Texans Bounce Back In A Big Way
A week after looking like a carbon copy of the 2013 team in the first preseason game in Arizona, the Texans did a complete 180 in their blowout win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Everything seemed to be working for the Texans. The offense, defense, and special teams all made plays in the dominant performance. Similar to how I thought we shouldn’t have overreacted to the disappointing performance in Arizona, we should temper some aspects of the victory. Quarterback is the biggest question mark on the team, and starter Ryan Fitzpatrick has a long track record of being inconsistent.
We saw Fitzpatrick at his worst last week, and close to his best in Saturday night’s win. If he can have positive play on a consistent basis and facilitate the ball around, the Texans should be able to get some things done this season.
There were some questions being raised about Bill O’Brien’s qualities and tactics as a coach this past week in reaction to the Cardinals game. But those questions now stand answered as the team responded by completely outplaying the Falcons.
A Lot Of Positives In Preseason Game 2 For The Texans
Ryan Fitzpatrick Bounces Back
The offense got off to a shaky start by not being able to make anything out of two straight runs plays and a quick screen pass to DeAndre Hopkins. In the second series the switch went on as Fitzpatrick was able to put together some completions and run for a big first down on 3rd down, then rode Alfred Blue to a touchdown once they were in the redzone. Fitzpatrick accomplished the same when he was put back into the game at the end of the 2nd quarter except he found Devier Posey in the endzone for an 8 yard touchdown.
It was encouraging to see Fitzpatrick lead two of three drives for touchdowns after barely completing any first downs in the first game. Fitzpatrick’s ability to run and run with some pretty good speed is going to be a luxury that the Texans have not had in a long while and it will be something that the defense will also have to account for. Fitzpatrick still has not played a game with Arian Foster or Andre Johnson, so that is another positive outlook on hoping that there can be an extra level of improvement for Fitzpatrick and the offense.
Jadeveon Clowney Continues To Show Why He Was Considered By Far The Best Prospect In The Draft
Jadeveon Clowney had another great showing in limited time as he only played two series, but this time he didn’t have J.J. Watt on the line with him. Clowney’s explosion off the edge and the speed that he possesses allows him to beat easily offensive lineman and completely blow up plays.
On the tackle for loss, it was the assignment of the Left Guard to block Clowney but he underestimated Clowney’s speed and wasn’t even able to get a hand on him. The Falcons’ running back had the ball no longer than a second before being laid out by Jadeveon Clowney. Similarly on the next play where he sacked Matt Ryan, Clowney is able to explode past the Left Tackle and make the play.
The anxiousness to see what Jadeveon Clowney, J.J. Watt, and the rest of the defense can do for an entire game together only continues to grow.
The Back Up Quarterback Situation
O’Brien surprisingly decided to insert Tom Savage into the game in the second quarter instead of Case Keenum. I’m not sure what to fully make of that other than O’Brien wanted to see Savage play with some of the guys that are not totally at the bottom of the depth chart. Savage did throw an impressive back shoulder pass to EZ Nwachukwu, but it resulted in an incomplete pass due to pass interference. Tom Savage was 4/5 and 8 yards and the majority of the passes were short, or check down throws. It really does not look like Tom Savage is close to be ready to be a starter any time soon, and still has not progressed enough to be the primary back up.
Case Keenum has done a decent job so far when he has gotten time at quarterback. Keenum made some good looking throws, and there were about three or four passes that he wishes he could have back because his night would have looked a lot better had he completed them. The interception he had wasn’t a totally bad decision in my opinion because he lead the pass for Ryan Griffin but the safety who was trailing made a really good play from behind. I thought Ryan Griffin should have been able to pull in the pass, and the fact the he couldn’t, but still had a hand on the ball actually aided the safety in intercepting it.
From the replays that were shown it looked like the ball at one point was on the ground, but somehow even with a review by the officials the still play stood as an interception. Keenum has probably surprised many with his decent play after all the negative reports out of training camp, and easily could have made a much better case for himself in the Falcons game. There is a lot of speculation about Case Keenum’s future with the Texans, it will be interesting to see how it all unfolds.
The Texans Defense Set A Tone Early
On the first defensive series, the Texans got away with a three and out because Julio Jones dropped a pass going out of bounce after beating A.J. Bouye on his route. Momentum shifted totally to the Texans’ side after Jadeveon Clowney had his tackle for loss and sack in back to back plays. It was as if from that point on the defense had an entirely new confidence, and gave up very little for the remainder of the night.
Other players soon joined the fun of laying big hits, breaking up passes, and intercepting the ball. It was great to see the defense come alive because they didn’t play a complete game like that all last year, and also last week the secondary as a whole played a bad game.
