Jacksonville Jaguars: Randy Bullock

Rapid Reaction: Jacksonville Jaguars

December, 5, 2013

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars27-20 victory over the Houston Texans.

What it means: The Jaguars have their first three-game winning streak since the 2010 season and their first victory at home in more than a year (Nov. 25, 2012). The Jaguars had lost six consecutive games at EverBank Field. They’re also 4-1 since their bye and somehow still alive in the playoff race.

Stock watch: The Jaguars had no answer for quarterback Matt Schaub, who came in for Case Keenum in Thursday's third quarter and led the Texans to 10 points. The Jaguars couldn’t mount much of a pass rush -- they sacked him only once until the game's final play, and he had plenty of time to pick out receivers -- and Schaub was able to exploit what has been the Jaguars’ weakness all season: the middle of the field. He feasted, too, completing 17 of 29 passes for 198 yards and one touchdown. He made one mistake, a pass that linebacker Geno Hayes intercepted to set up the game-clinching field goal. The secondary has been an issue all season but particularly in the four games before Thursday night, giving up an average of 291 yards per game passing in those contests.

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch continues to show his creativity. One week after having Maurice Jones-Drew throw a pass to Marcedes Lewis for a touchdown, he called a play in which receiver Ace Sanders threw a touchdown pass to running back Jordan Todman. The creativity makes up for a lack of experienced receivers and an offensive line that struggles with consistency. Of course, it helps that the plays are working.

RB injuries: The Jaguars lost Jones-Drew late in the third quarter to a hamstring injury, and Todman suffered a minor injury late in the fourth quarter, which really hurt their chance to run the clock. Jones-Drew had surpassed 100 yards for the first time this season and it was the closest he has looked to the player who led the league in rushing in 2011. The Jaguars had to go to third-stringer Denard Robinson, who carried twice for minus-1 yard, to try to kill clock on their next-to-last drive. Todman did return on the final drive, which began after Hayes’ interception.

Costly penalty: The Jaguars played a pretty clean game, but they did commit one costly penalty that directly led to three points in the fourth quarter. Texans kicker Randy Bullock missed a 51-yard field-goal attempt, but the Jaguars were penalized for having 12 men on the field. The Texans decided to go for it on fourth-and-5, converted the first down, and Bullock went on to kick a 31-yard field goal that cut the Jaguars’ lead to 24-20 with 11 minutes, 31 seconds to play.

What’s next: The Jaguars host Buffalo on Dec. 15 in their next-to-last home game of the season.

Jaguars fantasy breakdown: Week 14

December, 5, 2013
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Looking for some help with your fantasy football lineup? Every Friday I'll give you my opinions on which Jacksonville Jaguars players to play and sit, as well as which of the opposing players might be a good play against the Jags. For more fantasy football advice, check out ESPN.com's fantasy football page.


QB Chad Henne: He got battered around pretty good in the last meeting but did not turn the ball over. In fact, it may have been one of his best games because of how poised he was despite the pressure. The Texans gave up a ton of passing yards to Tom Brady last week. Henne isn’t Brady, though. Verdict: Sit him.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew: He had a season-high 144 all-purpose yards against the Texans in the last meeting and the Jaguars’ approach of giving Jordan Todman some carries is keeping Jones-Drew fresher. Verdict: Play him as your No. 3 back or flex position.

WR Cecil Shorts: Shorts has a rough day against Cleveland until he finally beat Joe Haden for the game-winning touchdown. The Jaguars may go to some quicker passes to combat the Texan’s pass rush so Shorts should get a lot of action. Verdict. Start him.

TE Marcedes Lewis: It’s pretty clear by now that he’s not going to be a big factor in the passing game, although he did catch a touchdown pass last week. But if three catches is all you can expect, there are better options at tight end. Verdict: Sit him.

K Josh Scobee: He kicked three field goals last week and remains the team’s leading scorer at EverBank Field. There will be no weather issues and he should get a chance to score because of the Jaguars’ improved work in the red zone. Verdict: He’s as good an option as any kicker.

Defense/special teams: The Jaguars did a good job rattling Case Keenum in the last meeting, which helped them shut down Andre Johnson (two catches, 36 yards). The defense is giving up only 67.8 yards per game rushing over the last four games and has recorded nine of its 20 sacks and forced eight of its 16 turnovers in the same span. Verdict: They’re a solid option.


QB Case Keenum: He threw for 272 yards and one interception and ran for a touchdown in the loss to the Patriots last Sunday. More importantly, the offense scored 14 points in the second half. While that’s not great it shows some improvement. The Jaguars secondary has been torched in two of the past three games. Verdict: He might be worth a gamble if you’re in a league that plays two quarterbacks.

RB Ben Tate: He didn’t have a lot of success against the Jaguars (1 yard on seven carries) but he’s coming off a big day against the Patriots: 102 yards and three TDs. The Jaguars have been good against the run the last four weeks, but Tate is rounding back into form. Verdict: He’s a solid option as your No. 2 or 3 back.

