Jaguars vs. Texans, 10 observations: Pass rush offers special debut, Bortles acts as game manager

The Jaguars are at the top of the AFC South following their Week 1 win over the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium Sunday.

The 29-7 victory was the first season-opening win for the Jaguars since 2011. That was also the last time the Jaguars had a winning record.

Sure, it's just one game, but that's all it takes sometimes.

Doug Marrone's debut as the Jaguars' full-time head coach went as well as the Jaguars could have asked for, outside of the knee injury suffered by wide receiver Allen Robinson.

While Hurricane Irma has put a damper on the spirits of the First Coast, the much-needed win should offer some relief to what has been a hectic week for thousands of Jaguars fans.

As with most wins, there is plenty to discuss following the season-opener. Below are 10 observations from the Week 1 win:

1. Calais Campbell is worth his big deal. 

Campbell signed a four-year, $60 million deal on the first day of free agency in March. The first two years are locked in with $30 million in guaranteed money. 

After the move was made, I spoke with a few national media members who questioned the Jaguars' decision to give that impressive total to a 31-year-old lineman. On Sunday, Campbell showed you that he could end up being the best free agent signing in franchise history.

He produced 3.5 sacks in the first 29 minutes of the game. He followed that up with a half-sack in the fourth quarter. The four-sack total set a new franchise record for the Jaguars.

Campbell accounted for four of the defense's franchise record-setting 10 sacks against the Texans. The 6-foot-8, 300-pound lineman earned his paycheck and then some against Houston.

2. The Jaguars' secondary didn't need game reps to form a connection.

The Jaguars' top five defensive backs all dealt with injuries during the offseason. The top three cornerbacks had never played together in a game prior to Sunday.

Those facts really didn't seem to matter against Houston.

The secondary held the Texans' receivers to just 110 receiving yards. The coverage also played into the franchise-record sack total for Jacksonville. 

The physicality of Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye and Aaron Colvin stood out throughout the game, strong safety Barry Church showed off his run-stopping skills and free safety Tashaun Gipson capped the game with an impressive interception return.

You can argue that the Texans' quarterbacks were overmatched, but the Jaguars' secondary clearly can cover to the standard that their "on paper" potential has set.

It wasn't all perfect, as Bouye was flagged three times in coverage. He may need to ease up on his aggressiveness, but at least he has a playing style that mirrors Ramsey's swagger.

3. Fowler, Ngakoue showing growth

Second-year defensive end Yannick Ngakoue produced two strip sacks in the first half. The second of the two forced fumbles led to a touchdown by fellow defensive end Dante Fowler.

Fowler eventually repaid Ngakoue with a sack strip of his own in the second half. Ngakoue was able to recover the ball.

While some will point out Ngakoue's deficiencies against the run and Fowler's status as a rotational pass rusher, it's hard not to be impressed by the pair's synergy against the Texans.

Campbell's output was momentous to the Jaguars' success Sunday, but Ngakoue and Fowler stopped all opportunities for a comeback. 

4. Fournette is as good as advertised.

The win offered enough positive takeaways that Leonard Fournette's debut is the fourth note in Week 1. Fournette's debut featured 124 total yards and a touchdown.

Aided by an improved run-blocking performance from the offensive line, Fournette showed off his burst and short-yardage running ability against the Texans. 

Fournette displayed his receiving skills throughout training camp. Those attributes came in handy for the Jaguars' offense, as the rookie running back was able to pick up the slack in Robinson's absence.

If Robinson suffered a major injury, Fournette will get plenty of opportunities to make fantasy football owners happy. 

5. Bortles did what he needed to do.

Marrone has said that he wants to build the offense around the run. On Sunday, he did that.

Blake Bortles completed 11-of-21 passes for 125 passing yards and a touchdown. He did nothing to hurt the Jaguars. If anything he managed the game, which is what the Jaguars want from him.

He struggled a bit in the first two red zone trips but ultimately led five scoring drives.

Bortles forced one throw that was a bad decision in the red zone, but the play didn't come back to bite him.

He also had an impressive scramble for a first down in the first half.

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5. The offensive line also does its job.

Bortles dropped back 21 times. He was never sacked. 

In the past, Bortles has been battered by the Texans' defensive line. On Sunday, his jersey was kept clean.

The starting line also opened up several holes for Fournette and Chris Ivory. Rookie left tackle Cam Robinson was unnoticeable upon a live viewing. That's one of the best compliments you can give a rookie lineman in his debut.

Patrick Omameh at left guard proved to be the right decision after all for the Jaguars.

6. Myers will never let the Jaguars be comfortable.

Kicker Jason Myers is still an enigma through 33 regular season games. He missed two attempts against the Texans inside NRG Stadium. He missed a 39-yard attempt and an extra point try. It seems like Myers has a blunder or two every other game. 

He made three other attempts, but the misses stick out in a nearly flawless outing for the Jaguars in their first game of the season.

7. Robinson's loss could loom heavily if he is out for a while.

The Jaguars' win did have a hint of bitter sweetness. The team lost Robinson to a left knee injury on the opening drive. He caught a 17-yard pass for a first down and injured himself while running out of bounds. He limped back onto the field and eventually laid down to be worked on by the team's medical staff.

If the injury is severe, the Jaguars will be without their top offensive player for a while. Bortles proved to be even less efficient in the red zone without Robinson's size and leaping ability. 

With Robinson potentially out of the lineup, Allen Hurns would serve as the starting X receiver. Marqise Lee, the starter on the opposite side of Robinson, was held without a catch against the Texans.

Robinson brings out the best in both receivers. 

8. Can Keelan Cole step up?

Undrafted rookie wide receiver Keelan Cole ran away with a roster spot in the preseason. He failed to stick out on Sunday.

The Jaguars may be without Robinson for a bit and already put Dede Westbrook on injured reserve, so they will need Cole to show some growth. Arrelious Benn is the only other option outside of Hurns, Lee and Cole.

Cole needs to make big plays and fast or the Jaguars' run game will see a lot of bodies in the box on a weekly basis.

9. It is just one game.

Not to be a downer, but the Jaguars have to prove this is a sustainable success. The Jaguars played two overmatched quarterbacks who were missing their Pro Bowl left tackle.

The Jaguars won't receive similar ideal circumstances every week.

10. Next week's home opener will be for the AFC South lead.

The Jaguars may have the division lead in their grasp right now, but there are a lot more games left to be played. The Tennessee Titans will come to town next Sunday and the game will go a long way in establishing the Jaguars as division contenders.

If the Jaguars start off 2-0 in the division, they will be in a position to run away with the AFC South. If Jacksonville loses, the Titans will hold the cards moving forward.

The Titans lost to the Oakland Raiders, 26-16, in Week 1.

Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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