What we saw: Jacksonville Jaguars 27, Houston Texans 20

The Houston Texans took one step closer towards the number one overall draft pick in the 2014 NFL draft with another crushing loss—this time to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Let’s take a look at what we learned last night.

  • Case Keenum isn’t the answer for the Texans. Neither is Matt Schaub, but that was something we knew much earlier this season. While a lot of people were frustrated by the move to Schaub Thursday night, they might be overlooking the fact that Keenum has been struggling. He wasn’t handling the blitz well, struggled making his reads and generally looked overwhelmed. It’s safe to say that Houston will be looking at quarterbacks for their first pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
  • Maybe the Jaguars aren’t quite as far off the rails as we thought. Bear with us here and keep in mind we’re not saying this is going to be the 2014 version of the Kansas City Chiefs. There are holes, but there is also a ton of talent. Their biggest holes are defensive end and quarterback (or quarterback, quarterback, quarterback and defensive end). But there’s a solid foundation here. And as much as you don’t want to overestimate two wins over the Texans, winning three games straight and four out of five after losing eight straight is worthy of note. It won’t be a short road, but maybe it’s not as long as we thought.
  • Andre Johnson doesn’t get as much love as Calvin Johnson or Dez Bryant—rightfully so—but he needs to get more praise. Consider how bad his quarterback play has been this year—and how inconsistent over the course of his career—and it puts into perspective just how good he’s been. Health has been a factor at times, but when healthy he needs to be considered as one of the best in the NFL.
  • It makes sense to me for the Jaguars to let Maurice Jones-Drew go. It’s not that Jones-Drew is a bad back—far from it. But he’s likely to want a contract not unlike the current 5 yr/$31.1 million one he has now. The Jaguars aren’t likely to want to drop that on a back who will be turning 29 next year and is already showing signs of age. The Jaguars need to focus on other things and while Jones-Drew is a very good back, he’s not one to build a franchise around.

That’s what stood out to me. What stood out to you? Let me know in the comments.

Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.

 

3 Questions about: Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars

While this may not be one of Thursday Night Football’s better matchups, there are still some interesting angles to it.

The Houston Texans may be a shocking 2-10 this season, but they have talent—talent enough to perhaps turn the team around quickly if they have the right quarterback and, perhaps, a new coach.

Meanwhile the Jacksonville Jaguars seem like they have a lot more ground to cover in order to compete in the AFC South, much less the NFL as a whole. At 3-9, they aren’t much better off than the Texans and they share a common need—quarterback—in a draft which appears to be heavy with talent.

This game may not seem like much on the surface, but the outcome could have a big impact on what each team’s offseason looks like.

  • Let’s be blunt—Texans head coach Gary Kubiak is coaching for his job. This season was a disaster from very early on and while he has had two straight successful seasons his 61-62 coaching record with the Texans points to a mediocre, at best, job. He hung onto quarterback Matt Schaub too long, has failed to make the most of talented players like Andre Johnson, J.J. Watt and Ben Tate and has not been able to find a way to make the 2013 Texans look less like the 2010 Texans and more like the 2011 or 2012 Texans. The Jaguars may not be the worst team in the NFL, but they represent what should be a win for the Texans. The team lost last time at home—losing to the Jaguars again could be the last straw.
  • What future is there for Maurice Jones-Drew on this team? There aren’t a lot of offensive building blocks here. A passable offensive line, Cecil Shorts and, if he can get back in the NFL, Justin Blackmon—but not much else. Is this a team which can afford to lose Jones-Drew even if the back is on the downside of a career? And would it have been wiser to trade him and get some value? If he walks now, the Jaguars just gain another offensive hole. Jones-Drew can make a case in a game like this for sticking around and the matchup lends itself to success for him tonight.

Is Case Keenum potentially a starting NFL quarterback? After some great early games he has slid backwards and struggled. Still, for an undrafted free agent, he has acquitted himself well overall and against some good teams. It’s likely he will never be more than a backup, but he could build a strong case for at least a chance if he can close the season on a high note.

Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.

Chalkboard: Case Keenum’s Mad Scramble and 42-yard Touchdown Pass

GrahamBirdOftentimes choosing which play I break down is difficult. We can pick out a dozen plays on any weekend and make an argument for or against breaking any of them down.

Sometimes they leap right out at you.

Two plays did that this week, but by now we’ve all read enough about the Carolina-New England pass interference penalty (and a wide open Danny Amendola) to have our fill.

The other play not only was amazing on its own merits, but even more so in the face of the benching of the quarterback involved later on.