TE Garrett Graham: He is one of the few tight ends who did nothing against the Jaguars. Verdict: Sit him.

WR Andre Johnson: The safest play this week is Johnson, who I can virtually guarantee will catch more than two passes against the Jaguars. Verdict: Start him.

K Randy Bullock: The Texans cannot be as inept offensively as they were 11 days ago, which should mean Bullock is a solid option. Verdict: Like Scobee, he’s as good an option as any kicker.

Defense/special teams: New England just torched the Texans for 435 yards, including 365 passing. The Jaguars don’t have the same kind of weapons, obviously, and the Texan’s pass rush really gave Henne trouble in the last meeting. Will they force mistakes, this time? Verdict: The Texans are a good gamble.

Jaguars fantasy breakdown: Week 12

November, 22, 2013
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Looking for some help with your fantasy football lineup? Every Friday I'll give you my opinions on which Jacksonville Jaguars players to play and sit, as well as which of the opposing players might be a good play against the Jags. For more fantasy football advice, check out ESPN.com's fantasy football page.

Jacksonville Jaguars

QB Chad Henne: This is a bad matchup for Henne and the Jaguars. The Texans have the league's No. 1 pass defense and J.J. Watt is playing as good as he did last season. The Jaguars may not have receiver Mike Brown as well. Verdict: Sit him.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew: We're 10 games into the season and Jones-Drew's numbers haven't gotten any better. There are a lot of issues for the run game's problems -- starting with poor blocking up front -- but the bottom line is there are few solutions to try. Verdict: Sit him.

WR Cecil Shorts: Shorts was bottled up last week by Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson and the Texans will certainly try and do the same. The Jaguars are going to move him around a bit, even putting him in the slot, to try and get him free. His production will be better but he's not going to have a big day: Verdict. Sit him.

TE Marcedes Lewis: He has only caught eight passes in the four games since he returned from a calf injury. I keep expecting him to get targeted more, especially after the loss of Justin Blackmon, but it hasn't happened. Verdict: Until the Jaguars start targeting him more, he's best kept on the bench.

K Josh Scobee: His perfect season ended last week when he missed a 60-yarder at the end of the first half. But, he's still the Jaguars' best offensive weapon. With the Jaguars struggling to run the ball and Houston's top-ranked pass defense, Scobee is the team's top scoring option this week. Verdict: Sit him.

Defense/special teams: The Jaguars' special teams have become a strength, especially kickoff return where Jordan Todman has been close to breaking a couple returns for TDs. The Jaguars have done a much better job against the run in the last two weeks, but they're coming off a game in which Carson Palmer threw for more than 400 yards. They'll have to contend with Andre Johnson and whatever tight ends the Texans want to throw out there. The key will be rattling Case Keenum to force a few turnovers. Verdict: Might be worth a gamble if you have a defense on a bye.

Houston Texans

QB Case Keenum: He has thrown for 992 yards and eight touchdowns with only one interception in his four previous starts, but he and the rest of the Houston offense has struggled in the second half (they've scored 32 second-half points in the eight losses). Verdict: Sit him.

RB Ben Tate: Tate's numbers haven't been great -- until you consider he's been playing with broken ribs. He's getting healthier each week but still isn't 100 percent. The Jaguars have been good against the run the last two weeks, but is that a trend or an anomaly? Verdict: Sit him.

TE Garrett Graham: He's coming off a career-best 136 receiving yards in last week's loss to Oakland and has four touchdowns. The Jaguars gave up 117 yards receiving to Arizona tight ends last week. Verdict: This is the safest play you could get. Start him.

WR Andre Johnson: His 72 catches are second the NFL and he needs just 34 yards receiving for his seventh 1,000-yard season. Verdict: Start him.

K Randy Bullock: Bullock is 17-for-26, but all of his misses have come from 40 yards or longer. Verdict: Sit him.

Defense/special teams: This could be a real good day for the Texans' defense. The Jaguars can't run the ball and are without their best receiver. Watt should be in the backfield all day long. Verdict: Start them.
Sanders/WattUSA TODAY SportsAce Sanders and the Jaguars' receivers must pick up their play against J.J. Watt and the Texans.

HOUSTON -- Oddly enough, it’s the team with the worse record that enters this game with the better vibes.

The Jacksonville Jaguars finally won a game two weeks ago, whereas the Houston Texans are trudging through what’s now an eight-game losing streak, the longest in franchise history.

For Houston, it’s been a matter of finishing. The Texans have led at halftime in each of their past three games. They regularly gain more yards than their opponents. They just can’t finish with wins, having lost by one, three, three and five points in their past four games.

ESPN.com Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco and Texans reporter Tania Ganguli discuss.

Ganguli: So, Mike, do you think the Jaguars have shown signs of improvement lately?

