This Sunday the 2-0 Houston Texans will host the 0-2 Dallas Cowboys at Reliant Stadium for the 3rd game of the regular season.
Don’t let the records fool you. By no means is this a game for the recently successful Texans to take lightly. The Cowboys have their backs against the wall, and they are a team with talent.
The Texans are going to have to approach this game with the same level of confidence and physicality they did during the 3rd preseason game where they routed the Boys in a 23-7 victory at the Reliant “Slaughter House” Stadium in Houston Texas.
The first thing the Texans are going to have to rely on in order to beat the Cowboys on Sunday is Andre Johnson.
He is not at full participation in practice due to an ankle injury; however expect to see him show up on Sunday in a big way as usual.
When Andre is fired up, so are the Texans. This season Johnson has emerged as a vocal leader on this roster, not just an example of how to execute outstanding work ethic. The emotion and resilience shown by Johnson against the Redskins last week catapulted the Texans into their first overtime victory ever.
Cowboy’s cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Terrance Newman are going to have their hands full this week with the big, strong, and fast beast that is Johnson.
Look for a post game interview with one of these guys trying to tell the media that Johnson really isn’t that great, and look for Johnson’s numbers to say otherwise.
For years the knock on Matt Schaub has been his durability. Last weekend against the Redskins he was dropped like an anvil over and over again. However he responded by peeling himself off the ground, hobbling back to the huddle, and throwing a game tying touchdown with another devastating blow right in his face.
This week the offensive line is going to have to do a better job of protecting Matt Schaub. With the emergence of a formidable run blocking scheme, the Texans seem to have lost some of their strength in pass protection.
To compound the issue starting left tackle Duane Brown has been suspended by the league for testing positive to a banned substance.
With Brown out it will be up to fifth year swing tackle from the University of Miami, Rashad Butler, to protect Schaub’s blind side. The Texans are confident in Butler’s talent, and he is fired up about the opportunity to prove he is a NFL caliber offensive tackle.
Only issue is that in his first start in the NFL, Butler will be facing Pro-Bowl outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Ware has one sack so far in the 2010 season, and surely is looking to this game to put more notches on his belt.
Look for this to be a leading subplot of the game come Sunday afternoon.
It has been said that the Texans secondary is young. In the preseason the Texans released their two veteran corners actively pronouncing that they can get it done with the young guys.
So far this season the Texans secondary has given up a total of 884 passing yards, and have missed a bundle of tackles. Grant it, they have faced arguably two of the top quarterbacks in the league but still that is a dangerous statistic over two games.
Also, the Texans rank dead last in interceptions so far this season.
The Cowboys have some very talented receivers on their side of the ball. Wide receivers Miles Austin, Roy Williams, and even rookie Dez Bryant are probably drooling at their matchups this weekend.
The Texans corners Glover Quin, and Kareem Jackson are going to have to take all they have learned over the last two games, and apply it this weekend against the Cowboys.
The safeties are going to need to step up as well, starting with the emotional leader of the unit Bernard Pollard. When Pollard is hyped so is the rest of the defense.
One thing that can help make a young secondary look good is an ever-present pass rush.
Fifth year, first round pick, and defensive end Mario Williams is answering the call in the 2010 season. He is second in the league with four sacks, and seems to get them when this team needs them most.
If Dallas’ quarterback Tony Romo is constantly picking himself up off the ground and number 90 is standing over him the Texans have a pretty good chance of winning this game.
The issue will be who will step up on the other edge and help solidify the Texans pass rush with sophomore Conner Barwin out for the season. Will it be veteran free agents Adewale Ogunleye, Ryan Denny, or sophomore playmaker Jesse Nading.
One of these three defensive ends will need to emerge as an added playmaker opposite Super Mario.
The Texans enter this week leading the league in rushing with sophomore Zen master Arian Foster who has racked up an even 300 yards.
Foster’s knack for finding extra yards on short gains, and his vision for cut back lanes have made his a household name.
This week against the Cowboys the Texans are going to need to move the ball on the ground. This will be accomplished by full back Vonta Leach, tight end Joel Dreessen, and the rest of the offensive line plowing through the Cowboys front seven.
If the Texans can establish the running game early, control the clock, and convert on third downs the Cowboys will be hard pressed to add a much needed one to the win column.
With the Texans offence leading the league in both passing and rushing so far this season, let’s take a look at where the defense has been on top of the charts.
The Texans are second in the NFL on defending the run. So far this season both the Colts and the Red Skins have only been able to squeak out a combined total of 31 yards, and no rushing touchdowns.
Now that’s how to take the opponents rushing attack out of the game.
This week the Texans will face the Cowboys’ three headed monster in the running game made up of Marian Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice. These are some explosive guys who have struggled so far this season, only amassing 139 combined yards to date.
The Texans front seven do not want to be the unit that allows these three running backs to hit their stride.
If not for the impacts that strong safety Bernard Pollard when he blocked the Redskins field goal attempt, and Neil Rackers’ 35 yard game winning field goal kick in overtime special teams would have been costly.
Both kick returner Steve Slaton and punt returner Jacoby Jones added very little to benefit the organization during returns. At least they didn’t put the ball on the turf.
As well, special teams tackling seemed off, and put the Redskins in good field position far too often during the game.
This week the Texans special teams units are going to have to pin the Cowboys deep on their side of the field, and launch the Texans into scoring position on returns.
Much like the Cowboys of today the Texans of yesterday used to shoot themselves in the foot far too often regarding game management.
In this inter-state Texas size matchup coaching maturity is going to have to be crucial. Head coach Gary Kubiak has shown that he is willing to make a decision popular or not in order to win the game.
Last week against the Redskins Kubiak had two risky yet game affecting calls in overtime to win the game.
One was when he decided not to kick a 53 yard field goal, and punted in an effort to have manageable field position. This paid off with the defense stepping up to the plate, and holding the Redskins to a long field goal attempt.
The second was his attempt to “ice the Redskins kicker” with a time out call right before they snapped the ball. This too paid in spades, as the first kick was nailed, and the second sailed wide right.
This is the type of risks and confidence this team needs to see from its head coach in order to give them the confidence they need to make it to the playoffs.
Here are a few other things that need to fall into place for the Texans to go into week four with a 3-0 record.
Recovering tight end Owen Daniels needs to reestablish himself as an offensive threat.
Linebacker DeMeco Ryans needs to get some tackle on the board.
Rookie defensive tackle Earl Mitchell needs his first NFL sack.
Free safety Eugine Wilson can’t miss any more tackles, and get himself a pick, or the Texans need to give rookie preseason standout Troy Nolan a few snaps.
Wide receiver phenomenon Jacoby Jones has to stop dropping passes, and return to last season’s freakish form. (He is one of my fantasy receivers and I need some sleeper points)
Last but not least the Texans faithful are going to have to show up, and disrupt the Cowboys concentration with loud noises.