HOUSTON, Texas – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 2017 regular-season opener against the Houston Texans Sunday
- Offensive line. It's impossible to give the Jaguars' offensive line too much credit for Sunday, just as it's impossible to overstate how impressive this unit played. Throughout the week, conventional wisdom was repeated over and over that the Texans were one of the NFL's best offensive lines and that the Jaguars' offensive line was a liability. That turned out to be anything but the case. While the Jaguars turned game permanently in their favor with two takeaways late in the second quarter, it was the Jaguars' offensive line controlling the Texans' defensive line that defined the game. The Jaguars rushed for 155 yards and a touchdown as a team, and perhaps the most notable stat was that the Texans defensive front that includes .J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney did not register a sack. So much for preseason. So much for projections. So much for the whole "liability" angle.
- Leonard Fournette. Credit belonged everywhere for the Jaguars offensively Sunday. This wasn't a dominant offensive performance statistically, but was a stunningly effective one considering how the unit played throughout the preseason. Quarterback Blake Bortles played efficiently and smart throughout, and deserved credit for not committing the mistakes that have plagued him in the past. But Fournette set the tone for this game and showed why he was the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. He rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown in his regular-season debut. He also caught three passes for 24 yards. Reserve running back Chris Ivory rushed for 42 yards on nine carries. Few anticipated a game like this from the line, but it happened. And the Jaguars are 1-0 because it did.
- Pressure, pressure, pressure. The book on the Jaguars' defense last season? That it was a good unit, but not great – because it didn't create pressure or turnovers. That book didn't hold remotely true Sunday. The Jaguars not only sacked Texans quarterbacks a franchise-record 10 times, they forced four turnovers – two sack/fumbles by end Yannick Ngakoue, a sack/fumble by end Dante Fowler Jr. and an interception by safety Tashaun Gipson. Fowler returned one of Ngakoue's sack/fumbles for a 53-yard touchdown, and Abry Jones recovered another to set up a key 53-yard touchdown drive near the end of the second quarter. As for veteran defensive end Calais Campbell, the unrestricted free agent signee registered a career-high four sacks – including 3.5 in the first half. Ten sacks, four takeaway. As strong safety Barry Church said afterward, "That's a pretty good stat line." Indeed.
- That was how Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone drew it up when they got together that first day in January. Fortify the defense and build the running game. They asked Blake Bortles to make a few key throws and just play within the game plan. I'm not sure you can get away with just 21 passing attempts per game in today's NFL but if the running game and defense can play like that week in a week out anything is possible. The truth is they're going to need Bortles to make big throws and it appears he is going to have to not only change his mentality somewhat but he's going to have to find another favorite receiver with Blake Bortles off the field. The good news for the Jaguars today was that they had an answer for everything the Texans threw at them and they overcame their own mistakes and a hostile, emotional Opening Day crowd and won their first game of the season for the first time since 2011.
The Jaguars traveled to Houston to open up the 2017 season against AFC South rival, Houston Texans.
- I thought the entire offensive line was very good today. It's pretty obvious when you hold that fierce Texans pass rush without a legitimate hit on your quarterback but they carved out 155 yards on the ground against a defensive front that is as good as any in the game. In particular Cam Robinson stood tall in his first NFL game against Jadeveon Clowney who had one tackle and didn't sniff Bortles. The same has to be said for Jermey Parnell who held J.J. Watt in his emotional return to just a single tackle and one hit on the quarterback. For weeks the conversation has been how bad the offensive line looks. Today, the question is 'how good can they be?'
- 10 sacks. 4 takeaways. I think everyone reading would agree we knew this defense was going to be good. Could anyone predict they would be able to play at that level. I know the focus will be on Calais Campbell's four sacks but equally impressive was the 3 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries from Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler. They were everywhere off the edge and fed off one another and it was contagious to their teammates. I thought the defense was a top ten unit on talent and scheme but believed if Fowler came to play the sky was the limit. That happened today and the Jaguars looked like a top five defense. Imagine if he comes to play next week, and the week after and the week after.