Monday, August 11, 2014

Houston Texans: Pre-Season game 1 has changed the conversation.

Before Saturday, the Houston Texans had roster full of talent that just needed to be coached up. After Saturday the new mantra is that this roster is so bereft of talent Rick Smith is a goner after the season. How quickly things can change in what pundits are now suggesting is a "meaningless" game (just a few days after telling us how important that it was to the team.)

Despite Bob McNair's Drayton-like proclamations to the contrary, the Texans are in a rebuilding mode. If McNair can't see that then he's part of the problem. The biggest problem with the Texans 32-0 loss against the Arizona Cardinals is that the team was so inept there were several players who didn't even get to play.  This makes analysis difficult.

That said, here's my quick and dirty review of where they stand position by position....

Quarterback: The prognosis for this position is grim. If there's a place beyond grim then that's where the Texans are. We've known (when being honest with ourselves) that The Fitz is not the answer. Neither is Keenum, and it's way, way to early to tell w/Savage. If things continue on this path then I've a feeling that the Texans game 1 starter might not be on the roster right now. That's dismal.

Running Back: Alfred Blue has promise, Grimes is an OK back-up, Arian Foster will not be with the team past this season (good riddance) and Brown was a no-show. One of the few things the Texans did well on Saturday was run the ball. Had Notre Dame not invented the forward pass way back when they might have had a chance to win.

Wide Receiver: This team's receiving corps is still Andre Johnson and his back-up brigade. I haven't had a chance to view the All-22 game film yet but, from what I could see on the pitiful ABC 13 broadcast, this group of receivers sticks to corner backs like Elmer's glue.

Tight Ends: Salary cap hell forced the Texans to give up most of their good ones. That's pretty much all you need to know.

Offensive Line: Duane Brown & Chris Meyers are good, everyone else would be either a back-up or on the practice squad (or worse) for almost any other NFL team.  This is a horrid unit that's been both a victim of bad drafting, and Rick Smith's inability to manage the salary cap. No matter who's your QB, they're going to struggle behind this line.

Defensive Line: The starting DL has a chance to be pretty good. JJ Watt is excellent and with Crick, Powe and Nix (if healthy) there's some depth here as well. Probably the best unit on the Texans roster.

Linebackers: Whitney Mercilus is looking more and more like a bust or, more probably, a bad fit for the 3-4.  He's a 4-3 DE who is lost playing at the OLB position. Brooks Reed is a back-up, and the rest of the LB corps is desperately waiting for Cushing to return.  The talent is so thin on this group there's a chance it's among the worst LB groups in the league. Clowney had a good play, and looked lost for the rest of the game. He's got talent but he could be another Mercilus if not handled correctly.

Defensive Backs: This is the worst unit on the field, behind QB, that the Texans have. They might have heard of the concept of covering WR's, but they don't seem to have any idea how to put it into practice.

Special Teams: Who knows? The kickers didn't kick, the return game was anemic and the coverage game was spotty.

As hard as it is to believe, Saturday's game wasn't as close as the 32-0 score suggests. The Cardinals didn't play as well as I think they can and they dropped a couple of should-have-been-sure-fire interceptions to boot.

Perhaps the most telling series of the entire game was the first Texans offensive possession in the 2nd half. They started off with a delay of game penalty, and then proceeded to be penalized on the next five plays. It was an inept performance by a team that didn't seem like it was ready to suit up for the game.

If there's a silver lining to all of this it's that this was the first game the Texans played under a brand new system so you would imagine that things will get better as they move forward. It's tempting to say they can't get any worse but that's not true. We still haven't seen a pick-6 after all.  This week means that the Atlanta Falcons (and HBO's Hard Knocks) come to town so we'll get a good picture of the Texans talent two Tuesdays from now.

Hopefully this was just first-game jitters, that the team is not this much of a disaster. Maybe playing at NRG helps them out a little bit?

Or maybe, we're seeing just what this team really is. It's more likely that 2-14 wasn't a fluke and that dodgy drafts and bad cap management have placed the Texans in a big hole. If that's the case then they're really starting all over again. For a team that's done that twice in the last 12 years that's a pretty awful thing for Texans fans to have to face.

Fingers crossed that things get better.

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