JACKSONVILLE – Here's this week's Setting the Table: Storylines and stuff to watch as the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) prepare to play the Houston Texans (2-8) at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday…
The Jaguars by any measure are progressing.
They're showing fight, and showing better results on the field since a midseason bye than before. They're also doing it in difficult circumstances.
The task on Sunday? Keep doing it.
The Jaguars on Sunday lost to Arizona, 27-14, missing a chance for a second consecutive victory coming out of the bye, but scoring offensive touchdowns on their first two possessions for the first time this season.
The loss to the Cardinals came a week after the Jaguars' first victory of the season, which came 29-27 over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Tenn. The last two weeks have marked the most competitive two-game stretch of the season, and they have come with the Jaguars facing adversity.
The Jaguars not only are playing without wide receiver Justin Blackmon and left tackle Luke Joeckel, the first of whom is suspended indefinitely and the second of whom is out for the season with a high ankle fracture, on Sunday they were without middle linebacker Paul Posluszny.
Posluszny missed the game with a concussion, the first time the team's leading tackler has missed a game since signing with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent shortly before the 2011 season.
Posluszny is expected to practice this week, and should be available Sunday.
Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley also said on Monday that Chad Henne will remain the team's starting quarterback. Henne has started the last five games, with opening-day starter Blaine Gabbert healthy in the last three.
Henne completed 27 of 42 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions Sunday.
The Texans (2-8) have become one of the NFL's surprise teams, but not in the way any team wants. Selected by many observers to win a third consecutive AFC South title and contend for the Super Bowl, the Texans' season instead spiraled quickly. They enter Sunday's game on a franchise-record eight-game losing streak, although they have been more competitive in recent weeks, with their last four losses at Kansas City, at home against Indianapolis, at Arizona and at home against Oakland coming by a combined 12 points. A difficult season took a strange turn Sunday when Head Coach Gary Kubiak replaced Case Keenum with Matt Schaub at quarterback late in the third quarter. Schaub began the season as the starter, and was benched in mid-October for Keenum, a former rookie free agent who had thrown eight touchdowns and one interception in four starts. Kubiak said Monday Keenum will start against Jacksonville.
The game at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, at 1 p.m. Sunday will be broadcast regionally on CBS and locally on WTEV-TV CBS-47. Bill Macatee will be the play-by-play voice with analysis from Steve Tasker.
Early matchup to watch
The Jaguars' offense versus J.J. Watt. This obviously isn't an absolute one-on-one matchup, because not everyone will block Watt. But handling Watt is more than just a one-person job. While Watt lines up most often at right defensive end in the Texans' 3-4 scheme – meaning he will often be opposite Jaguars left guard Mike Brewster – he also moves to the left side, meaning both of the Jaguars' guards and tackles will have responsibility. While Watt is not approaching the numbers he posted during what was nearly a unanimous NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season, he still is widely considered not only the league's best defensive lineman, but perhaps its best defensive player. He has 8.5 sacks this season and his Pro Football Focus grade is nearly three times the second highest-graded player.
Player to watch
Cecil Shorts III. The third-year veteran is the Jaguars' leading receiver, and with Blackmon suspended indefinitely he has re-assumed the No. 1 receiver role he played for the first four games of the season. Shorts caught two passes for 22 yards Sunday and was targeted five times while facing Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson. Shorts told media afterward he was disappointed in how he was used in that game, and Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said while Shorts needn't have said what he said publicly, he understood Shorts' frustrations. Shorts has caught 50 passes for 629 yards and a touchdown this season. With Blackmon out, he figures to get more opportunities. At the same time, he will face more defenses designed to take him out of the game. The Jaguars need to get him more touches, but that's sometimes easier said than done with defenses focused his way.
What to watch
*Posluszny has been cleared to practice after missing Sunday with a concussion. Bradley said the Jaguars could be cautious with contact this week with Posluszny….
*Guard Will Rackley (concussion) and wide receiver Stephen Burton (concussion) had not yet been cleared to practice as of Monday.
*Cornerback Will Blackmon and wide receiver Mike Brown sustained AC joint injuries against Arizona, and Bradley said Brown is more questionable this week than Blackmon.
*Rookie cornerback Dwayne Gratz sustained a hamstring injury Sunday, but Bradley said Gratz should be able to practice this week. He also said safety Josh Evans (thumb) and linebacker Geno Hayes (knee) should work this week despite injuries.