1. Justin Forsett
Arian Foster, Ben Tate and Forsett pummeled Jacksonville for 216 rushing yards in the first meeting of the year. With Tate sidelined this time, Forsett steps up into the backup role. But in a week like this, he could see more carries than some teams starting tailbacks.
Foster has been a workhorse all season. He was fantastic against the Bears last week and has shown no ill effects despite carrying the heaviest workload of his career. But with a Thanksgiving trip to Detroit looming in just 4 days, Gary Kubiak should call Forsett’s number more than usual. If he can run well in relief of Foster, the Texans should be able to ground out another 200 rushing yard day and an easy victory.
2. Derek Newton
The second-year right tackle did a good job in the first Texans-Jaguars meeting this year. But Jacksonville’s best two pass rushers, Austen Lane and George Selvie, didn’t play in that game.
Look for the Jags to test Newton with both of those defensive ends on obvious passing downs Sunday. Newton has improved as the season has gone on. But his ability to protect Matt Schaub will be key to keeping drives alive and sweeping the season series against the Jags.
3. Darryl Sharpton
Sharpton will be active for the first time this season, coming off the PUP list after suffering a torn quadriceps muscle that ended his 2011 season prematurely. He will likely see most of his action on special teams, but the Texans may need him to spell Tim Dobbins too. Dobbins, the Texans best inside linebacker with Brian Cushing out, will be a gametime decision due to a shoulder injury that has limited him in practice this week.
A healthy Sharpton can have an impact in this game. He is, when at full speed, one of the fastest linebackers on the squad. His return should mean an immediate improvement on punt and kickoff coverage. And if he’s called on to play for Dobbins, his performance will be crucial if the Texans are going to throttle Jacksonville’s running game and put the heat on Blaine Gabbert again.
Follow Robert Henslee on Twitter: @SportsRadioRH