On Sunday the Texans traveled to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars and see who would end up in last place in the very close AFC South division.
Both teams walked into the stadium 4-4, as nearly mirror images of each other. Both teams started the season strong, and both beat the division champ Indianapolis Colts…Once. However, only one could come out victorious on Sunday.
The sun in Jacksonville shown bright, and the Texans left with red faces, but not from being burned by the sun. Their faces were red from being burned by the Jaguars, and adding another 491 total yards against during the afternoon.
What is the difference in a game where the competition is this close? Playmakers, and in Jacksonville the Texans playmakers did not show up.
The most obvious and mass distributed infraction was second year cornerback Glover Quin who on the last play in regulation batted a hail marry pass down into the waiting arms of Jacksonville’s wide receiver Mike Thomas.
Thomas was able to put up a staggering 149 yards against the Texans, his career high, making him the fantasy sleeper of the week. Good job to those of you who picked him up Sunday morning on a whim.
On the other hand Quin led the team with 13 tackles, and if that ball had hit the ground as intended, Quin could have been up for the game ball.
Glover Quin is a very good cornerback, who’s only shortcoming is his lack of confidence on interceptions. It seems that every time he has a chance to pull one in, he bats the ball away or hesitates at the point of attack. Wonder if this is a reflection of how he is being coached?
If he would co-apply his aggressiveness in tackling toward the ball, he could be a game changing Pro-Bowl caliber corner, instead of feeling the stinging burn of a devastating loss in Jacksonville.
During the 2009 season the Houston Texans signed a strong safety off the streets. The arrival of that safety instantly ignited the worst defense in the league that season, and fired them up over the remaining games to 13th over all.
That safety was Bernard Pollard, and his attitude, aggressiveness, and heart was something this team had been missing on defense since inception.
This year Pollard’s productivity has declined drastically. It hit rock bottom on Sunday against Jacksonville where he only accumulated a single tackle.
Only one tackle in the stats for the hard hitting, out spoken, run stuffing strong safety fans have learned to love.
All the while running back Maurice Jones Drew ran for 100 yards two touchdowns, and several first downs. Keeping the Texans offence off the field and chewing up precious clock in a very close game.
Maybe the city of Houston has shown Pollard too much love causing him to grow complaisant like the rest of the Texans guaranteed starters on defense. Pollard may need that chip on his shoulder to really shine, and it’s up to Texans fans to put it back up there.
The only other leader on the defense to have less impact on the game then Pollard was first round draft pick Mario Williams. Williams did not even get one solo tackle, and only had one assist.
Number 90 is capable of taking a game over at any given moment all by himself. The question is why he doesn’t?
If Williams gives 100 percent on every down no team could defend him, but what we find is that he turns it on two or three snaps a quarter. On those downs he causes pressure, flushes the quarterback, and disrupts the play. The rest of the time on the field he seems to take himself out of the play.
On sweeps and runs his direction there is no outside containment. More often than not he is beat off the ball by the offensive tackles he is facing. Nagging injuries and excuses have plagued him over the last four seasons, continuing to raise questions about the decision of General Manager Rick Smith taking him number one overall in the draft.
The loss of Conner Barwin, Tim Bullman, and lack of productivity by the defensive tackles have hurt Williams this year, but for this to be the third loss this season where he has chalked up only one or less tackles is not acceptable for a first overall pick.
Second year defensive rookie of the year Brian Cushing has had an interesting lack of season so far in 2010. First he was suspended for four games, then he was moved to middle linebacker for two games, and finally he is back at strong side linebacker for the duration of the season.
This has caused Cushing to experience a dramatic slump in his sophomore season. On Sunday in Jacksonville he recorded his best game of the season with nine tackles. However, they came at a cost.
Several times he was carried by running back Maurice Jones Drew for five yards during the tackle. He seems to tackle too high, and his speed is not getting him to the edge or the quarter back in time to make plays.
We need him to be a difference maker, a play maker, a destructive force on the defensive side of the ball, and so far this season, that is just not who he has been.
