Sexton-Oehser quick thoughts: Texans-Jaguars

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Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) warms up before the start of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars as they prepare to play the Houston Texans at Wembley Stadium in London Sunday in Week 9 of the 2019 NFL season…

Oehser…

1.This is a brutally tough decision. It has become vogue to define the upcoming Nick Foles-Gardner Minshew II decision as the "best problem a franchise could face." And the Jaguars indeed in one sense couldn't have a better dilemma than deciding between two good quarterback options. Still, it's hard to envy Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone here – particularly if Minshew has a good game against the Texans and moves to 5-3 as a starter. The sixth-round rookie has proven beyond doubt he is a good quarterback at this level. He is showing many signs that he can develop into a very good starter – maybe even a franchise quarterback. But staying with Minshew over Foles, the Week 1 starter who sustained a broken clavicle in that opening loss at Kansas City, isn't a no-brainer. Foles is a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player who has excelled the past two seasons in late-season playoff pushes. He is more familiar with the offense than Minshew and more experienced. He is proven. Marrone said Sunday he has yet to decide who will start when Foles is eligible to return against Indianapolis November 17 because he doesn't yet have to decide. When that time does come … yes, it will be a wonderful decision because both players are good. But it will be brutally difficult, too.

2.It's time to start talking Josh Allen for Defensive Rookie of the Year. I'll credit Sexton with making this point on our Monday Drive Time show this week, and he's right: Allen, the Jaguars' rookie edge defender, has been one of the NFL's best defensive rookies this season – and it's time he gets credit for it. Allen registered two sacks Sunday against the New York Jets and now has seven sacks in his last six games. He has seven this season, which is tied with San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa for the league lead among rookies. Bosa has benefited from playing on an unbeaten team that has played on Monday Night Football, but Allen has been every bit as effective – and he is a big reason the Jaguars' defense in recent weeks has withstood the loss of cornerback Jalen Ramsey to rank third in the NFL in sacks with 29. It's fine to consider Bosa a candidate for DROY, but it's unfair to say he's a lock. Allen is playing too well – and there's no reason to believe he won't continue in that vein through the second half of the season.

3.Don't discount resilience. Nothing produces a collective eyeroll in the NFL quicker than talking about camaraderie and togetherness. Still, it's unfair to ignore the importance of the locker room "vibe" to this year's Jaguars. Players and coaches have talked about it throughout this season, with Marrone talking from early this season about how much he liked this team. He emphasized last week on Jaguars Drive Time that that didn't mean that the players were bringing him donuts – and that the feeling had nothing to do with personality. He meant the group liked playing together and played for each other more than for individual statistics. It's difficult to quantify such things, but players have continued to emphasize that feeling after victories the past two weeks over the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals. Wide receiver Chris Conley following the Jets game said while he wasn't sure early in the season if the team had the quality of players playing for the guy next to him, he absolutely believes it has it now. The feeling is indeed real, and it's hard to imagine this team being .500 without it.

Sexton…

1.If you want to beat the Texans, you must minimize wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins' impact. That's easier said than done by anybody not named Jalen Ramsey. Say what you want about the former Jaguars cornerback, but he held Hopkins to just 13 yards in man coverage in Week 2 and was largely responsible for Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson's pedestrian stat line in that game – and for keeping the game close enough for Minshew's fourth-quarter heroics. I don't expect Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye to "travel" with Hopkins Sunday, though he's a very good corner who is playing well and he has first-hand knowledge of Hopkins. Playing Hopkins in man coverage the entire game is too taxing for most defensive backs, so you'll see a variety of coverages and matchups designed to take advantage of the Jaguars' pressure packages. By the way, minimizing Hopkins usually means seven or eight catches and 70 to 80 yards as opposed to 11 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Good luck.

2.Houston's secondary is riddled with injuries at the midway point. The absence of so many key players, including cornerback Johnathan Joseph, safety Tashaun Gipson and cornerback Bradley Roby on the back end – and now missing defensive end J.J. Watt for the rest of the season with a torn pectoral up front – should mean more time and more opportunities for Minshew to find wide receivers DJ Chark Jr. and Chris Conley. Minshew averaged just 6.5 yards per completion in his first professional start in Houston in Week 2, but Houston's defense is currently 28th in the NFL against the pass, which tells you it's vulnerable to sending the ball down the field. The Jaguars must hit on some early passes to back the Texans off the line and open the running lanes for running back Leonard Fournette.

3.It might seem over the top, but Sunday's game could be the Jaguars' best shot to stay in the playoff chase. The New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs all currently own spots as division leaders and the 5-2 Bills claim the first wild-card spot. Falling two games behind the Texans, who currently sit sixth, is a bad formula for playing into January. I know there are still seven games after Sunday, but a loss will mean trying to catch a team that owns the head-to-head tiebreaker on you. But if the Jaguars beat the Texans, they're in a tie for second place with two games to play against the Colts, who are already up a game on the Texans thanks to their Week 7 victory in Indianapolis. If you think it's too early to face this kind of a game, just glance at the playoff standings and start looking at the tiebreakers. Overcoming a loss to the Texans is possible, but not as likely as you'd like it. Sunday is a big game. A really, really, really big game.

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