I felt that it would take a little while before the secondary would get it fully together because of the fact that they were going to be playing a lot more zone and do different things in Crennel’s scheme. The defense had a good week of practice against the Falcons’ and it translated over into to the game.
Kendrick Lewis, Andre Hal, A.J. Bouye, Josh Victorian, and D.J. Swearinger all had plays where they read the quarterback well and broke up the intended pass.
Safety Kendrick Lewis in all likelihood is going to be a starter when the season begins, he broke up a pass intended for Roddy White and on the following play put a big hit on the running back. It was also entertaining watching him show emotion after those plays and get in the face of the Falcons’ players.
In the first day of practice against the Falcons A.J. Bouye broke up multiple passes on White and Jones. Early in the game Julio Jones fooled Bouye on a hitch route, but that is just part of the learning curve of a young cornerback. Later in the game Bouye on a 3rd and 5 jumped the route of Julio Jones and had an impressive pass break up.
Andre Hal is putting himself in the conversation to be the the third or fourth cornerback on the depth chart. He has showed that he is a capable tackler by the plays he has been making on special teams, and he made some good plays on the ball against the Falcons. He deflected a pass and obviously had the interception taken back for a touchdown. Like A.J. Bouye, Hal was fooled on a play and bit on a double move and actually could be been beat for a touchdown. That needs to be tightened up.
D.J. Swearinger had a good game as well nearly intercepting a pass intended for a tight end and laying a decent hit on Julio Jones. After the hit D.J. could have been called for a penalty because he noticeably stood over Jones for a quick moment, but was instead called for a bogus penalty later in the game for celebrating with a teammate after a deflection.
Josh Victorian made an impressive tackle on special teams, and on defense jumped a route deciding to just swat it away but clearly could have attempted to intercept it and take it to the house.
Brandon Harris had a nondescript game, he didn’t do anything that really stood out which could be looked as a good thing because that means he didn’t get picked on. The way for Harris to succeed maybe be to keep him face to the quarterback as much as possible because struggles most he is one on one with a receiver and his back to the quarterback.
Whitney Mercilus didn’t appear in the Box Score but he did have a better game than in Arizona. He beat the Left Tackle off the edge and forced the quarterback to step up in the pocket. Mercilus also had a play similar to the one where Clowney had his tackle for a loss. Mercilus forced the Left Guard to be penalized for holding as he was able to beat the guard but not able to completely beat him to the point where he went untouched like Clowney did.
The run defense was decent to start the game but as the game went along there were some plays given up.
Justin Tuggle was noticeable on some plays shooting through the line and was the first in ona few gang tackles.
Undrafted Rookie Max Bullough had a another good game and is on his way to securing his roster spot. He was in the group of players who laid out a big hit, and he added in an interception where he read the quarterback and stepped in front of the pass.
Receivers Have A Decent Night
C.J. Fiedorowicz caught two tight passes and looks good as a receiver. DeAndre Hopkins caught two as well, but dropped one that he should have brought in. It was good to see Devier Posey find an open spot in the endzone for a touchdown, I would like to see Posey be targeted more though. Keyshawn Martin did some good things receiving and was able to lose his defender and take it for 31 yards. Travis Labhart was also able to make some plays. Alec Lemon had a good catch and run for 25 yards. EZ Nwachukwu had a shot to catch a touchdown after beating his man but Fitzpatrick was being pressured and couldn’t make a good throw.
It will be tough when the time comes to make cuts at the wide receiver position. I thought there were some missed opportunities to get Ryan Griffin the ball, and he himself couldn’t capitalize on a couple passes that were thrown to him. I had expected Griffin to have a big preseason. Garrett Graham has had an even quieter preseason.
Jonathan Grimes Has A Great Game, Alfred Blue Was Solid
Jonathan Grimes has been taking advantage of his opportunity and has looked very good running the ball in his two starts. He has a knack for gaining extra yardage and always going forward. Grimes showed good ability to be able to make things happen even without ideal blocking. He has very good balance when running the ball which aids him in not being taken down easily. He displayed good agility and cutting ability, and was able to break a good amount of tackles against the Falcons’ defenders.
Alfred Blue looked great in the second offensive series when he eventually scored the first touchdown of the game. Blue wasn’t able to do a lot after that largely due to the lack of blocking but he looks to have the potential to eventually become a starting running back. He had an impressive ten yard gain where he ran over a linebacker in the process.
The Special Teams Followed Up A Good Performance With A Great Performance
The special teams played great all around. They tackled great in coverage again and this time were able to block a punt then alertly take it back for a touchdown. The field goal unit was also able to block a field goal attempt. The kicking competition between Randy Bullock and Chris Boswell may not be much of a competition after all with Boswell missing two PATs.
(Photo Credit: Kirby Lee -USA Today Sports)