By Paul Gallant, SportsRadio 610By Paul Gallant

HOUSTON (SPORTSRADIO 610) – Sunday’s Texans season opener against the Jaguars will be an emotional one for Houston. And in his first game as Texans defensive coordinator, Mike Vrabel is hoping his defense will give fans at NRG Stadium something to get excited about.

“When we play hard and make plays our crowd is behind us,” said Vrabel. “Obviously they’re going to be behind us this week. It’s the season opener. Obviously we understand the magnitude of the game with what people have dealt with in this city.”

“Our first responders, the people that are here, the people at the shelters,” finished Vrabel. “We’ll play hard for ’em.”

Vrabel is also hoping that all the preparation he did with his defense will help the unit replicate the success it had last season.

“Those first couple of games as a coach you spend a lot of time covering ghosts,” said Vrabel of his preparation for the game. “They could do this. They could do that. And what you’ve got to remind yourself is that you’ve got to hope that the preparation in the offseason, what you’ve shown them, that the base fundamentals of our defense and what they know carry out to the first game. Make sure we’ve got clean operation. No silly substitution errors. No silly penalties.”

“You’re not trying to tell them too much,” continued Vrabel. “You’re trying to give them a little bit of ‘they may do this’ or ‘they may do that’, but you really never know.”

Jaguars starting quarterback Blake Bortles has had a topsy turvy preseason. He was the second team quarterback for Jacksonville’s third preseason game. But 4 days after that game, head coach Doug Marrone said Bortles is the “Best I’ve seen him.” Vrabel echoed the compliments, and brought up Bortles’ mobility as a factor.

“We’ve seen both sides of him,” “We’ve seen a guy that’s been accurate. He stands back there and delivers the ball and finds his receivers. They’ve got great receivers. We have a lot of respect for Allen Robinson and [Allen] Hurns and [Marquise] Lee and all the young guys that they have. And he can run. That’s an element we’re well aware of. He can scramble if something’s not there.”

In 6 games against the Texans, Bortles has struggled (and is 0-6):

  • 12/18/16: 12-28, 92 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
  • 11/13/16: 32-49, 265 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
  • 1/3/16: 17-32, 239 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT
  • 10/18/15: 30-53, 331 yards, 3 TD, 3 INT
  • 12/28/14: 14-33, 117 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
  • 12/7/14: 20-39, 205 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Sunday will be Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette’s first career game. Given Bortles’ struggles, he’ll likely have to play well to give Jacksonville a chance.

“Leonard is a big back,” said Vrabel. “He’s a downhill powerful runner. Somebody that we have to key on. He’s in there to run the ball and pound it, control the down and distance and get them in third and short.”

Paul Gallant hosts “Gallant at Night” – Tuesdays 9-11 PM CT, Wednesdays 8-11 CT, and Fridays 8-11 CT – on SportsRadio 610. He also hosts SportsZone Unfiltered – Fridays at 10 PM – on The Kube: Channel 57. Get in touch with Paul via email or his facebook page.


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