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Published September 19, 2015
The Jacksonville Jaguars would love a repeat performance against Houston receiver Andre Johnson.
The Jaguars held the five-time Pro Bowler to two receptions for 36 yards in their first meeting 11 days ago, Johnson's worst day in more than a year.
But the Jaguars (3-9) realize there's little chance it happens again when the Texans (2-10) come to town for the rematch Thursday night. After all, this is the same inexperienced secondary that got torched by Arizona's Michael Floyd for 193 yards last month, and by Cleveland's Josh Gordon for 261 yards last week.
"You definitely don't want to see those kind of performances on your secondary," Jaguars cornerback Alan Ball said. "We have to put it behind us, learn from it and go from there."
Sounds simple, but Johnson has a history of success against Jacksonville. He has 106 receptions for 1,470 yards and seven touchdowns in 18 career games against the Jaguars. And the best game of his 11-year career was a 14-catch, 273-yard performance against Jacksonville last year.
Johnson offered no reasons for his lack of production less than two weeks ago. Houston struggled all day, finishing with a season-low 218 yards.
"They came in and had a great plan defensively, and they did a great job of executing," Johnson said. "You have to give them credit. They went out, did a great job. Hopefully we'll be able to go out and make some plays against them Thursday night."
Although Jacksonville have been stout against the run since its bye, holding Tennessee, Arizona, Houston and Cleveland under 100 yards, the team has been burned through the air.
Tennessee's Ryan Fitzpatrick came off the bench and threw for 264 yards and two scores. Arizona's Carson Palmer finished with 419 yards and two touchdowns. And Cleveland's Brandon Weeden ended up throwing for 370 yards and three scores.
So it's become clear that teams are picking on Jacksonville's young secondary, which includes rookie cornerback Dwayne Gratz and rookie safeties Johnathan Cyprien and Josh Evans. Evans (shoulder) is out this week, leaving second-year player Guy Winston to make his first career start.
"In the NFL, you get humbled very quick," defensive coordinator Bob Babich said. "I think the guys, they're just looking at it as a challenge of playing against a great player. I'm sure they've seen him for many, many years making great plays, and for them, I'm sure they're saying, 'Hey, I'm playing against Andre Johnson. This is neat.'
"The good thing about being a rookie is sometimes you're young enough where you don't understand. You just go out there and play."
In addition to Johnson trying to rebound, here are five things to know about the Texans and Jaguars:
BRIDGEWATER BOWL? The loser of the game, especially if it's the Texans, would have the inside track to the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft. If the Jaguars lose and finish the season with three wins, they likely would get the top pick based on weakness of schedule. And with both teams looking to draft a quarterback, this could be a deciding game for who gets first shot at Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, widely considered the top quarterback available (if he enters the draft) since Oregon's Marcus Mariota is returning to college for another year.
JAGUARS AT HOME: The Jaguars have lost six in a row at home, a streak coach Gus Bradley pointed out in meetings this week. Jacksonville has won three in a row on the road, including the last two weeks, and needs to carry that momentum into EverBank Field on Thursday night. The team's last win at home came Nov. 25, 2012, against Tennessee. "Can we stay true to the last couple of weeks how we got to this point?" Bradley said. "Our players felt like we had the recipe all year, but we saw the results. Let's stick to the recipe and see if we can."
KUBIAK'S FUTURE: There's already plenty of speculation about Texans coach Gary Kubiak's job security. His team has lost 10 consecutive games, the longest streak in franchise history. Getting swept by Jacksonville surely would intensify it. The Jaguars have swept Houston just twice in the 11 years since the creation of the AFC South. "I've got too many other people to worry about and things to worry about," said Kubiak, who suffered a mini-stroke last month but returned to coaching soon after. "I don't worry about myself."
MJD'S MATCHUP: No team has given up more touchdowns to Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew than the Texans. MJD has found the end zone 11 times in 12 games against Houston. He also has 828 yards rushing. But all the talk this week was about Jones-Drew's arm. His TD pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis was the first by a non-QB in franchise history. Asked whether he's a better passer than teammates and college QBs Denard Robinson or Mike Brown, he said: "The stats speak for themselves."
MINCEY RETURNS: Jaguars veteran defensive end Jeremy Mincey, inactive the last two games after oversleeping and being late to a team meeting, will return against the Texans "unless something unforeseen happens," Bradley said.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org