The moment I tuned into the game and saw J.J. Watt on the sideline without pads on, I knew immediately that we couldn’t take anything that the Houston Texans defense did in the third preseason game as gospel. It isn’t a fair measuring stick to take away the reigning defensive player of the year and slap a grade on things. Compared to the offense though, the defense has some catching up to do in the regular season opener just two weeks away.
Even with all of the hand wringing about Matt Schaub this offseason, most of us knew that the offense was still going to be able to move the ball in 2013. With the closest they’ve been to a full unit this preseason, even without DeAndre Hopkins or Arian Foster, the first team was able to put up a dominating performance through the air and ground, but not so much on the scoreboard.
Andre Johnson looks like he’s ready to pick up where he left off from last year with a huge half that saw him pick up 131 yards on seven catches, as well as some highlight reel grabs. While he was Schaub’s favorite target of the afternoon, he spread the ball around to three other receivers in Owen Daniels, Garrett Graham and Keshawn Martin for 213 total yards.
The critics are already out to take away from Schaub’s performance, as they always do if Houston doesn’t score a touchdown on every possession, but he had a good final showing of the preseason. He did have a couple of throws he was fortunate not to have picked off, but he also had more than a few passes that were easily catchable and just simply dropped. At this point, we know who Schaub is. As long as he doesn’t decline, I still firmly believe the team can win big with him in 2013.
The big story of the day was the play of Ben Tate, who gives confidence that the team can return to the dominant rushing duo they had in 2011. The addition of Greg Jones cannot be understated, as he was popping helmets to clear some lanes all during the half. 74 yards on just eleven carries for Tate is providing some relief to those who were beginning to stress over the run game.
The questions on the offensive line only got bigger as Derek Newton got manhandled a few times and Ben Jones just looks outmatched on nearly every play. Jones is playing out of position and clearly is only there because of the injury to Wade Smith, but Newton is who they’ve gone in with and if he doesn’t improve, Schaub could have a rough season of picking himself up off the turf.
As for the defense, they looked really stout against the Saints first team and even had Drew Brees on the run and under pressure consistently. But for some reason, Luke McCown was able to come in and sling the ball all over the field. Kareem Jackson gave up some big plays that gave some flashbacks to his 2010 season, but they were just great catches. Johnathan Joseph is the more concerning guy in the secondary. For the second week in a row, he has gotten smoked for touchdowns. If he doesn’t return to his 2011 level of play, Houston better have a big time pass rush this year to level it out. Because opposing quarterbacks have been picking on him the last two weeks.
About what you’d expect in the dress rehearsal game for Houston. The red zone difficulties still seem to persist, but getting Foster and Hopkins back have me less concerned about that. But they’ll need to make the Texans a top six to eight offense to counter for the defense this year, if I were to guess. It’s still August and not all of the starters were out there, but there were a lot of them out there still that were getting toasted by a backup quarterback and that raises some eyebrows.
We’ll find out in two weeks when the games begin to count. Until then, wrap the starters in bubble wrap and let’s focus on the big picture beginning in San Diego on Monday Night Football.