For the past few years, the Houston Texans have let some of their free agents walk in favor of reloading through the draft. Sometimes it has worked out and other times it hasn’t. But the way a team that is a contender stays relevant is by drafting well in the early rounds. If last night’s performance was any indicator of their continued first-round success, they’ve found someone special in DeAndre Hopkins.
We’ve all heard the reports out of camp that Hopkins has been impressing everyone. Those draft addicts like myself knew enough from watching his college game tape that this was most likely the case. But for those that were still skeptical until they saw him in an NFL game got the reassurance they needed on his highlight reel 34-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter of Houston’s 27-13 win in Minnesota for the preseason opener.
He ended the night with four catches for 52 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. But much more than that was achieved within the team last night. The reason I haven’t been as down on Matt Schaub as the masses in Houston is because he’s never had a roster loaded with this many weapons. The upgrade from Kevin Walter to Hopkins is something so high that I can’t even think of a comparison. I know most will think I am having a knee-jerk reaction after one half of preseason football, but I’ve felt this way about Hopkins since before he was even drafted by the Texans. I thought he was the best receiver in this draft and I still do.
With Schaub having two receivers now that can go up and get the ball, if the team doesn’t have a much higher success rate in the red zone this season, then Gary Kubiak just doesn’t get it. There is still plenty of pressure on Schaub and he still has to go out there and play better, but the team has put him in the best possible situation to succeed since he has been in Houston. If he doesn’t, then there will be no more excuses.
As far as the battle for the backup quarterback goes, I still firmly believe it is T.J. Yates‘ job if he comes through the preseason healthy. But Case Keenum played well enough last night to make it not so far-fetched of an idea to carry three quarterbacks this season. Yes, it was garbage time in the preseason, but when your third-string quarterback looks like a stud against guys who will be selling car insurance in a couple of weeks, that’s the best you can ask for.
What I would like to see next week is for Keenum to get some time with the second unit and see how he looks. There were several throws he made last night that were about as good as you can place them and his receivers simply dropped the passes. Against a better pass rush and with better offensive pieces around him, I want to see if his poise and accuracy are as good. But for what he was put into last night compared to this time last year is almost a night-and-day improvement. He looks like a capable backup quarterback at this level, and I’d like to still have that opinion of him when he faces a little stiffer competition next week.
While Hopkins and Keenum were the big stories last night, I have to give some credit to Earl Mitchell. He has been a question mark to some who were concerned about how he would look as the full time starter in the middle, but he responded with four tackles, three for a loss and a sack in a very brief showing. He certainly appears ready to own the role.
In the end, it was preseason football. But the positive I took out of the game was that Houston pulled away late, displaying their superior depth. A few positions aside, this is a very deep football roster and that is what wins you games late in the season. It’s going to be tough for Kubiak to make some of these cuts along the way.
Mike Kerns is a Houston Texans writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter, “Like” his page on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also subscribe to his Texans podcast on iTunes.