Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Houston Texans: There's 0-2 and then there's 0-2. The Texans are the latter. (Offense Edition)

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Fresh off of a slightly better than .500 season Texans fans expected the team to move forward. An easy schedule and a team that's been touted (by local media and the team itself) as "talented" coach Bill O'Brien was supposed to bring the Texans to the playoff promised land THIS year, questions at the QB position be damned.

Then Hard Knocks happened, Arian Foster got injured (again) and the season went two weeks deep and everyone started to realize that this "talented team" was only secure at a few positions, with glaring holes almost everywhere else.

It's easy to point a finger at the QB position. Neither Brian Hoyer or now-starter Ryan Mallett are top-flight choices. Both are career journeymen/backup types who have some skill but not enough necessary to carry the load that is currently required.  This leaves people pointing fingers at the running backs a group who, without Foster, seem to have little ability to move the ball forward in the increments necessary for the offense to succeed.  Then there's the excuse making for what has been a below-average defense. John McClain says "to be fair" they're only been bad in the first half. Last I checked however the first half still counts. And when you put an offense that's not designed to play from behind in an early hole that matters.

Amazingly, the offensive line has received a pass from the media, and they've been just about the worst group on the field for the team.  A review of the statistics over two games shows just how dire the situation is:

Total Rushing yards: 156 (Average: 78/game)
Total Passing yards: 537 (Average: 268.5/game)
Total Sacks allowed: 6 (Average: 3/game)
Total Sacks: 4 (Average 2/game)
Total turnovers: 2 (Average: 1/game)

Amazingly, despite their troubles, the Texans still manage to rank #12 in the NFL in total yards. Alas, they rank 24th in rushing.

Defensively it's not much better. The Texans rank 26th in the league against the run (Wilfork was supposed to help with that remember?) and 11th in passing. We thought these numbers would be flipped. In total defense the Texans rank 12th in yards, but are tied for 19th in points. For a defense that was hyped as having top-five potential, those are unacceptable numbers early on.

Clearly then this is a team that's struggling.  But why?  The easy answer is to blame the lack of talent at the QB position and move on but I think it runs deeper than that.  As I'll point out below....

1. Quarterbacks - While it's true that the Texans don't have a true NFL starter on their roster, the play shouldn't be this bad.  While it's not fair to suggest QB play should be great against the AFC South it's looking as if average would qualify for a playoff berth.  Sadly, the Texans aren't even getting average play from the position.

2. Running Backs - It's easy to say, as many are, that missing Foster is the problem here, but a bigger problem is that the team (specifically GM Rick Smith) never seemed all that interesting in finding a replacement. Running with Blue, Polk and Grimes as your tandem is not working out.

3. Wide Receivers - There is little evidence, early in the season, to suggest that the Texans have 3 NFL caliber starters on their roster.  Hopkins is maturing but Shorts III and Washington are starting to show their age. Plus, Washington has the drops. The rookie, Jaelen Strong, is starting to look like just another 3rd round draft bust by the team. He's not registered a catch in regular season play. The other receivers, Mumphery and Worthy are just fringe guys who are more on the roster for special teams than anything. This was the group I was most worried about heading into the season, and it seems that those fears were well founded.

4. Tight-Ends - CJ Fiedorowicz has 2 catches for 34 yards. Ryan Griffin has 1 for 18. Garrett Graham 1 for 7.  That's it.  Given that O'Brien comes from a coaching tree with a TE happy passing structure, the lack of production here is amazing.

5. Offensive line - I saved this for last because, without Duane Brown in the line up, I consider this to be the weakest unit on the Texans as a team.  Yes, even weaker than the defensive backfield. Outside of Brown the only player who I believe should be on an NFL starting roster is Ben Jones. The Oline did only give up one sack on Sunday, but they seemingly cannot open up many holes in the running game.

Overall the offense, save a good 2nd half showing in week 1, when the game was mostly out of reach, has not been good. Some pundits are pointing to missing Arian Foster but I disagree.  The biggest problem that the Texans have right now on offense is an overall lack of talent at ALL positions.

I'll have more later on the Defense and Coaching.

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