If Jags coach Gus Bradley is to evade what looks like an inevitable “pink slip” at the end of the season, it will be his defense that will need to carry the load down the stretch.
Of their remaining eight games, five come against AFC South divisional rivals. This week the division leading Texans come to Jacksonville, and they may just be the perfect Jaguars prey.
In three road contests, Houston is averaging single digits on the scoreboard. While they are coming off the Bye Week, the Jaguars have a chance to drop their dismal 26.5 points allowed per game average on home turf.
One thing is for sure, Bradley will stick to most teams’ script by keying in on Texans primary game-breaker WR DeAndre Hopkins.
When asked this week about Hopkins’ sub par first half of the season, Bradley said, “I think defenses are doing a good job of being aware of Hopkins.” He’s only caught three TD’s and is averaging only 54 receiving yards per game. The danger is Hopkins may be ready for a breakout game.
Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler is still working on validating the massive 4-year deal he signed during the off-season, without much luck so far. Jags fans can take solace in the fact that Osweiler has almost as much of a propensity for throwing interceptions as QB Blake Bortles. The Houston quarterback has nine picks on the season, yet has thrown only one over the past two games.
If the Jags defense can take away Hopkins, the Texans will turn to RB Lamar Miller. While his production dropped off following a breakout game against the Colts in Week 6, Miller is still averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
“He’ll hit it downhill, but some of his bigger plays come from the outside where he bounces it,” said Bradley. “So we really got to be good on the perimeter.”
This showdown Sunday is important for as bad as they were in the first half, the Jaguars are only two games back with half the season to go. Jacksonville still has a chance to save the season and Gus Bradley’s job.
But if his defense can’t get the job done the rest of the way, Bradley will have no defense himself for why his specialty couldn’t stop opponents.