JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's Thursday Jaguars notes and observations: Cornerback Jalen Ramsey on Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, running back Leonard Fournette misses practice, more …
1.Jalen Ramsey's respect for this week's opponent runs deep. Ramsey, the Jaguars' All-Pro cornerback, not only believes Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to be one of the NFL's two best wide receivers along with Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants – "He's No. 1," Ramsey said of Hopkins – he believes Texans second-year quarterback Deshaun Watson will be a Most Valuable Player during his career. Ramsey first said that about Watson last offseason. "I stand by that," Ramsey said Thursday as the Jaguars (5-10) prepared to play the Texans (10-5) at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday at 1 p.m. "I think he's that good. He's that talented and has that potential. … . People try to pigeon-hole some guys in the league who are mobile quarterbacks and they try to lean on that all the time, but he is not one of those guys who can only run and not really pass like some other guys. He's a guy who can truly pass the ball very well. He has good connections with not only D-Hop, but his tight ends, his [running] backs and other receivers. He's a really good quarterback before he's an athlete."
2.The status of Leonard Fournette for Sunday's game remains an issue, with the second-year running back missing practice Thursday with a foot/ankle issue. Fournette, who played against the Miami Dolphins last week after practicing full both days with a foot injury, was listed as practicing limited Wednesday this week; he missed six of the first eight games this season with a hamstring injury and was suspended by the NFL for the Jaguars' 6-0 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on December 2. Wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. practiced full for a second consecutive day Thursday after missing the last five games with a quadriceps injury, while backup quarterback Cody Kessler practiced limited for a second consecutive day with a right shoulder injury. Cornerback A.J. Bouye (toe), right tackle Josh Wells (concussion) and kicker Josh Lambo (right groin) all missed practice for a second consecutive day; Bouye and Wells were injured against Miami this past Sunday and Kai Forbath has kicked in Lambo's place the last two games. Free safety Tashaun Gipson was added to the injury report Thursday with a foot injury.
3.As Jaguars quarterbacks coach/playcaller Scott Milanovich sees it, Blake Bortles and Kessler possess different skills. That may mean a different approach Sunday. "It's different game plans, for sure," Milanovich said Thursday. Bortles, replaced by Kessler at quarterback four games ago – the same week Milanovich took over as the playcaller – will start against Houston. Head Coach Doug Marrone this week cited Bortles' increased mobility and escapability as major reasons for the change. The Jaguars have allowed 19 sacks in the last four games. "Obviously, it's a different skill set," Milanovich said of Bortles and Kessler. "You saw that last week when we put him (Bortles) in. Hopefully, we can take advantage of that: his mobility, his ability to make some roaming plays when things break down. I've spent some time now with Blake, so I have a pretty good idea what he's good at." Jaguars teammates on Thursday continued to support the idea of Bortles returning to the lineup. "Let's see what happens," linebacker Telvin Smith said. "I believe in him. I think he'll go out and have a great game."
4.The Jaguars' defense has a chance Sunday to complete a strong finish to what overall has been a strong season. After ranking second in the NFL in yards allowed last season, the Jaguars rank fifth in total yardage this season – and a solid performance Sunday would mean a third consecutive top 10 finish defensively. After allowing 20 or more points in every game of a seven-game losing streak, the Jaguars have allowed more than 20 points just once in the last four games. They allowed 30 points in a December 6 loss to Tennessee, but shutout the Colts on December 2, allowed 16 to Washington on December 16 and held Miami to seven this past weekend. "Obviously, there's a lot of pride in that room," defensive coordinator Todd Wash said Thursday. "They're going to go out and they're going to play hard. It's just who that group is. It has nothing to do with us as coaches or anything else. They just have a lot of pride in how they play the game."