JACKSONVILLE – In a weekly feature for the 2021 season, NFL Media and Jaguars Media analyst Bucky Brooks breaks down the Jaguars' performance in a 37-21 loss to the Houston Texans in a 2021 Week 1 game at NRG Stadium …
The Jaguars laid an egg in their 2021 regular-season debut against the Texans. Despite playing with great energy and effort, the Jaguars did not play discipline or detailed football. The team violated "DBO" (Don't Beat Ourselves) principles with 10 penalties, three turnovers and a handful of blown assignments. The egregious errors put the Jaguars in a hole and forced the team to abandon its preferred style of playing as a complementary football team that plays great defense with a solid running game and a playmaking quarterback making contributions. With the game spiraling out of control, the Jaguars lost their way and dropped a game that was penciled in as a victory on most of the schedules within the building.
KEYS TO VICTORY
The Texans chalked up a victory due to a litany of errors from the Jaguars. While Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor and an unheralded Houston defense played well, the Jaguars assisted in their efforts with countless miscues that enabled the Texans to play the game on their terms. From the silly pre-snap penalties to the turnovers and mental blunders, the Jaguars gifted their opponents a number of explosive plays and prime field position. With the young team operating with a slim margin for error, the freebies helped the Texans play a very comfortable game in the regular-season opener. From Taylor passing for 291 yards and two touchdowns with little resistance to Texans coordinator Lovie Smith's defense suffocating rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars' aerial attack, the Texans never felt the pressure of playing in a close game that required timely playmaking from their top players and smart decisions from their coaches.
View top photos from the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL Regular Season opener against the Houston Texans.
The franchise quarterback's debut certainly did not go according to the script. Lawrence tossed for 332 yards on 28 of 51 passing with three touchdowns but he finished with three interceptions. The turnover hat trick was the first time the Jaguars' QB1 has thrown three interceptions in a game, according to Lawrence. Considering the Texans' employed a Tampa 2 scheme that enables defenders to play with "zone eyes" (defenders key the quarterback instead of receivers) for quicker breaks, the rookie struggles are not a surprise based on the patience and discipline needed to thrive against the coverage. That said, Lawrence needs to take better care of the ball against stifling zone defense that takes away the deep ball and forces quarterbacks to play a "dink-and-dunk" style. With more reps and experience, Lawrence will master the effective counter-tactics to the umbrella coverage. It will require some time for the No.1 overall pick to get comfortable relying on his pass catchers to turn check-downs into first downs and touchdowns with their spectacular running skills.
UNDER THE RADAR
Texans running back Mark Ingram II lacks the juice that once made him a three-time Pro Bowl selection, but he turned back the clock against the Jaguars with 85 rushing yards on 26 carries. Although the workmanlike effort did not feature a run longer than 11 yards, the veteran was effective enough between the tackles to keep the Jaguars' defense on its toes. With Jaguars defensive coordinator Joe Cullen forced to respect Ingram as a credible running threat, the team was unable to turn up the heat on Taylor to put the Texans behind the chains.
The Jaguars sputtered against the Texans with a pass-centric game plan that put too much pressure on Lawrence to play at a high level during his debut. The lack of offensive balance might have been driven by the early deficit, but 50-plus passes are too many attempts for a rookie starter. Despite the need to chase points, the Jaguars must make nurturing Lawrence the No. 1 priority, and relying on a solid running game should be the emphasis each week. The offensive line is better suited to play power football and the "ground-and-pound" approach will alleviate some of the pressure on the young passer to play perfectly from the pocket. While the O-Line needs to improve and consistently control the trenches, the game plan has to give them a chance to flex their muscles from the start of the game. On the perimeter, the Jaguars' receivers need to make plays when given opportunities. The unit dropped too many uncontested balls and the flubs prevented the offense from sustaining drives at critical moments. Overall, the Jaguars need to put together a 60-minute effort that features fewer self-inflicted mistakes against a competitive opponent.
Cullen is certainly disappointed that his unit did not seize control of a game that did not feature five-star players on the other side. Sure, the Texans have some good players, but they do not have a blue-chip player that deserves special attention in the game plan. From Taylor's efficient effort as a passer to wide receiver Brandin Cooks' ability to slip past defenders on improvisational deep routes, the Jaguars failed to eliminate the Texans' headliners in the regular-season opener. The defense must control the opponent's top players or the game becomes an insurmountable 60-minute uphill climb.