Defense Shows Continued Improvement, Offense Shaky In Andre’s Return
In the the victory over the Denver Broncos we saw some pretty good defense against what should be an elite offense. Though it was a preseason game, Peyton Manning takes his reps very seriously and it was a good test to see how the Texans defense would perform.
Romeo Crennel’s defenses historically have done well against Manning, and the first team defense for the most part did a good job of limiting big plays. On the first series of the game the Broncos were able to drive down the field on short passes to receivers and by running the ball. But once in the redzone the Texans were able to clamp down and force the Broncos to kick a field goal.
The Texans have look much improved in Crennel’s scheme which involves a lot more zone coverage compared to what they had been used to. There are some some lapses in player assignments but when the players have made the correct reads, the defense has been effective.
Playing more zone coverage has allowed the defensive backs to play with eyes on the quarterback as opposed to constantly trailing a receiver with their back turned to the QB, making it more difficult to know when to make a play on the ball. If the players continue to play their coverages right, the secondary may not be the big issue that we originally thought it to be.
Interestingly, the Texans played Kareem Jackson in the slot for the most part, with A.J. Bouye and Brandon Harris on the outside. The Texans either want to get a good look at how Harris performs in their system, or they feel that he is a capable cornerback for them. Many of thus thought Harris might be on his way out, especially after the first preseason game but that may not be the case now.
Harris struggles mightily in man to man situations on deep balls, and at times is a penalty machine. One thing that he is fairly sound in is wrapping up and bringing people down, and it is something that has stood out to me in these three preseason games. A cornerback that can bring receivers down and not let receivers get yards after the catch is something of value. If Brandon Harris can limit the lapses in coverage he can be an asset to the team.
D.J. Swearinger laid out a good clean hit on Wes Welker but in today’s NFL you can’t hit a wide receiver to the head, not even with the shoulder. It was Swearinger’s third big hit in as many games, and in terms of setting a tone it will be good if he can keep that habit up.
It was great to see Brian Cushing back on the field, he looked a little bit of rusty on a few plays but in limited action he looked as though he is still the same player especially on the tackle for loss he had. He should continue to knock off rust with the more game snaps he gets. It is worth noting that when the Broncos got inside the redzone on the first series of the game Cushing was replaced with Mike Mohamed.
At the end of the first half Eddie Pleasant was a part of the two long touchdowns given up to Emmanuel Sanders. Kendrick Lewis probably would have been in his place but he looked to have gotten banged up on a series prior to the first touchdown. Pleasant was the help up top both times and did a poor job recognizing where Manning was throwing, then he was late trying to recover.
Ryan Fitzpatrick had a shaky game and didn’t really get it going until Grimes made the catch and run for 24 yards in the second quarter. The timing looked to be a little off with Andre but he was still able to get some receptions. The Texans have not really tried to test defenses down field and it might be a matter of O’Brien wanting to save things for the regular season. So when evaluating how the offense looks, that is something to take into consideration.
Case Keenum has the ability to make good throws and can look like a competent quarterback but for some reason hasn’t been able to shake off some bad habits. He still at times doesn’t see the blitz when he should, and still makes some risky passes that can be possible interceptions. Some speculated that Keenum would more than likely be cut from the team, and while I think it is a possibility I don’t see it being that simple. Though Keenum is very inconsistent, backup quarterbacks don’t get much better that what Keenum is. He has been in the system from the start, and O’Brien likes players who have a passion for the game and work hard at it.
Tom Savage looked like a totally different player in is his game winning drive, in the games prior he looked hesitant and didn’t flash any of his potential. But late in the Broncos game he made good throws, good decisions, and was accurate. Savage looked great but I don’t think it is enough to make him the backup to Fitzpatrick. I feel as though O’Brien values experience, and would like to have a quarterback who has NFL starts under his belt to be his back up. At the very least Savage would have to build on his performance to prove himself.
Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes continue to look fully capable of handling the load if Arian Foster were to miss any significant time during the regular season.
Going into the season I was very high on Ryan Griffin and I was disappointed that he has had a quiet preseason, also the fact that he had been relegated to third string tight end. But was good to finally see him rack up some receptions, and had a great catch and run touchdown to set up the two-point conversion. Griffin doesn’t look like he is running fast but he covers a lot of ground with his long strides. I think that it will be in the best interest of the team at some point during the season for Griffin and Fiedorowicz to be the top two tight ends.
Richardo Matthews has been a gem thus far, he logged a sack and tackle for loss against the Broncos. He was a great find in free agency and has mostly likely already secured his spot on the team. Whitney Mercilus had a better game and finally got on the box score.
Special teams continues to be much improved, Josh Victorian and Eddie Pleasant made noteworthy plays in coverage.