What We’ve Learned About The Houston Texans
So far, so good for the Houston Texans this preseason. With two games down and two more to go in the preseason, the Texans are 2-0, albeit an irrelevant 2-0, but we’ve learned some things about this team in the small sampling we’ve been exposed to thus far. Granted, there are still other things we have yet to learn about the 2012 version of Houston’s beloved football team, such as how the defense will play against an offense that put up 40 points on them just a year ago, but the picture is beginning to come into focus. Here’s a list of some things we here at Rattle and Hum Sports have learned about the Texans in their first two preseason games, along with a short list of things we are hoping to learn in their upcoming game against the Saints on Saturday.
Things We’ve Learned
1. The wide receiver depth “problem” may not be a problem at all
Just a few months ago, fans were beside themselves as they clamored for the Texans to take a wide receiver in the 1st round of the NFL Draft. But as is often the case with this front office, the Texans went against the grain, picking a player that few expected them to pick in outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus. Left with two 31 year old wide receivers and a collection of young wide outs who had never caught an NFL pass, Texans fans had cause for concern when it came to the depth of their team’s stable of pass catchers. But through the first two games of the preseason, 2nd year undrafted free agent Lestar Jean and rookie wide receiver Keyshawn Martin are trying to show everyone that Texans fans have nothing to worry about. Jean looked every bit the part last Saturday against the 49ers, hauling in 4 catches for 42 yards and a touchdown. Jean is a big bodied receiver with great hands who has the ability to stretch the defense on the outside. Martin, on the other hand, has received praise from the coaching staff for his professionalism and his mental capacity to quickly develop an understanding of the Texans’ offense. Martin has looked very good in his few opportunities and he will provide a weapon out of the slot the Texans haven’t had in a long time. I’m not sure why we ever doubt the Texans’ front office any longer. If Rick Smith and company can find an Arian Foster and turn him into a star, why can’t Lestar Jean be next? If Chris Myers, Glover Quin, and Connor Barwin can turn into value draft picks, why can’t Keyshawn Martin? Houston, we may have solved a problem.
2. Matt Schaub Is Back To Normal
It hasn’t been the most spectacular preseason performance from a quarterback ever witnessed in Houston, but Matt Schaub seems to be perfectly fine. Schaub was, in fact, very good against the vaunted 49ers defense on Saturday, completing 11 of 14 passes for 128 yards and a 128.6 passer rating. Schaub looks to be very comfortable in the pocket and, I have to admit, his command of the offense was quite refreshing after watching T.J. Yates struggle with consistency in Baltimore earlier this year.
3. The defense won’t miss DeMeco Ryans that much
Don’t get me wrong. I love DeMeco and it would have been great had the Texans been able to find a way to hold onto him, but his departure will not have the type of impact that many were afraid of earlier this offseason. Ryans played a very important role in the Texans’ 4-3, but once Houston switched to the 3-4, his role was diminished. Bradie James has played well, although it seems like every time Tim Dobbins gets into the game he seems to make a play. Dobbins has a knack for standing up running backs in the backfield on 3rd or 4th and short plays and he did it once again to the 49ers on Saturday night.
4. Trindon Holiday is worth the roster spot
I was skeptical after his first preseason game, wondering if perhaps his kickoff return for a touchdown was merely a fluke. Consider me sold. Not only has Holiday returned both a kick and a punt for touchdowns in his first two preseason games, he has averaged 32.5 yards per kickoff return in his four other opportunities. It’s a shame that the NFL has sissified the game by effectively taking away 80% of kickoff return opportunities, or Holiday would be even more valuable to the Texans. Nevertheless, having a playmaker like Holiday who can put points on the board quickly on special teams is invaluable to a team with Super Bowl aspirations. During a Super Bowl run, it’s the little things like special teams and penalties that either elevate or sink a team’s season, and Trindon Holiday will go a long ways towards giving the Texans an edge on kickoff and punt returns.
Things We Have Yet To Learn
1. Will the defense suffer the historical “Wade Phillips Sophomore Slump”?
Early indicators say ‘no’, but then again, this is the preseason. With the starters expected to play at least 2 full quarters on Saturday in New Orleans, the defense will be put to the test against the high powered Saints’ offense. The Texans will be without stud defensive end J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing has been pretty banged up, but Saturday’s game will be a good barometer of how much this defense has improved since week 3 of last season when the Saints scored 40 points en route to a victory over Houston. The Texans made Cam Newton look like a rookie again two weeks ago, holding him to just 2 completions in 6 attempts and racking up 8 total sacks for the game. This past Saturday against the 49ers, the first team offense held San Francisco’s passing game in check but failed to slow down the running game. The Saints will look to spread Houston’s defense out, and the onus will be on the pass rush to put heat on Drew Brees so as not to put too much pressure on the secondary. If Drew Brees gets time to throw the ball, the Texans will be in for a very long first half. Gap discipline will also be important, as the Saints love to spread a defense, running draws, screens, and swing passes utilizing their water bug of a running back, Darren Sproles. So far, the defense has looked to be as good as advertised. Now they face the ultimate primer for the regular season.
2. Can the Texans remain healthy?
Luckily, the Houston Texans have avoided serious injury thus far. J.J. Watt’s elbow injury has been the most significant occurrence to hit the injury report up to this point and he should be ready to go in Week 1 of the regular season. Obviously, we can’t necessarily “learn” whether the Texans will remain healthy or not until they do…. Or don’t. However, with two or more quarters of action coming against the Saints on Saturday, it will be interesting to see how Andre Johnson, in particular, responds to an extended period of work. Despite the encouraging emergence of youngsters like Lestar Jean and Keyshawn Martin, Andre Johnson is likely one of the two or three most important players on this roster. He needs to show that he can play at full speed for a significant period of game time to put worrying minds to rest.