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Ten things: Jaguars-Texans


JACKSONVILLE – This is basic stuff, and that's OK. That's the idea.

Basic, fundamental and even a little old school … that has been Doug Marrone's approach since taking over as the Jaguars' head coach, and it won't likely change for the 2017 regular-season opener.

The Jaguars want to run. They want to play defense.

They want to be tough mentally. They want to be tough physically.

They want to be smart.

There's not much dazzle, pizzazz or shine in those things, and there won't be a lot of dazzle, pizzazz or shine when outlining things the Jaguars need to do to beat the Houston Texans in the 2017 regular-season opener at NRG Stadium in Houston Sunday at 1 p.m.

They'll need to run. And play defense. And be tough. And smart.

No dazzle. No pizzazz. No shine. Just the basics.

With that in mind, here are 10 things the Jaguars must to do beat the Texans:

1)Run.The Jaguars talked all offseason, training camp and preseason about doing it. They didn't do it in preseason. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette, expected to be the key to the running game, played just one game in the preseason. He'll play in Week 1. Time to start running.

2)Feed Fournette.We mentioned Fournette in No. 1? Well, we'll mention him again here. You didn't draft Fournette No. 4 overall not to run him. Run him. Early and often.

2(a)Pop two 20-yard-plus runs.One more on Fournette before we move on: don't look for a stream of six-yard gains. That's a big ask against the Texans' front. But if Fournette can change field position with at least two long runs, that will help the Jaguars keep momentum.

3)Win turnover margin.The Jaguars were minus-16 in turnover margin last season. They were minus-32 over the last three seasons. That's a major reason they're 11-37 in that span. Marrone has said this team will have to win close games, and the way you win close games is winning turnover margin.

4)Protect the ball.This ties in with turnover margin, but it must be noted considering quarterback Blake Bortles' history. He has thrown 34 interceptions in the last two seasons. He has 11 lost fumbles in the same span. This team wants to run, play defense and win close games. That formula doesn't work if the offense is careless with the ball.

5)Protect Bortles.No group of Jaguars players will be under as much scrutiny Sunday as the offensive line. A group that struggled in the preseason now must face one of the best defenses – and specifically, one of the best defensive fronts – in the NFL. The group obviously must play better in Week 1 than it did in the preseason to accomplish No. 1 ("run"), but it must block a front that includes J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney Whitney Mercilus. There's pressure on rookie left tackle Cam Robinson making his first NFL start, but he's not alone. The Texans move their pass rushers all around the front. That pressure on Robinson? It will be on everyone Sunday.

6)Poise, poise, poise.This is about Bortles. It ties in keeping turnovers to a minimum, but he must do more than that. The Texans' defense will stress him. Watt, Clowney and Mercilus will get pressure. But within that pressure Bortles will have opportunities to make plays. The key: protect the ball and make smart decisions under pressure and make a few plays given the opportunity. Those are tall tasks, but they must be accomplished Sunday.

7)Disrupt, disrupt, disrupt.The Jaguars' defense was good last season and is expected to be better this season. The way to be better is create disruption by pressuring the quarterback, and turning that disruption into turnovers. The Jaguars' defense hasn't made nearly enough game-turning impact plays in recent seasons. That must change this season. It must change Sunday for the Jaguars to win.

8)Make a play on special teams.The Jaguars emphasized special teams all offseason, and with reason: teams that want to emphasize the run and defense must be good on special teams. This area cost the Jaguars too often last season. It must help them this season and it needs to start Sunday.

9)Focus.This isn't easy. The Jaguars will be playing in Houston with Hurricane Irma approaching Jacksonville and North Florida. It will be all but impossible for that not to be at least somewhat on the minds of some players and coaches.

10)Shut out da noise!Emotion is a part of every NFL game, and every regular-season opener. But many Jaguars players will never have faced he emotional surge they will face early Sunday. This game will be played in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. NRG will be loud. It will be emotional. A big play or two early by the Texans will only ratchet the emotions of the moment higher. Withstand that. Get into the second quarter still in the game. Give yourself a chance.

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