As always, before the Jaguars game we take a look at what’s going through the heads of fans for the other team. This week we chatted with Claire Mullins, writer at State of The Texans. I had the pleasure of answering some questions for her last week about the week two matchup as well. It’s always a pleasure to talk with the opposition’s fans, so let’s get to it.
1) The Texans, especially the defense, looked very opportunistic against the Dolphins. Besides J.J. Watt who will be making the big plays for the Texans D against the Jags?
Facing Maurice Jones-Drew this week should be a good test for a Texans run defense who Reggie Bush ran against for 4.9 YPC last week. Saw some good stuff when the Texans got tired of getting gashed by Bush and sent Danieal Manning to play in the box. Frequent Texans unsung hero Glover Quin had a tough hit on Dolphins RB Daniel Thomas that led to a fumble plus six tackles.
The pass defense was a brighter story, although it was against a rookie QB who had a rap for getting balls batted down in college. J.J. Watt, as you mentioned had a monster game, with 3 deflected passes, two of which resulted in touchdowns by the Texans defense. Watt also had 1.5 sacks on the day. We expect more of the same from Watt in week 2. We need to see more from Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed in getting to the quarterback against the Jaguars, whose passing game will be stronger than the Dolphins proved to be.
Johnathan Joseph against Justin Blackmon seems like it will be an interesting matchup. Blackmon is a talented young wide out, but Joseph is a wiley veteran who is capable of disguising coverages. I look forward to seeing who comes out on top of what will be a battle of wills between the two.
2) Matt Schaub has looked sharp. He was considered one of the best QBs in the league before being injured last season, do you think he can keep pace with 5,000 yard passers like Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Matt Stafford?
Many Texans fans were displeased by the offensive showing in week one, though Matt Schaub (20/31 for 266) can hardly be blamed for the mediocre passing performance against Miami. The Texans ranked 15th in the league last week in pass offense but five dropped passes did not help and Reliant Stadium was clamoring for more agressive offensive play calling. I think we can all agree that the Texans offense will never put Schaub in position to compete with the elite passers in the NFL and it’s questionable whether he would produce to that level even in such a system. A lot of Schaub’s accolades come from how he leads the Kubiak-designed offense, which doesn’t require a Stafford like arm at the helm for success.
On the other hand, Texans players vociferously tout Kubiak as an offensive mastermind and Schaub plays his role in that offense to a consistently effective degree. Texans-style offense is about the run and the threat of the run. We can expect more of the same from the Texans against the Jaguars this week. Given what Adrian Peterson did last week versus the Jaguars, we should expect the Texans attack to be on the ground as has been our identity.
3) Will Arian Foster and Ben Tate go for 1,000 yards each again this season? How much will the team rely on the run game without having to start a rookie QB?
There really isn’t much reason to believe Kubiak will stray too far away from the running game this season. As the updated offensive line (read: the right side of the line) gets more confident with their ability to block as a unit for Foster and Tate, expect to continue to see the offense revolve around our zone run scheme and use of the passing game to set up the run. If the Texans continue to run the offense to which we’ve become accustomed, and no significant injuries occur, Foster will definitely be above 1000 yards, likely closer to 1500. As long as Foster starts all 16, Tate will likely be just below 1000 yards in 2012. There were a few new looks in the backfield last week, like both Foster and Tate in on the same plays. We hope to see more of these interesting formations in the coming weeks.
4) That rebuilt right side of the O-line looked good against the Dolphins, how well have they gelled thus far? Will their play dictate the play of the offense?
Derek Newton wasn’t terribly disappointing in his first game as starter: although Schaub was hurried but managed to get the ball away, Newton provided a good level of run blocking and pass protection. Wade Smith and Antoine Caldwell gave up sacks and even O-line stalwarts Duane Brown and Chris Myers got beat a bit throughout the game, but seeing Brown blow up Kevin Burnett with a spectacular block it appeared even Arian Foster wanted to stop and watch while running. Awe-inspiring. Kubiak and fans expect more consistency, but it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been after needing to replace Eric Winston and Mike Brisiel were lost in this past off-season. They need to and will improve throughout the season and allowing Schaub to be less hurried and giving Foster and Tate more time to opportunity to get yards on the ground.
5) Who should Jags fans pay attention to in the first matchup against the Texans?
As if fans weren’t paying attention before, watch Andre Johnson. He is looking like the Andre of old, going 8/119/1TD in week one. If Trindon Holliday can overcome nerves and regain the confidence he had in himself in the return game he will be a scary player for any team to try and stop. Whitney Mercilus did little in week one, but should contribute, along with Barwin and Brooks Reed, in the OLB rotation. Then, the Texans new look receiving corps. Drops were a problem in the first week, but when Keshawn Martin and Lestar Jean actually catch the ball, they are both receivers who can torch the opposition. Jean is uses his big body to get open, Martin is quick in the open field. Both can cause matchup problems eventually, but Jean, having a year on Martin, is the more fearsome of the two for the moment.
6) Will the Texans make this a statement win and crush the Jags or will it be closer than anticipated?
Given the divisional nature of the contest, I put nothing past these two teams. When comparing the two teams the play of Watt, Antonio Smith, Schaub, Andre Johnson and Foster can catapult the Texans to 2-0 versus Gabbert, Shorts, MJD, Posluszny and Knighton . At the same time, there are reasons to believe the Jaguars have a shot at a victory here. But not that big of a shot. The Texans have been kicking themselves and preparing like crazy over the week leading up to Sunday. And while the Jags have a shot, on paper I put the Texans with a 75-80% of leaving Everbank Field with a victory this weekend.