Houston Texans quarterback Case Keenum has looked very good since taking over for an imploding Matt Schaub in keenumWeek 7. Since then he has completed 55.5 percent of his passes for 992 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception.

Considering he was undrafted in the 2012 NFL draft and spent that year on the practice squad, that’s pretty impressive.

As was his scramble and touchdown pass.

The play took place on a 3rd and 1, with 12:09 left in the second quarter.

The Oakland Raiders are clearly thinking run and with Ben Tate and a fullback lined up in the backfield as well as an extra tight end to the right side.

Another tight end, Garrett Graham, is to the left and behind the line of scrimmage.  The Raiders have a defender on him because he could go either out on a route or block easily.

It’s a tight offensive formation, built to run and the Raiders react accordingly, with ten players in the box, eight of which are on the line of scrimmage.

Graham goes in motion though, pulling a defender with him to the right side of the formation. Again, this absolutely signals run to the defense as the formation is now heavily stacked to the right side.

Graham Route

Even when the ball is snapped, the offensive line blocks to its left, away from the way the runner would go, thereby selling the run even more.

Keenum snaps the ball and instead of handing it off, drops back.

Graham ignores the defender in front of him and appears to move to the second level to block.

With Graham going out, defensive end Lamarr Houston plunges into the backfield unchecked and Keenum is forced to leave the pocket very early.

Scramble2

While Houston is chasing Keenum down, the quarterback keeps his eyes downfield, clearly looking to throw if he can. He gets outside quickly too—Houston is immediately a step behind and therefore is at a bad angle of attack.

The result is that when Keenum cuts towards the sideline, Houston can’t react quickly enough and dives at the quarterback, hoping to trip him up.Keenum Dodge

He misses though, and Keenum is able to get to the sideline, set and throw the ball downfield.

Meanwhile, Graham, having also ignored defenders at the second level, has gone out on a “fly” route and managed to get behind veteran free safety Charles Woodson.

UPDATE POST-ALL22 VIEWING

Now that All-22 Coaches film is out, Wodson’s actions become much clearer, as I assumed they would.

On the play, Graham’s route stops at about the 25-yard line., where he turns a bit towards the right sideline. Woodson is about five yards beyond him and closer to the sideline and both players drift back towards the play as Keenum scrambles.

Once Keenum eludes Houston, Graham turns and sprints upfield. Woodson, who has moved towards the play sees this and tries to turn, stumbling as he does so.

That momentary delay allows Graham to get to top speed before Woodson can accelerate.  All things being equal, Woodson does an excellent job catching up to Graham and the pass.

Woodson he goes from five yards behind Graham and catches up to him, though that is also in part because Graham slows down to catch the ball.

However, he doesn’t get there quickly enough and Graham makes the catch for the touchdown.

Graham Separation

The play is the result of some great work by the quarterback. Keenum doesn’t panic, doesn’t try to force something. He scrambles, keeps his eyes downfield looking for Graham and then decisively delivers the ball when he see Graham break free.

Of course, it’s help by an over-committed Raiders run defense, but we shouldn’t take anything away from the excellent play by Keenum.

Which makes his benching for Schaub all the more perplexing.

He did throw an interception early but he was hit while he threw, resulting in a wobbly and off-target pass. It was also his first interception this season.

Keenum also fumbled the ball in the third quarter, though Graham recovered it.

It could also be that before he was yanked, he had directed three series where he went three downs and out. When he was removed the Texans were behind 28-17, but at that point doesn’t the defense hold some responsibility? They’re the ones letting up 80-yard touchdown runs.

However, those are the moments you want to find out about your young quarterback. Can he bounce back? Can he lead the team from behind?

Instead you stick in a quarterback who had been horrendous when starting this season and manage to show that with one more pass attempt, he can throw for less yards.

Keenum gives you mobility Schaub will never have and while he is young, brings a poise to the pocket which was lacking prior to his first start.

Coach Kubiak is unimpressed by your antics Keenum....

Coach Kubiak is unimpressed by your antics Keenum….

It’s hard to look at the game completely and see what head coach Gary Kubiak was seeing, or understand why Schaub was plugged back in.

Did they lose every game Keenum started? Yes, but looking at his run, that’s as much an indictment of an under-performing defense as it is Keenum—perhaps more of one.

Keenum will get the start but we got no real clarity from Kubiak’s explanation of going to Schaub, so it’s not beyond belief that it could happen again.

If he does, it might be Kubiak—not Schaub—who gets booed by the crowd and yelled at by Andre Johnson.

Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.

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