Jaguars look for first win against rival Houston

Sep 24, 2009 - 10:49 PM By KRISTIE RIEKEN AP Sports Writer

HOUSTON(AP) -- Excuse Maurice Jones-Drew if he's not sitting around thinking how great it will be to face Houston's NFL-worst run defense on Sunday.

The Jacksonville running back and his teammates have many more things to occupy their minds.

"We are trying to find ways to get our offense back on track," he said. "Before you can really start looking at another team ... we have to correct what we need to do internally."

The Jaguars are 0-2 for the second straight season and meet a Houston team coming off a huge 34-31 win over Tennessee last week. Quarterback David Garrard said he wishes the team's morale were a "whole lot better," but that a win would turn it around.

"We don't want a losing culture to set in," he said. "We don't want guys to get used to losing. Losing always hurts and makes you feel sick. We need to keep that feeling in us. We need to realize how it felt the last two weeks and how it felt last year."

The Texans know well the desperation that comes with being winless after starting 0-4 last season and losing their first three games in 2006.

"It's always dangerous to face an 0-2 team because you know they're going to come in here and give you absolutely everything they have," cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "We can't drop our guard and we've got to come out here and go full speed. We've got to play like this team is 2-0."

Jones-Drew has always had success against Houston, averaging 5.4 yards a carry against the Texans. Houston is busy trying to improve its run defense after Chris Johnson torched it for 197 yards last week.

"We're dead last in the National Football League against the run and that's what they do best, and they've got one of the best backs in the business," coach Gary Kubiak said. "They present the biggest problems for us that we have as weaknesses as a football team, so we'll have to play extremely well."

The Texans are bothered by the big plays the defense has been allowing this season, especially on third downs. All of Johnson's three touchdowns were longer than 50 yards and two came on third downs.

Kubiak has been piping the crowd noise he usually reserves for road-game weeks into practice this week because he thinks some of his team's problems on defense are coming from "communication issues."

"We've got to get those solved and line up the play," he said. "You don't want to come out of games saying, we just busted. You want to say, 'Hey, I got beat."'

Jacksonville's receiving group will have a different look after starter Troy Williamson was put on injured reserved and Nate Hughes was released and then signed to the practice squad. A pair of rookies, Jarett Dillard and Mike Thomas, were both inactive in the first two games, but are expected to play Sunday.

Dillard starred at Rice, where he scored 20 touchdowns last season.

"He did a great job down there at Rice," coach Jack Del Rio said. "He was a very productive college player ... he's a good young man, he's a hard working young man, he's intelligent, he's got good hands. We're glad to have him and we're going to give him a good look this week."

While focused on stopping the run, the Texans are also looking to improve their running game, which also ranks last in the NFL. Steve Slaton, who rushed for a franchise-record 1,282 yards last season, said it's too early to panic, even though Houston is averaging just over 50 yards a game.

"There's really nothing to worry about," he said. "We've still got a lot more weeks until the end of the season. It's just a slow start and we're sure things will pick up."

It could be more difficult this week with the loss of left guard Chester Pitts. Pitts has started every game in franchise history - a streak of 114 - but is out for the season after knee surgery Wednesday.

He will be replaced by third-year player Kasey Studdard, who was on the Texas 2005 national championship team, but has appeared in just seven NFL games.

"He brings an attitude to the group," Kubiak said. "He's going to make a few mistakes because this will be his first start, but I know one thing, he'll give us everything he's got."

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