Biggest Questions Facing the Houston Texans in Week 1 Contest with the Chargers
So many questions face the Texans as they begin their quest for a Super Bowl, and several, thankfully, will be answered this week.
Will the Texans roll over the Chargers as many believe they should, or will recurring issues plague the team and unnecessarily cause a difficult-to-watch performance?
What matchups are the most important? Which players must step up?
Here are the five biggest questions facing the Texans as they prepare for their first game of the regular season.
Will DeAndre Hopkins Break Open the Offense?
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As soon as the Texans drafted DeAndre Hopkins with their first-round pick, he immediately became one of the most hyped-up players on the Texans.
Everyone is desperate to see the vastly talented rookie receiver make his NFL debut. It would be an understatement to say that it is heavily anticipated.
Hopkins will have a great chance of individually proving himself this game; the Chargers had a below-average pass defense last season.
But by playing well, Hopkins will not only prove his worth but also make life hell for the Chargers defense. When the Texans had no viable receiving threats besides Andre Johnson last season, opposing defenses were able to double-team Johnson and stack the box to shut down the Texans' running game.
Hopkins can ruin everything for opposing defenses. If he can become a consistent target for Matt Schaub, then defenses will be forced to either take attention away from Johnson or the Texans' running game. Either decision would prove disastrous.
Hopkins can single-handedly make the Texans offense deadly efficient. The question, however, is if he actually will.
How Will the Texans Handle Arian Foster?
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These reports, however, were extremely vague. They all were based off the same Gary Kubiak quote, where the Texans head coach stated that, "Obviously I don't think Arian is going to be a 30-carry guy opening night without camp."
That quote means nothing. It reveals absolutely none of the Texans' plans to handle Foster.
Kubiak, perhaps wisely, gave no hint of what the team intends to do with Foster. Common sense, obviously, dictates that the Texans limit Foster in some capacity.
But how much, exactly, are they going to limit him? Will they cap him at 20 carries? 25?
Of course, game action will determine just how much the Texans use Foster, but no one, including the Chargers, knows how much Foster will be utilized.
We'll just have to wait and see.
How Will the Pass Rush Fare?
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In 2011, the Texans defense was nearly unstoppable. Almost every member of the front-seven was able to consistently pressure the passer, and opposing quarterbacks struggled heavily when they were matched up against the Texans.
In 2012, the exact opposite happened. Yes, J.J. Watt rose to superstardom, but the other members of the front-seven—excluding Antonio Smith—took a major step back.
In the Texans' defensive scheme, it is critical for pressure to come from the outside; this collapses the pocket and forces the quarterback to step up into inside pressure.
Last season, pass-rushing pressure only came from the inside, which would allow the quarterbacks to escape outside the pocket, granting them much more time to either find an open receiver or make a play on their feet.
The result was bad. The Texans defense seemed a shell of its former self.
In order for the Texans to take down elite quarterbacks this season, the pass rush must regain its dominant form. Brian Cushing, who missed the majority of last season, will certainly strengthen the front-seven.
But the key lies with Whitney Mercilus and Reed. Mercilus, who only saw limited action last season, stands poised to make a huge impact on the defense. Reed, though, who despite being an effective run defender, is a concern when it comes to rushing the quarterback.
So, will the pass rush generate outside pressure, or will it rely on inside pressure, placing much more stress on the secondary?
Will the Right Side of the Offensive Line Struggle Against the Chargers Front-Seven?
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While the Chargers struggle when it comes to stopping the pass, they are stellar when it comes to shutting down the run.
Last season, the Chargers ranked sixth in rushing yards given up per game. Their front-seven, which includes Corey Liuget, Dwight Freeney and Kendall Reyes is intimidating and threatening. They, certainly, are no pushover.
And, unfortunately for the Texans, their offensive line consisted of pushovers last seasons, most specifically on the right side of it. Both Ben Jones and Derek Newton were helpless; defensive linemen and linebackers plowed through them with no regard for their NFL credibility.
This season, though, the Texans are hoping their frightening situation on the right side will improve for the better. Brandon Brooks, an athletic freak, will take the place of Jones at right guard, and Derek Newton will be more experienced.
In order for the Texans offense to truly succeed, the entire offensive line needs to be working together perfectly, and if the right side struggles, disaster occurs.
The Chargers will provide an excellent test of how much the right side really improved during the offseason.
Will Matt Schaub Shake His Poor Play from the End of Last Season?
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The Texans' awful late-season collapse is often summed up by many Texans fans with one simple statement: Matt Schaub sucked.
On the surface, that statement seems absolutely correct. Schaub seemed terrible; he couldn't avoid pressure, and his passes were soft and inaccurate.
But, in truth, the Texans' offensive troubles do not solely belong to Schaub. Actually, the offensive line should be placed with the majority of the blame, but since the quarterback position is considered by so many to be much more important than any other position, we all point the finger at Schaub.
It's unfair, but it's what happens.
Against the Chargers on Monday Night Football, Schaub will be given the opportunity to redeem himself to the world and his fans. He knows, as everyone else does, that he cannot squander this important chance at redemption.