It’s starting to look like the Houston Texans are ahead of schedule with their rebuild.
Houston is riding a three-game winning streak and will have a chance to take over first place in the AFC South on Sunday when it faces the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars.
After going 11-38 over the previous three seasons, the Texans (6-4) have found a formula for success behind rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud and defensive-minded first-year coach DeMeco Ryans, a former Houston linebacker.
With a victory Sunday, the Texans would share the same record as Jacksonville (7-3) while claiming the top spot in the division by nature of a head-to-head tiebreaker. Houston would improve to 2-0 against the Jaguars this season after beating them back on Sept. 24.
However, taking down the Jaguars doesn’t guarantee an AFC South title by any means, so Ryans is more focused on getting his team ready to perform down the stretch.
“I never thought about this point of the season, because I think if you just take care of it one day at a time, then everything else will take care of itself,” Ryans said. “Our focus is continuing to improve, continue to show growth.”
Stroud, the second overall pick in this year’s draft, has thrown for 1,162 yards with nine total touchdowns (eight passing, one rushing) during the Texans’ winning streak. He also has four interceptions during that span, with three coming in last Sunday’s 21-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
The giveaways by Stroud weren’t enough to fluster Houston’s defense, which has vastly improved from a season ago.
During the 2022 campaign, the Texans ranked 30th in total defense (379.5 yards allowed per game) and 27th in scoring defense (24.7 points allowed per game). But under Ryans, Houston ranks 19th (337.9) and 14th (20.8) in those respective categories.
Still, Jacksonville is sure to present a challenge.
The Jaguars have prevailed in six of their past seven games, averaging 28.3 points across the six wins.
Trevor Lawrence took over in Jacksonville’s most recent victory, last weekend’s 34-14 rout of the Tennessee Titans. Lawrence completed 24 of 32 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for a pair of scores. He was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday.
Receiver Zay Jones provided a boost for the offense, hauling in four catches for 20 yards while also giving Calvin Ridley (seven receptions, 103 yards, two TDs) and Christian Kirk (three receptions, 48 yards) more room to operate.
Jones had missed the Jaguars’ previous four games due to a knee injury and an arrest, but he’s thrilled to be back, especially with such a big game on deck.
“We know what the implications are as far as our division, and we won’t make it any bigger than that. But we have a healthy respect for what they’re doing in Houston,” Jones said. “We know that we’re gonna have our hands full. … It’s gonna be an exciting matchup.”
That knee injury is still causing some problems for Jones, as he was limited at Wednesday’s practice. Defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris (ankle) was also limited, while cornerback Tyson Campbell (hamstring) was held out.
Defensive end Will Anderson Jr., wide receiver Noah Brown and tackle Laremy Tunsil were among those who didn’t practice for the Texans on Wednesday, and all three are dealing with knee injuries.
Safety Jimmie Ward (hamstring) also was a non-participant, and defensive end Dylan Horton announced that he will be away from the team due to a “personal health matter.”
–Field Level Media