Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans: Five keys to a Jaguars victory

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 18: Blake Bortles
HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 18: Blake Bortles /

The Jacksonville Jaguars begin their 2017 campaign against the Houston Texans. Here are five keys to coming away with a victory for the Jaguars.

The Jacksonville Jaguars hit the road to Houston to take on the Texans on opening Sunday in the NFL. Starting the season with a win would be a huge step in the right direction for Jacksonville, especially against a divisional rival on the road.

In order to return home with the victory, these five keys will be crucial for the Jaguars on Sunday:

Running game

The Jaguars’ offensive philosophy is to run the ball, and run it often, especially after using the fourth overall pick in the draft on Leonard Fournette. Fournette didn’t get much playing time in the preseason as a precautionary, so his legs will be fresh. Expect him to get as many carries as possible on Sunday.

A strong running effort will be vital for Jacksonville to keep the chains moving and control the time of possession. With uncertainty around quarterback Blake Bortles, a big day from the ground attack will also alleviate some of the pressure Bortles will be facing.

A massive factor in whether the running game is successful on Sunday is the next key, the offensive line.

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Offensive line

The Jaguars offensive line has struggled at times during the preseason, and it was uncertain who the starting five would even be leading up to this week. The first test for the unit will be as daunting a task as they will face this season, as they get to go up against J.J Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.

Jacksonville’s offensive line will not only need to find a way to open running lanes for Leonard Fournette and company, but must limit the amount of times Blake Bortles is getting pressured by Houston’s pass rushers on dropbacks.

If the offensive line can’t adequately protect and create lanes, the Jaguars don’t have a shot on Sunday.

Getting Pressure

On the opposite side of the ball, the Jaguars pass rushers getting constant heat and disrupting the Texans offense will be important.

Whether it’s the big free agent additions of the last two offseasons Malik Jackson and Calais Campbell, or the young draftees Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler Jr., getting into Houston’s backfield and wreaking havoc will go a long way towards a victory.

The Texans are starting Tom Savage at quarterback, so Houston’s offense is not exactly considered a feared unit. Keeping him on his toes and uncomfortable for the duration of the game will keep the score down and give the Jaguars offense chances to make enough plays to win the game.

Protecting the football

Odds are the game will probably be low-scoring and come down to who avoids the crucial mistake, so the Jaguars will especially not be able to afford to give away the football in this one. Jacksonville will need to play clean and has to find a way to not gift a turnover to the Texans.

Blake Bortles

In the end, it’s obvious that the focus on Sunday will be on Blake Bortles. After a treacherous quarterback competition with Chad Henne during the preseason, it was unclear if Bortles was even going to be the starter. Bortles held on to the position, and now must find a way to cut out the mistakes that have almost cost him his job.

The Jaguars will not ask Bortles to sling the football all around the field and put up big numbers. They just need him to manage the game and make the throws that a starting quarterback should make, while avoiding the backbreaking mistakes that he is prone to making.

The Jacksonville Jaguars will only go as far as Blake Bortles takes them, and he will need to become more reliable behind center if they want to win on Sunday.