On Sunday the Texans coaching staff decided to rotated rookie corner back Kareem Jackson with sophomore Brice McCain. The result was that Jacksonville only made two big plays, both of which for touchdowns. A 52 yard pass to Zack Miller, and of course the infamous hail marry to Thomas.
Rotating Jackson should help him stay fresh, give him a chance to watch other corners play, and learn. Problem is who will he watch, McCain, Quin, newly signed corner from Miami Jason Allan?
Allan would be the most experienced corner on the squad; however he was released from Miami for getting burned against the Pittsburg Steelers multiple times in one game. In fact his nick name in Miami is “toast”.
Whoever it is the Texans have to find away to improve this secondary before their season ends under 500.
The Texans passing game against the jaguars on Sunday was very strong, out of the 395 total yards offensively 314 of them were won through the air.
Andre Johnson had a fantastic day with 146 yards. Kevin Walters showed up with 90 yards. The tight ends put up 42 yards. Even David Anderson had a couple of catches for 27 yards.
The question is where Jacoby Jones was. He was on the field, but only caught one pass for 5 yards. Jacoby come into the season pushing Kevin Walters for the starting spot opposite Andre Johnson.
So far this season he has dropped more passes than he has caught. Jones needs to find a way to settle down, and catch the ball if he wants to be the impact player he is capable of.
Second year and unheralded league leading rusher Arian Foster seemed a bit off his rhythm against the Jaguars on Sunday.
With only 56 yards and one touchdown on the game he did not appear to hit his holes with the burst fans have come to expect from him. He also was not utilized as much in the passing game with only one reception that counted for four yards.
He did have the long screen on the opening play in the second half, but it came back due to a holding call on Andre Johnson.
Foster was only handed the ball 15 times the entire game and that was not enough to keep the Texans Swiss Cheese defense off the field. As productive as the passing game was, the Texans need to stick to the run to chew up the clock, and spare the defense precious snaps on the field.
Feeding Foster the ball is the best defense this team has, and it needs to happen 25-30 times a game.
Texans second string tightend Joel Dreessen has had a ton of opportunities to play over the last two seasons due to the injuries of Pro Bowl tight end Owen Daniels.
Dreessson is outstanding in run blocking, and has proved to be valuable in the passing game as well. So far this season he has 15 receptions for a total of 215 yards, that’s an average of 14.3 yards a catch and 10 first downs.
Not bad for a backup tightend. Dreessen only has one fumble, and it took place on a pass that put the Texans in field goal range to beat the Jaguars with a Neil Rackers kick on Sunday.
Dreessens is personally shouldering the blame for the loss in Jacksonville on Sunday, and in part he should. However, Dreessens fumble was just another example of a Texans playmaker not making a play when it matters most.
He needs to understand that his fumble was not the only missed play by this team and get ready to take it out on the Jets at their house next Sunday.
On a positive note Texans quarterback Matt Schaub stayed upright almost the entire game. He was knocked down only once throwing the ball away to avoid what was almost his only sack. If not for the one miffed snap for a 12 yard loss, he would have been nearly perfect.
Had he been able to handle that one snap, the game could have had a different outcome.
He completed 22 of his 32 passes, and threw for two touchdowns. He also made some plays with his feet, running three times for 14 yards.
It is important for the offensive line to keep him comfortable in the pocket so he can continue to produce in games to come. The issue is once he begins to feel pressure; he is unable to time his throws correctly.
Next week the Texans will travel to New York and take on the invigorated New York Jets. This is not the same Jets that handed the Texans their butts on opening day in 2009, this is a much better team.
At this stage in the game the Texans playoff hopes are doubtful, but not dead. However, it is never too late to hit somebody, to make a play, and who knows change the outcome of the season.
This week in New York a playmaker needs to emerge on both sides of the ball for this team to win. There are some candidates listed above but it could come from players like second year safety Troy Nolan, or second year end James Casey. Just know it has to be someone.