Houston Texans Preseason wrap up, and what we learned

After the Houston Texans had the best season as a franchise even without their starting QB, star WR and, the man once thought of as the teams best pass rusher. To make things even harder on the team in his first game starting they also lost their back up QB and were forced to go to the 3rd string rookie and hope he was poised enough to just hold on and keep them in the hunt, which he did a great job of. Can’t knock the heart of a team that went through all that and yet still they felt they should have won the playoff game they lost to the Baltimore Ravens. With all that being said we knew that they had to come out and show that they weren’t just one hit wonders, or a team that simply took advantage of finally not having to go through Peyton Manning in order to win the division. The Texans had to prove that they are and will be the team to beat in that division, In my opinion they did that. Let’s get into this Houston Texans wrap up and talk about what we learned about what they did to prove to the division and the league they’re no one trick pony.

QB Matt Schaub who was lost last year to a freak lisfranc injury in his foot was back and better than ever in the preseason. He made very few mistakes during the 3 games in which he played. Back in the offense that even without him, was able to get one game away from a chance to play in the Super Bowl. Schaub seemed to have the same control of the offense he had before his injury last year, and if he’s able to have WR Andre Johnson all year he could once again have a great year. Only in 2009 have they both played all 16 games together, and Schaub led the league in passing yards and Johnson in receiving yards. In 2010 Schaub played 10 games before being hurt and at the point he was injured he had 3,043 yards passing.

Texans WR Andre Johnson.

Along with the health of Schaub and Johnson the health of All Pro RB Arian Foster is also key to the teams success. Foster led the league in rushing yards in 2010 and after missing some time last year he should be ready for the season. If Foster’s as successful as he has been in the previous years then the Texans are in an extremely good shape. I can’t think of another team in football with a weapon in the backfield like Foster and a WR the caliber of Johnson as well on the same team. With as much as they run playaction passes and screens look for the Texans to be near the top of the league in many offensive categories. And while Foster is an elite talent at RB the Texans may have another with Ben Tate coming off the bench behind him. Tate ended with 942 yards on 175 carries. He did get some extra opportunities while Foster was down with a hamstring injury, but still is very productive whenever he gets the chance to play. Last year against the Titans, playing in Tennessee both Tate and Foster went over 100 yards rushing. That’s  the situation the Texans hope to have all regular season.

On the offensive line the Texans lost both their RG and RT during the offseason. G Mike Breisel decided to go with old offensive line coach Gregg Knapp to Oakland while starting RT Eric Winston was released due to the lack of ability to be able to sign him to a long term contract in the near future. Going into the preseason the team and staff had the idea that veterans Antoine Caldwell and Rashar Butler would be filling those voids. Both played a good amount of snaps last year and both know the offense pretty well. Butler was injured during the 3rd game of the season and is now done for the season. This would’ve been devestating to the team but 2nd year player Derek Newton won the job before that game and he started. With Butler out for the year the Texans signed former Bronco Ryan Harris to fill the void. Harris is somewhat familiar with zone blocking scheme the Texans run already from his early days in Denver. Though they didn’t run exactly the same scheme.

Texans OLB Conner Barwin amping up the fans at Reliant Stadium.

Defensively the Texans are one of the best teams in football. The front 7 is fierce, fast, and relentless. Last season they set the franchise record with 44 sacks during the regular season. They did lose DE Mario Williams to the Bills in free agency basically because they weren’t going to pay him on a maybe. He did produce while he played a whole season but rearely did that happen for the former no.1 pick. With Williams gone the Texans went out and drafted the countries sack leader out of Illinois, Whitney Mercilus. During the preseason Mercilus has 3.5 sacks and looked good playing alongside some of the starters at times. Along with Mercilus in the draft they were able to nab Jared Crick from Nebraska who is the next in line behind DE Antonio Smith. Crick had some great numbers while at Nebraska but got injured and fell in the draft. Last season the Texans owner and GM gave new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips the reigns and told him to make your defense better. He was able to get JJ Watt and Brooks Reed with the first 2 picks. Both are starters and both are great players. Watt is a beast, during the draft they called him a high motor guy. That’s an understatement. Watt is always around the ball and if given the chance he will shine for many years in this league. OLB Conner Barwin led the Texans in sacks last season with 11.5, he was a blessing in disguise for Wade Phillips. A converted DE that was comfortable playing standing up and had the quickness to do so effectively Barwin became a household name last season. He looks to improve on that this year “I’d love to get 15 sacks and with the 2nd year of Wade’s defense, this is a season of high hopes” is what Barwin had to say when asked about what he looked to improve upon last year. JJ Watt was amazing last season. To come in as a rookie, start, and make a difference immediately is a lot to do. Watching the defense in the preseason was great but, as good as they looked neither Brian Cushing or Watt were playing regularly. That’s another reason why the Texans have so much to look forward to in the regular season.

In the secondary the Texans lost CB Jason Allen in free agency to the Bengals, but not to worry both Kareem Jackson and Brandon Harris looked great during preseason. Jackson was a 1st round pick in 2010 and until last year really didn’t live up to the expectations for himself from a fans stand point. Harris was the 3rd player Phillips got in the draft last year and didn’t get much time due to the shortened offseason. Now both are looking to contribute and help All Pro Jonathan Joseph make the Texans pass defense no.1 in the league. Safety Daniel Manning had this to say about how far the Texans defense has came in it’s second year under Wade Phillips “I’d  say we came leaps and bounds for the fact of just picking up the defense. We can add more to it. The more guys know, the better we can play ans the faster we can play. We’re starting to play good ball early in training camp and the preseason from last year. At the end of the season, we were really picking up steam. I think it’s coming over to this season.”

Texans Pro Bowl CB Jonathan Joseph getting INT vs Jacksonville last year.

In terms of special teams the Texans look to get a much needed boost. A boost I believe they’ll get from new return man Trindon Holliday, who had a stellar preseason with 3 total TD returns. Holliday, who was drafted in 2010 but got injured and had to wait to get a opportunity to show what he could do. Now with Jacoby Jones gone to Baltimore Holliday got his chance and seized it. Though he has only played a preseason I feel comfortable saying he’ll be better than Jones was on punts and as good as Daniel Manning was at kickoff returns. Along with Holliday the Texans have rookie WR Keshawn Martin out of  Michigan St. He’s also very quick and explosive so if Holliday goes down or needs a rest Martin should be more than capable to do the job.