DiRocco: In certain areas, yes. They've been much better against the run since the bye week, holding the Titans to 83 yards and the Cardinals to just 14. Their special teams have improved, too, especially the kickoff-return unit. Since bobbling several kicks against the San Francisco 49ers, Jordan Todman is averaging 34.7 yards on his past seven returns. Outside of those two areas, though, improvement is hard to find. The running game is still struggling. Since rushing for 90 yards against San Francisco, the Jaguars have totaled 86 in the past two games. The passing game really misses Justin Blackmon, too, because teams are concentrating on stopping receiver Cecil Shorts, and the rest of the receivers just aren't good enough right now to carry the offense. The pass rush managed three sacks against Arizona but overall has been ineffective. Couple that with a secondary that includes three rookies and you can see why they're struggling against the pass, too.

Speaking of struggling, what has been the biggest reason for the Texans' surprising stumble this season? Is it quarterback play? Injuries?

Ganguli: Special teams, turnover margin, quarterback play, injuries and red zone efficiency on both sides of the ball are all to blame. The Texans' kicker, Randy Bullock has really struggled. He made a 51-yarder on Sunday -- his first field goal from 50 yards or longer this season. Overall, he’s made only 65.4 percent of his field goal attempts. The Texans currently have their starting tight end, running back, strong safety and middle linebacker on injured reserve. They might get tight end Owen Daniels back in a couple of weeks, but not having him has been bad. The Texans' offense and special teams have turned the ball over at a high rate -- and that’s not just on former starting quarterback Matt Schaub, though Schaub has been a big factor. Pick-sixes aside, Schaub wasn’t actually playing too poorly before he got benched for Case Keenum. He had one game that was top-to-bottom bad: the Texans’ loss in San Francisco. But a pick-six is such a big play that his really hurt the Texans. That’s not something anyone predicted heading into the season. Well, maybe someone did. Certainly not me.

Speaking of quarterbacks, what did it take for the Jaguars to finally give up on Blaine Gabbert?

DiRocco: Gus Bradley says the team hasn't given up on Gabbert, but it's pretty obvious it has by the fact that Chad Henne is starting even though Gabbert has recovered from a hamstring injury and has been healthy for weeks. It was typical Gabbert when he did play earlier in the season: some really good throws, some terrible throws and a few "what the heck was he thinking?" throws. He just hasn't been consistent enough, and he's had three seasons. The other issue is that he can't seem to stay healthy. This season alone he had a sprained ankle early in training camp, fractured his thumb in the preseason, missed two games because of a cut on his hand and left the Week 5 game with a hamstring injury and hasn't played since. He also missed the final six games of the 2012 season with a forearm injury.

Tania, what is Schaub's future in Houston? If he's out, are Keenum or T.J. Yates viable long-term solutions or will the Texans go after a quarterback in the draft?

Ganguli: Schaub’s future in Houston is murky at best. He knows that. His teammates know that. As I said earlier, people did not see this coming. The Texans' handling of Yates indicates they don’t think he’s the future. I don’t think it’d be smart to go into next season with only Keenum as a starting option given the unknowns that remain about him. So far, he hasn’t been able to react well to defensive adjustments against him. It’s entirely possible he gets better at that, but I just don’t think you know for sure yet. I could absolutely see the Texans drafting a quarterback. It’ll be a pretty deep class, though there doesn’t seem to be a knockout like Andrew Luck.

Let’s finish up with defense. The lack of a pass rush has been a problem in Jacksonville for so long. Why has it been ineffective?

DiRocco: The bottom line is the players aren't anything but average. It dates back to 2008, when the team drafted Derrick Harvey in the first round and Quentin Groves in the second to improve the pass rush. They were both busts, and the Jaguars have been chasing those picks ever since. They signed Aaron Kampman to a free-agent contract in 2010, but he arrived coming off a torn ACL, and he went on to suffer another tear, among more injuries. The Jaguars claimed Jason Babin off waivers from Philadelphia in 2012, and he has 4.5 sacks in 15 games with them. Andre Branch, last season's second-round pick, has just three sacks in 23 career games. Upgrading the pass rush will be one of the team's biggest tasks in free agency and the draft this offseason.

This obviously isn't the kind of season the Texans expected. How has the locker room been? Do you get the sense of any problems, and is it a case which another few losses (especially one to the Jaguars) could make things get nasty?

Ganguli: The locker room is frustrated, but right now, the Texans are closing ranks and taking an us-against-the-world mentality. We saw a bit of frustration within the team when Schaub yelled at Andre Johnson on the sideline for stopping his route near the end of the Texans' loss to the Raiders. Johnson yelled back and then walked off the field before the official end of the game. The team didn't need him anymore at that point because Oakland was simply kneeling to the finish, but it was a surprising move from a guy who doesn't normally show his frustration like that. Still, Johnson and Schaub both downplayed the argument, saying they were fine with each other. I thought Johnson's comments on Wednesday supported that. He talked about how "you hate to see" what Schaub has gone through this season, especially given their long history together. This is a pretty good locker room. I think if they were going to turn on each other, they would have had plenty of reasons to do so already.