There aren’t many job titles in the NFL more unstable than that of Houston Texans starting quarterback with coach Bill O’Brien consistently rotating Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett.
Hoyer did enough last week to convince O’Brien he’s – for now – the best man for the gig and will get the start Sunday in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars hope Blake Bortles’ shoulder injury will heal in time for him to be fully healthy under center as they look to snap a three-game skid in the AFC South battle of 1-4 clubs.
Hoyer won the Texans’ starting job out of camp, then was removed in favor of Mallett in a season-opening loss to Kansas City. Mallett has started the last four, but he was benched for Hoyer in each of the last two.
O’Brien has decided to go back to Hoyer, who finished 24 of 31 for 312 yards and threw two touchdowns for the second straight week in Houston’s 27-20 loss to Indianapolis on Oct. 8.
Hoyer has completed 62.1 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and two picks, while Mallett has a 53.1 completion percentage with three TDs and four interceptions.
”It’s 11 one-game seasons (remaining), so (Hoyer’s) the starter for Jacksonville,” O’Brien said. ”I think over the last two games he’s gone in there with a really good attitude, with a calmness about him, with really good mechanics. Has he been perfect? No. But I think that … overall he’s played pretty well.”
The Jaguars don’t have a quarterback controversy, but there might be some concern after Bortles suffered a Grade 1 AC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder during Sunday’s 38-31 loss at Tampa Bay.
Bortles played through the injury and threw for a season-best 303 yards and career-high four touchdowns despite being sacked a season-high six times. He said Wednesday that his shoulder feels "fine" and that he expects to be ready to face Houston.
Jacksonville lost both meetings with the Texans last season as Bortles completed 47.2 percent of his passes while being sacked nine times. J.J. Watt had three sacks in each contest and has 11 1/2 in eight career games against the Jaguars.
Fellow Texans pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, however, has been ruled out due to an ankle injury.
Bortles, meanwhile, comes into this matchup looking to continue to establish a growing connection with two of his fellow second-year teammates.
Allen Robinson caught two TD passes last week and has hauled in four on the season. Allen Hurns finished with a career-high 116 yards for the second straight game and had a touchdown reception for the third consecutive week.
Jacksonville has lost three straight, though, with the last two coming by a combined 10 points. The usually stout Jaguars run defense allowed a season-worst 183 yards on the ground to Tampa Bay with middle linebacker Paul Posluszny out because of a high ankle sprain.
Coach Gus Bradley said he expects Posluszny to play this week. Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, who has been nursing a knee injury, hopes to make his season debut after participating in practice Wednesday.
”I definitely think there needs to be more of a sense of urgency,” guard Zane Beadles said. ”It’s up to everybody on this team to buy into that and realize there has to be a more sense of urgency. That has to come from us. It can’t just come from Gus.”
The Jaguars have other injury concerns, too. T.J. Yeldon has a groin injury, and fellow running back Bernard Pierce – who was caught on film blocking for the wrong team on a punt return last week – is going through concussion protocol, leaving both of their statuses unclear.
Back Denard Robinson (left knee) and receiver Marqise Lee (hamstring) also are questionable.
Jacksonville ranks 22nd in rushing yards per attempt at 3.97, but the Texans have allowed five TDs on the ground over the last two after giving up one through their first three.
Houston is 30th with a 3.56 rushing average and has continued to rely heavily on its passing game despite the uncertainty at quarterback. DeAndre Hopkins has given both QBs a go-to target, leading the league with 578 yards and ranking second with 42 receptions.
Hopkins caught a career-high 11 passes for 169 yards last week, but he has 10 catches and 138 yards in four career games against the Jaguars.