JACKSONVILLE – The objective is clear and obvious.
What it's not is simple,because the Jaguars' main defensive objective when playing the Houston Texans Sunday will be containing quarterback Deshaun Watson.
"We have to keep in in the pocket," defensive coordinator Todd Wash said Thursday as the Jaguars (1-3) prepared to play the Texans (0-4) at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday at 1 p.m.
Watson is 4-0 as a starter against the Jaguars, with all starts coming in the last two seasons. And while the Jaguars have sacked him 12 times in the four games, he has rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns against the Jaguars during the span – including 66 yards and a touchdown in a 26-3 Texans victory in London last season keyed by Watson's ability to escape the pocket.
"We really do everything we can to try to make him a pocket passer," Wash said. "We have to keep him contained with the four, five or six-man pressures we have on third down. We have to let him really feel the rush. If we can do that, I think we can control him.
"If we let him run around, around here we say, 'Hey, when that rooster gets loose, he's going to hurt you.' He's done that to a lot of different teams over the years."
Bringing pressure to Watson is one thing; tackling him is another. The Jaguars hurried Watson seven times in London last season, sacking him just once.
"You have to try to keep him confined because when he gets outside the pocket, he gets dangerous," middle linebacker Joe Schobert said. "When he does, you have to be able to take good angles to get him down. He's elusive. He's a good athlete. He makes a lot of people miss tackles.
"You have to trust other people on defense are going to be right behind you. When you get there, you can't break down. You have to shoot your shot. If he makes you miss, you hopefully make him stop his feet and hopefully somebody's going to be right there."
Wash said the challenge of a rushing a mobile quarterback such as Watson with the idea of containing him is maintaining enough aggression to get to the quarterback for the sack.
"If you're constantly talking about, 'Hey, let's keep him in the pocket, let's keep him in the pocket,' all we're going to do is run right down the middle and stare at him,'' Wash said. "There's really a fine-balance. We have to be smart and keep him in the pocket and still get after him."
With nickel corner D.J. Hayden placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a hamstring injury, Wash said starting cornerback Tre Herndon will move inside to nickel with rookie Chris Claybrooks and/or third-year veteran Sidney Jones starting outside opposite rookie CJ Henderson. "We've got some younger guys that we're really going to be able to take a look at during the week and on Sunday," Wash said. "Houston's got a lot of talented wide receivers; in my opinion, they're about five deep. They're doing some things to get all four or five of them on the field at the same time, so we have to be able to match that athleticism. We think Tre is a very good nickel. We feel very comfortable with him playing inside."
Defensive end Josh Allen (knee) missed practice Thursday for a second consecutive day and linebacker Myles Jack (ankle), Henderson (shoulder) and left tackle Cam Robinson (knee) all practiced limited Thursday after missing practice Wednesday; all four players were injured against Cincinnati this past Sunday and Head Coach Doug Marrone on Wednesday said all had a chance to play against Houston. Center Brandon Linder practiced full Thursday after working limited Wednesday with a knee injury that kept him out of the last two games, and kicker Stephen Hauschka – who missed Sunday's loss at Cincinnati with knee soreness after signing with the Jaguars the previous Monday – practiced full for a second consecutive day. Linebacker Quincy Williams (core muscle), designated to return from injured reserve, practiced full for a second consecutive day. Tight end Tyler Eifert (neck), defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale (ankle) and wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. were limited in practice Thursday. Defensive end Adam Gotsis, defensive tackle Abry Jones and tight end James O'Shaughnessy missed practice Thursday with scheduled days off. Center Tyler Shatley returned to practice after missing Wednesday for non-injury reasons and offensive tackle Will Richardson Jr. missed a second consecutive practice with an illness. Safety Jarrod Wilson, who was designated to return from injured reserve as of Wednesday, practiced limited for a second consecutive day.
Allen, after setting a franchise rookie record with 10.5 sacks, has two sacks and a team-high seven quarterback hits through four games. Wash on Thursday said Allen is "getting some attention" with Pro Bowl defensive ends Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue having been traded in the offseason to Baltimore and Minnesota, respectively. "We've got to find ways to attack some protection to get things slid away from him," Wash said. "He's continuing to work, which is what we like. Everybody's on the sacks, but we're hitting some quarterbacks. Obviously, Josh needs to win some one on ones. If we can get him in those situations where he can pass rush, we feel he can."
Wash on blitzing: "If we're going to end up bringing pressure, we have to make sure it's the right pressure for the protection we're seeing. If we just think we're going to blitz and all of a sudden they're in a six or seven-man protection, that's not very smart, let's just say. It's situations."