Texans vs. Jaguars: Final Report Cards, Player Grades for Houston
The Houston Texans took the trip east to EverBank Field to play the Jacksonville Jaguars today and came away with a 27-7 triumph. They have now taken four in a row from the Jags. Until some research backs it up, I will tentatively say this is the first such streak against any team in the AFC South Division.
Marc Vandermeer, voice of the Houston Texans Radio Network, mentioned during the game the video for this one will not be headed to the NFL Films vault. Winning ugly is something the best teams do, playing as if they are unconcerned about receiving any style points.
If today’s game were a performance during the Cold War Olympics, the East German judge would have given the offense a seven. Or maybe a 7.5 if the Russian judge had been generous with the vodka.
Winning with great defense and a persistent offense is a thing of beauty that many champions have relied on in the past. Whether this team is at the level of the 1990 New York Giants or the Baltimore Ravens of 2000 will be revealed over the remainder of the year.
Now let us take a trip through every unit and see how they graded out in Week 2 of the 2012 NFL schedule.
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Just what role does Matt Schaub need to fill for every Texans’ fans dream to come true? Right now, all that has been asked of him is to manage the game. The defense has been so outstanding stopping two bottom-rung outfits, he has not had to do much more than that.
Before he is labeled the equivalent of Trent Dilfer, the go-to symbol of winning QB mediocrity, give him credit for living within his limitations. Not necessarily that of his ability, but working within what the conditions dictate.
Nine of his 26 completions were for first downs on a day where the rain and the humidity made handling the ball a tricky matter. He only went deep three times, and none were completions.
But when you hold the lead for the entire game, and are gaining plenty of yards running the ball, you can afford to keep your passes short and your time of possession long. Long as in 43:17 for the Texans versus 16:43 for the Jaguars.
If I were Gary Kubiak, my biggest worry would be, “How do we come from behind?” We only have one reliable deep threat, and our young receivers are not ready to step up.
How much of this concern bears down on the mind of No. 8? If you believe the defense is so good this inevitability will never arise, then you can afford to rest easy. The rest of us are left to wonder, Mr. Schaub included.
Running Backs: B+
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The running game gains over 200 yards, averages 4.5 per carry and all they get is a B+?
Now, Arian Foster is not headed into Chris Johnson territory. That would be “The Land of Low Yardage After Signing Big Contract.” The 110 yards he gained were a lot of short ones aided by six longer runs that comprised 68 of that total. This guy is not supposed to be a grinder, but a cutback artist. If he becomes the former, it will shorten his career.
Ben Tate did the same thing but for a better overall average, 12 carries for 74 yards and a 6.2 average. He is the one who kicks up the grade for this pair. The Texans should be glad to have him to give Foster some bench time to catch his breath.
Forsett helped run out the clock after the outcome was already decided. Is there a better triumvirate in the league? Then tell me who they are.
Offensive Line: B+
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If the first thing out of your mouth is “The Texans Offensive Line,” the second is “What about the right side?”
This time around, there was nothing to complain about regarding any aspect of the line play. They handled the running and passing responsibilities with equal assurance, running for 216 yards and not giving up a single sack.
Schaub felt some pressure from the defensive ends from time to time, but not enough to disrupt his sleep. The Jags’ Jeremy Mincey is always difficult to handle and Andre Branch may be a comer someday. But this Sunday belonged to the OL of the Texans.
After looking as if it might take the rest of the year for the offensive guards Wade Smith, Antoine Caldwell, and Ben Jones to get it together, all it took was playing against Jacksonville. The Texans scored all three of their touchdowns up the middle, so the credit is due these three gentlemen and Chris Myers as well.
None to speak of this week, and here’s hoping next week the good fortunes of the line extend all the up to the mile high confines of Invesco Field in Denver. They are going to need it against Von Miller and Company.
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When your quarterback attempts 35 passes, typically the team at some point needed to throw just to keep things going their way. For the Texans the game is all about ball control, and control it they did.
This means few demands are placed on your wideouts and tight ends, and you can pick and choose when to put it in the air. The choices this week were to keep the passes short and sweet.
It was drizzling when the game started and rained a little heavier later on, so it only makes sense to rely on high completion routes. A 74 percent completion rate shows the strategy worked as planned.
So why was just a B awarded to the receivers? Someone has to be accountable for the 7.5 yard average per completion, a number that could get you beat those weeks when the passing game is your only weapon.
It is just plain hard to find any. Andre Johnson has three catches for 21 yards, Daniels 6 for 47, and Foster 6 for 37. These guys are supposed to be your primary threats. It was sufficient for a beat-up, demoralized opponent like Jacksonville. Against the upper- echelon teams, it will not suffice.
