Can Jaguars left tackle Will Richardson hold his own against the Houston Texans pass rush this weekend?
Will Richardson passed the first test last week when the Jacksonville Jaguars faced the Kansas City Chiefs. His second assignment at left tackle is to face J.J. Watt – a tall task for anyone in the NFL, let alone a right tackle who was has become a solid right guard and was asked to play on the left side last week when Cam Robinson suffered a knee injury in practice.
Richardson’s success this offseason has carried over into the regular season. The Jaguars lost 40-26 last weekend to the Chiefs, but Richardson and his teammates had a decent afternoon. Now, the five offensive linemen face a Texans pass rush, led by Watt, that hasn’t always been kind to this organization.
It was one of the topics head coach Doug Marrone discussed on Wednesday with the media at TIAA Bank Field. The fact Richardson was not a topic of conversation during the game or after the fact shows he is continuing to make progress.
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"“I think the easiest way to explain that, and not to be a jerk about it, is that no one really said anything about him. And when people don’t really say a lot like, ‘He struggled,’ or, ‘He gave up a sack,’ or ‘The penalties,’ or things of that nature and he functioned well. That usually says a lot, that he played well. But Will’s worked hard. [He’s] really overcome a lot that first year,” Marrone said."
Robinson has been cleared to play, but Marrone has decided to give him more time to heal from a right knee injury he suffered prior to the season opener.
The Texans owned the Jaguars last season, winning in October, 20-7 in Jacksonville and then ending the season in Houston with a 20-3 victory. The first game sent then-quarterback Blake Bortles to the bench in place of Cody Kessler. The second game was the one that led to Tom Coughlin, the Jaguars executive vice-president of football operations, calling out both Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon for their lack of team support in the loss.
The Jaguars offense played well last week in the home opener. It was the defense that looked in disarray. Marrone and his staff will need to continue to build on the offensive line’s performance as Watt and the Texans defensive line is ready to take aim at rookie Gardner Minshew this week.
"“This week we have an in-division opponent, the Houston Texans, who three out of the last four years have won the division. They’re an extremely strong football team. They’re well-coached. They have very good players,” Marrone explained. ““It’s going to be a great challenge for us. Our focus right now is on our team, going out there and putting in the work this week, and obviously we have to improve quite a bit in a short period of time to perform the way we want to perform, so that’s where we are right now.”"
Watt was doing Watt-like things once again last season, with 16 quarterback sacks and causing all kinds of havoc on the defensive line. The Jaguars were abused last season with their opponent’s pass rush. Playing a rookie under center and Watt looking to get past Richardson is a recipe for a long day if assignments are missed.
Richardson will be the focal point of the team’s offensive line strategy this coming weekend.
"“I really – and I told this to Will when he first came back here – I didn’t know where he was going to go. I didn’t know whether he’d be out on a street today or he’d be playing, and I give him a lot of credit after what he went through last year, which was really tough maybe not having a lot of positives to build on,” Marrone said. He’s turned it around. I feel comfortable if Will plays left tackle for us or if Will competes at right guard. I have no problem playing Will Richardson [Jr.] at any position except center.”"