JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars' series with the Houston Texans has been decidedly one-sided. Houston has owned it since coming to Jacksonville in its Inaugural Season and beating the Jaguars 21-19 – and the Texans have won 25 of 38 games played between the two teams since that 2002 season.
The Texans have always been able to lean on a particular matchup the Jaguars could never seem to overcome.
Wide receiver Andre Johnson once was an unstoppable force for Houston against everyone – as his 1,062 career catches, 14,185 career yards and 70 career touchdowns attest. Johnson seemed to save his best performances for the Jaguars, averaging more than 100 receiving yards in 14 career games against Jacksonville, including a memorable day in 2012 when then-Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne threw for 354 yards and four touchdowns and Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon made seven catches for 236 yards and a touchdown. Johnson made 14 receptions for 273 yards and won the game for Houston almost singlehandedly.
Defensive end J.J. Watt was the next Texans player for whom the Jaguars never seemed to be able to account. Far more often than not, he dominated the line of scrimmage. On the rare occasions when he didn't put up big numbers, he was so big an issue that he pulled the attention away for Whitney Mercilus or Jadaveon Clowney to create new problems for the Jaguars. He had 17 sacks in 16 games and those numbers feel low for the impact he made. Watt logged three sacks in the season finale in 2015 and hit then-Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles four other times. It felt as if he had 10 sacks that afternoon.
The series has been tilted heavily in favor of the Texans in the last seven years as it ever has been. Houston has won six consecutive games in the series – and 10 of 12 – with only two victories in 2017 to offer in Jacksonville's favor.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson became the next nemesis in 2018 – and over the last six games, the Texans have run for an average of 142 yards per game to only 78 for the Jaguars, with many of the rushing yards coming from the quarterback's nimble feet and swift legs. Watson averaged five yards per carry in a close game in Jacksonville last season and kept the chains moving just as it appeared the Jaguars were going to close the gap. Those 50 yards didn't come in big chunks; death by a thousand paper cuts is also effective and probably more disheartening.
This feels like the beginning of a brand-new rivalry thanks in large part to the upheaval on the Texans' roster caused by Watson, who was the NFL's leading passer a season ago but who declared at the end of last season he was done in Houston.
If the Jaguars are going to start the series over with Head Coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Trevor Lawrence leading the way, two things must happen. First, they must be able to run the ball. Second, they must protect it. In the last six games in this matchup – all Jaguars losses – the Jaguars have turned the ball over 13 times.