HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – When the Texans and Jaguars meet this weekend in Jacksonville each sporting a 1-4 record, they’ll be fighting for the right to climb out of the bottom of the AFC South standings.
The Jaguars are led by second-year quarterback Blake Bortles, who’s coming off the best statistical game of his career in a 38-31 loss at Tampa Bay. He completed 23 of 33 passes for 303 yards and four touchdowns and one interception. He sprained his shoulder during that game but was expected to practice on Wednesday.
In his two games against the Texans in his rookie campaign last season – both losses – Bortles totaled 339 yards and one touchdown through the air and rushed for 71 total yards, but he says the difference between his play this year versus last year is night and day.
“I’ve grown a lot,” Bortles said during his conference call on Wednesday. “I think physically and mentally I’ve made improvements but still have a lot more improvements to make. I’m definitely in a better spot than this time last year, which is to be expected when you’re a year in, and I think I’m definitely ahead.”
The Texans defense is expecting an improved quarterback from what they’ve seen on film. So far this season, Bortles has thrown for 1,299 yards and 10 touchdowns (he’s one of only six NFL QBs with double-digit passing TDs in 2015) with four interceptions for an 87.2 passer rating. He also has 14 rushes for 112 yards.
“I think he looks a little bit more comfortable this year,” Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said. “He obviously has a year under his belt to get to know his teammates and get used to the game, so I think he’s going to continue to do that as his career goes on and he’s going to get better and better.”
“Probably just a little bit more confidence,” said Texans linebacker Brian Cushing when asked how he thinks Bortles has grown. “He’s got a strong arm, he’s a playmaker, he’s got some good receivers he can throw to and a good running back he can hand off to, so they’re definitely an improving offense.”
On the other side of the ball, the Texans face a defense that ranks second in the NFL with a 2.88 rushing average allowed in home games this season.
“They’re very stout in the run game, so we know it’s going to be a challenge for us but we have to press forward and not abandon the run game, not become one-dimensional,” Texans left tackle Duane Brown said. “They have very good linebacker play, third-and-long they have great blitz packages and they have some pretty good pass rushes. They always play us tough, but the good thing is that we’re familiar with them.”
“This is a team I played against last year with Cleveland and I remember walking from that game thinking what a great defense they had,” Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer said. “They have a good scheme and they have the players to play that scheme and they kind of let them out there and let them loose, so it’s going to be a great challenge for us.
“We have to be on top of our game plan and know that they’re going to line up and come after us on every play.”