The Texans are 3-1 at the quarter mark of the season but there are still questions about this team. The Texans have two teams that look like they are going nowhere this season (the Colts and the Dolphins), one team that may or may not do anything (the Steelers) and one team that looks pretty good (the Saints). Unfortunately the Texans lost the one game that they played against a team that looks destined for the playoffs. However, the Week 5 matchup against the Raiders should answer at least three of the questions that are remaining about the Texans..
Many people assumed that the Texans offensive line would face one of their toughest tests of the year when they squared off against Pittsburgh in Week 4. However, that was not what was going on in the trenches. The Texans offensive line dominated the game and Arian Foster ran for 155 yards against the vaunted Steelers run defense. But the Steelers don't seem to be quite the same as they were last year when they gave up less than 70 yards per game.
However, now they have to do it against a very large defensive line (average weight of over 295 and no one shorter than 6'3) and without Andre Johnson to pull the cap off of the top. The Texans offensive line will have to man up and push those big bodies around in order to create holes for Arian Foster to run, but beyond that they will have to help make blocks on the second level against Rolando McClain. McClain will have to be accounted for on every play, as he already has two double digit tackle games on the season and five passes defensed. McClain is also a big body standing at 6'3 and 255 pounds (essentially like Andre Johnson with an extra twenty pounds of muscle).
Once again the general assumption (and it was just that) was that the Steelers run game would test the Texans defense in a way that it had not previously been tested. However, the Steelers rushed a total of 22 times in the game for a measly 118 yards. What may be even more shocking is that their former first round pick who ran for over 1,200 yards last year, Rashard Mendenhall, only rushed the ball nine times for 25 yards.
This will almost certainly not be the case as the Texans defense attacks the Raiders offense. McFadden is averaging over 115 yards per game and almost twenty attempts per game. McFadden gets the opportunities because he is one of the best backs in the game. He also averages almost four receptions per game, so they Texans will have to keep either DeMeco Ryans or Brian Cushing on him on every play.
However, the most important player on the Texans defense this week might be Shaun Cody. If he can keep Cushing and Ryans clean they will be able to contain McFadden, but if they are fighting off blockers the whole day Run DMC might have a big day and really hurt the Texans.
Andre Johnson is the best wide out in the NFL.
With that said if you take him off of a team, any team, their chances of winning decrease dramatically. The Texans have to show that they have enough second tier weapons to make up for Johnson and that will be hard to do.
Jacoby Jones has all of the physical talents that he would need in order to be a top tier play maker but he has never had the consistency. If he steps up his game and shows that he can play on the same level (albeit in a very different style) as an Anquan Boldin when he was in Arizona playing opposite of Larry Fitzgerald.
Outside of Jones there is no one that you can count on to stretch the field and open up the underneath passing lanes for Owen Daniels, Kevin Walter, James Casey and most importantly Arian Foster. If you are looking for someone else that might step up the only other real option is Bryant Johnson but he has a history of under performing and would be hard to count on in this situation. If the Texans can win without Andre then they will show that they are an even more dynamic team than many people think.