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Opponent Focus: Talking Texans vs. Jaguars with John McClain of

Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) walks off the field following an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Houston, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. The Colts defeated the Texans 31-20. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) walks off the field following an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Houston, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. The Colts defeated the Texans 31-20. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2023 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.

Up this week:

John McClain – longtime Houston Chronicle NFL writer now with – about the Houston Texans’ matchup with the Jaguars at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.

Question: The Texans are 0-2 this season, losing a Week 2 game to the Indianapolis Colts by a score of 31-20 in Houston this past Sunday. What's the state of the Texans entering Sunday?

Answer: The Texans are bad, but I expected it. [Rookie quarterback] C.J. Stroud has played really well, so people are fired up about that, but they're 0-2. Their offensive line has more injuries than any I've ever seen. They're on their third center, third right tackle, third left guard and second left tackle. The only one that's a regular starter is their right guard, Shaq Mason. They have the worst offensive line I've seen in this team's history. The offensive line has so many injuries it affects everything. Stroud's on a pace to be sacked 93 times, but he has played really well. Everything's a one-step drop and get rid of the ball or he is flushed out and has to throw on the run. In the first game, a 25-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore, he was sacked five times and hit 10. On Sunday, he was sacked six times and hit nine with 10 tackles for loss. Their offensive line is just getting crushed. They're getting beat up. They got beat up by the Colts on both lines of scrimmage.

Q: Stroud was the No. 2 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. It sounds as if he is as advertised.

A: He has been tremendous. He's under constant pressure. He has been really accurate, very poised. He got put on the injury report Friday with a shoulder injury and didn't know if he'd be able to play – and Sunday morning didn't know how well he would play. Then the joke was he needs to get hurt every week. He is not the problem. They have a lot of problems on both sides of the ball, but he's not one of them. They know they have their second franchise quarterback in team history. He has made the receivers look good. The passing game has looked very good. It has been working very well.

Q: With a rookie quarterback, he's always the focus. How is this team defensively overall?

A: In the first game, they showed a lot of promise defensively. They were last in the league against run last year and they gave up 110 yards [in Week 1]. If you took away [Ravens quarterback] Lamar Jackson's 38 [yards], they (the Ravens) averaged like 2.3 yards carry. So, it was good. Now, they didn't get killed against the run against Indianapolis. If they hadn't knocked out [quarterback] Anthony Richardson, they might've won the game. As soon as he went out, [former Jaguars quarterback Gardner] Minshew came in. He took them straight down the field and they (the Colts) had touchdown drives of 75, 15, 76 and 75 in the first half. So the Texans' defense did not look good. [Rookie defensive end] Will Anderson is really good. You'll see the Jaguars game plan be about getting people over on him. Their secondary's good, but they're missing both safeties, Jalen Pitre and Jimmie Ward. I don't know if either one of them will play. The secondary wasn't the issue. The issue was the front seven. The linebackers struggled in coverage and the linemen just got manhandled.

Q:What do the Texans generally have to do to win?

A: I picked them to go 6-11. All their wins last year came on the road in the AFC South. They haven't won a game here (in Houston) since David Culley was the head coach [in 2021], so that's a big deal here. But they generally played better on the road. Everything has changed with [first-year Head Coach] DeMeco Ryans. His play-caller, [offensive coordinator] Bobby Slowik, came with him. He was [San Francisco 49ers Head Coach] Kyle Shanahan's right-hand man. Ryans makes the call on defense. They're still another draft and free-agency period away from maybe competing for second place. Right now they're where they belong in last place. Turnovers haven't been a big issue for Stroud, but they have to play almost perfect ball and they can't run. They're not going to have a chance to me until they get right tackle Tytus Howard back after two more games and their rookie center, Juice Scruggs. Their line is still bad. They have to run the ball and they can't run the ball. They're bad in the red zone, too, because teams know they're not going to run.

Q: What is a successful season for this team?

A: If they could win six games and double last season's win total, I think people here would be excited. If it's less than six, I think people are not going to be happy. They're going to have their fourth consecutive losing season. Everybody knows it. They just don't have a lot of talent. When the line gets together, if it ever gets together, and they're able to run Dameon Pierce better, that should take such a load off Stroud. Right now, Stroud and wide receiver Nico Collins are the two best things they got going on offense. Will Anderson, cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. and Jalen Petri are the best things they have going on defense.

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