Keshawn Martin dropped another one, and Kevin Walter could have extended a red zone penetration if he had just come up with the ball on a rolling catch. Walter caught three of his four targets, and luckily that slipup was early in a game that was never close.
Defensive Line: A
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Can any player make a GM happy they went 6-10 just so they could get a pick in the 11th spot? Rick Smith knows that to be true every time J.J Watt does something spectacular again.
This group is maybe the biggest reason Jacksonville gained less than 120 yards for the entire day. I cannot say for certain whether they made RG Guy Whimper actually do so, but at some point the entire offensive front of the Jaguars could have easily shed tears of frustration. LT Eugene Monroe must be wishing he could play Jared Allen every week.
If three players can represent the strength of the team at any given time, then this unit is the one.
We can start with J. J Watt’s line: five tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 tackles-for-loss, 2 passes tipped, 3 QB hits. That is a month’s work for some DEs, and a year’s work for Albert Haynesworth. Watt is the next Justin Smith, maybe even the next Reggie White. But let us not get ahead of ourselves.
Other than an offside penalty by Shaun Cody, they get off without a mark. Better yet, ask Blaine Gabbert and his 53 passing yards if they can find anything wrong with these guys.
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The defensive line did so much to wreck Jacksonville’s offensive game plan, all the LBs had to do was take out the trash.
All they recorded for the game were nine tackles and a single sack. No one could be unhappy with their body of work, and they should be thankful the guys upfront left them with so little to do.
The entire assemblage can share in this one, save for the random miscue. Brian Cushing and Brooks Reed accounted for a sack and 3 QB hits combined. Connor Barwin did not add anything to his contract-year sack totals, but was in Gabbert’s face much of the game.
Other than Bradie James losing track of Maurice Jones-Drew on his way to a touchdown, all can feel good about their execution.
Defensive Backs: A
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They would have received the same rating as the linebackers for the same reason. The overall offensive statistics of the Jaguars provide all the justification for it.
A deeper look inside the numbers illustrates with they grade out a bit higher. The young WRs for the Jags, Calvin Shorts and Justin Blackmon had not one catch for their six targets. Laurent Robinson gained 32 of his 49 yards on one reception.
The 76 yards receiving for the team is a huge step down from last week’s 260 against the Vikings. Further proof an organization once thought of as an offensive-minded finesse team is now a defensive powerhouse.
The DBs had to make fewer tackles this week due to the front seven swallowing up everything that came their way. When the pass rush is so effective, their job is that much easier. Kareem Jackson was picked on this week as in every other, but only allowed a single catch by Mike Thomas.
Johnathan Joseph had too much separation between him and Laurent Robinson on the 32- yard gain. This embodies the sole mistake of the day for the defensive backfield.
Special Teams: B
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Another grade that reflects some problems within this troop. Once again, the other team had over 25 yards per kickoff return with a long of 38. The 10.7 average allowed on punt returns is just OK.
The Texans own return game both offsets and demonstrates some of these shortcomings. Holliday returned a punt 36 yards to create some solid field position for an Arian Foster TD, but he also bobbled a punt out of bounds.
The kick return team is often split during coverage, leaving the middle open for something like Jalen Parmele’s 38 yard kickoff return. And the punt that glanced off Glover Quin’s helmet and out of bounds was unnecessarily careless.
The aforementioned Holliday punt return keeps him on the roster another week at least. Shayne Graham was 2 for 2 on FGs, but his long was only 37 yards.
Besides the punt off the dome that fortunately went off the field, Mister Alexander was penalized for an “Illegal Block Above the Waist.” Special Teams Coach Joe Marciano has to figure out, why at least twice each game, the coverage team leaves the middle open.
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Gary Kubiak did not need to alter his tactics to win this one. Even if the talent who missed this game made it on the field, the outcome would not have been different. Only the margin would have changed.
Kubiak realized this was not the day for Matt Schaub to limber up his arm. When the time of possession is almost triple that of the other team, you do not need to have your QB take over the game. All you need to do is run, run, run, until the game is done, done, done.
With the game so far out of reach, an appearance by T.J Yates might have given the young man a chance to get the feel of the field again. That is not how most coaches manage the offensive side of the ball. Keep your starter in until the end, and do not take any unwarranted risks.
Wade Phillips could also stick to a more standard 3-4 alignment without having to resort too many nickel and dime packages. His outside linebackers were unstoppable, his defensive ends even more inescapable.
The coaching staff will have time to take in the Denver at Atlanta game to get a taste of what they will face next Sunday. That gives them and the rest of the organization a couple of days to enjoy this win. Then the preparations for the first genuine test of 2012 will commence.