "We were able to get some pressure, get him off the spot. It's always difficult to get him down. I thought the effort was good. We have got to get it right, play-in and play-out, and be able to win some of those matchups. We did a couple, but not as much as we need to win the game." The Jaguars have five sacks in five games this season.
Marrone on failing to take advantage of a 39-yard kick return by wide receiver Keelan Cole and two Texans turnovers that gave the Jaguars possession in Texans territory: "I was just disappointed that we didn't take advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves in the game. We can't let those things go by. We have to be able to take advantage of it because we don't have a large margin or anything of that nature. It's not like we have to play perfect. I'm not saying that. But we got to play better than we are."
Minshew: "We couldn't ask much more of what the defense did today. They gave us opportunities with a short field, and we wasted it. So, we've got to do better in that sense. There's no pointing fingers anywhere else but ourselves."