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 11 matchup as well. It’s always a pleasure to talk with the opposition’s fans, so let’s get to it.
1) The Texans just won the “battle of the defenses” against Chicago. Who is contributing the most to lead that impressive defense?
Without a doubt, easily DE J.J. Watt. He is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate and even potential NFL MVP candidate. He has come on so strong in his second year and become a national sensation. Watt has recorded a 10.5 sacks and 10 passes batted down going into the 10th game of the season. With that being said, in terms of tackling, SS Glover Quin leads the way with 46 and is tied for the team lead in fumbles forced, sharing the honor with rookie OLB Whitney Mercilus at two apiece. OLB Connor Barwin has come on lately, not unlike last year, with two timely sacks, including one for a safety on Joe Flacco versus the Baltimore Ravens.
2) Matt Schaub has been hot and cold at times this season, will it hurt the team entering the playoffs?
Good question. Schaub has never started a postseason game. Let’s look at his all around game first. Schaub will never be an elite passer because Gary Kubiak’s is a run first offense, not necessitating a QB who passes for 300 yards per game. Schaub plays his role and he plays it well. He is 10th in the league in QBR, and middle of the pack in all other categories like yards per game and TDs. However, he is tied with Peyton Manning for lowest number of sacks for a starting QB through the 2012 season at only 11, and Schaub has 6 INTs to 13 TDs. Here’s what really matters: since week 7 of last season, Schaub has gone 12-1 when starting at QB for the Texans. This leads the league in winning percentage for that time span. With this defense, this running game and Schaub’s play action capabilities, it does not appear that Schaub will be any sort of impediment throughout the rest of the 2012 season and into the playoffs.
3) In the second matchup for 2012 it looks like the Texans will dominate the Jaguars again, is there any cause to worry for Houston?
Truthfully, this is the least worried I’ve been about a game this season. However, this is a divisional game and it is still the NFL. The Texans are coming off of an emotional win against the Bears last week. Was that a draining experience for the team or did it pump up their enthusiasm and lust for victory? And I do not doubt Jacksonville’s will to win. If the Texans come out flat and the Jaguars are able to make a couple of big plays on offense and defense, plus perform on special teams, it could be competitive. I point to the Texans game versus the Jets. The circumstances were not the same, but the Jets felt they were against the wall and played that way. The Texans made a few mistakes. This kept the game competitive throughout the game into the fourth quarter.
4) There’s been some talk of making J.J. Watt MVP, can he keep up the impressive play and be the first defensive player to win the award since Lawrence Taylor in 1986?
If there were any defensive player capable of winning the league MVP award for the first time in 26 years, it must be J.J. Watt. His teammates call him Mr. Perfect, I have never heard him accused of a dirty hit, his stats are gaudy and he seems like the guy Roger Goodell himself would want his daughter to date. Watt is the ideal guy to be the face of the league and has the stats to back it up. Not saying it will happen, but it definitely could if he continues on this trajectory.
5) Who on the Texans’ roster is quietly developing behind the already good/great players in the limelight?
In very limited playing time, 1st round draft pick, OLB Whitney Mercilus has been tearing it up during his time on the field. Mercilus saw the most playing time in weeks 7 and 9 (week 8 was the Texans bye.) Out of 25 plays between the two games, Mercilus tallied 3 sacks, 13 tackles, 1 pass defended and 2 forced fumbles. On offense, look no further than TE Owen Daniels. In 2012, Daniels has returned to pre-2009 injury form, tallying 37 receptions for 478 yards with 5 TDs. He’s had extremely sure hands and is averaging almost 13 yards per reception. Daniels makes life difficult for linebackers facing him and is the Texans go to receiver in the middle of the field. Plus, he is a talented blocker.
6) Who on the roster has been underperforming for the Texans this season?
On offense, we have to look to rookie WR Keshawn Martin. Martin is extremely talented but has failed to make any real impact in the passing game. Honestly, his role is more of a decoy. He’s shown to be capable of running his routes and catching passes during trash time versus Green Bay, but in the return game and in terms of being a receiving target, he has fallen short of expectations thus far. On defense we could look to Brice McCain. Last year, his coverage was tight. In 2012, McCain has struggled in coverage and given up some big receptions. He’s been beat downfield and his tackling has not been nearly as impressive as it was in 2011.
7) How do you see this game shaking out? Will it be close or will it be a blowout?
Jeez, on one hand, I love to see my team blow another out. However, the Jaguars are my favorite opponent. Truthfully. And not just because they are 1-8. They are the team within the division with a fun fanbase and I tend to root for them. Of course, I don’t want them to win, nor do I expect them to. I do, however hope they have a few big plays to keep it competitive. That is definitely more fun as a fan, although I do expect the Texans to leave Reliant with a victory.