Jaguars’ Inability to Bring Down Deshaun Watson Was Defensive Achilles Heel Sunday

John Shipley

When a team gets dominated from start to finish the way the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) were in Sunday's 26-3 loss to the Houston Texans (6-3), every aspect of the team shares some blame in what took place. 

This was the case for Jacksonville's defense against Houston, despite the team's offense being the main culprit behind the loss. While an offense that was allergic to the end zone was the primary reason Jacksonville lost in London, the defense struggled mightily against Deshaun Watson. 

Watson finished his day 22-of-28 passing (78.6% completion) for 201 yards and two touchdowns. This gave him 7.2 yards per attempt and a tremendous 120.4 rating. But it was what Watson did before he ever got rid of the ball on Sunday that hurt Jacksonville. 

With the Texans missing stud left tackle Laremy Tunsil due to injury, the Jaguars were able to pressure Watson early and often but only finished the day with one sack. Why? Because Watson made terrific pash rushers like Yannick Ngakoue, Josh Allen and Calais Campbell look silly time and time again.

"You know, I think that, I said before, we knew going into the game that Deshaun Watson is an MVP candidate and we weren't able to get him down a couple times early on, elusive, ran the football, extended the play, made good throws," Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said after the game. "But we were trying to get it to where we got him -- we weren't able to get him into the third-down situations where we felt it kind of tilted our way."

Sacks are next to turnovers as the most optimal play possible for a defense. And only a week ago the Jaguars registered eight sacks against a bad New York Jets offensive line. But the Jets didn't have a magician at quarterback as the Texans do, and Jacksonville had to learn that lesson the hard way.

And it appears that at least on the surface, Jacksonville understands their inability to bring down Watson was more than their own problem. It is a problem the rest of the NFL defenses who face Watson have had to address. Unfortunately, the Jaguars had no answers for it on Sunday.

“Yeah, you know, the way I would like to answer that question is that first of all, it's a great job being able to beat someone, right? Know what I'm saying? Like to get to a position where you're able to make that play," Marrone said after the game when asked about the missed sacks. 

"I think the guy we were playing against, the quarterback, rather than looking at it as, ‘Hey listen, we missed something,’ I look at it as ‘That guy is just unbelievable.’ His fluidity -- I don't know if that's even the right word -- of when he gets hit or when he gets grabbed and he can move and escape, I don't -- I've seen him do it against everyone."

It wasn't like Jacksonville's defensive line was getting flat out beat by a Texans line without Tunsil. Quite the contrary actually, as Jacksonville was able to pin their ears back and disrupt the pocket more than often enough. But as Marrone noted, it just wasn't enough.

“It's tough. The one thing our guys are doing, those guys were doing on those plays, you talk about effort, it's all you can get out of it," Marrone said. 

"Sure, were we wanting to get him down? Absolutely. But I don't want to make it like it's a missed sack where they ran by and did something poorly. I look at it as the quarterback was just exceptional at being able to avoid it."

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