In front of a national audience Wade Phillips showed exactly what kind of improvements had been made to the defense. Many improvements that most inside the state of Texas expected. Phillips along with general manager Rick Smith and president of football operations Chris Olsen showed exactly how a revamped defense and key free agent signings can turn a team around. Although we must keep in perspective that the seven sack defensive performance came at the hands of mostly a non-starting NFL rookie quarterback, Greg McElroy.
Without drinking the kool-aid just yet. The Texans starters only played a quarter of the game and in that time held the New York Jets first teamers to only a field goal. The Houston Texans offense were only able to muster three points themselves but had key players held out on the offensive side of the ball.
Jason Allen got the start for an injured and recently acquired cornerback Jonathan Joseph and Brian Cushing did not suit up either. DeMeco Ryans did start which is a great sign but Ryans didn’t end up playing very long at all. Having Ryans out on the field is a huge step in his recovery from the achilles injury suffered last year and a positive for the Texans to have their team captain back.
On offense the Texans were without, count em, three of their top running backs. Last years NFL rushing champion Arian Foster sat out with a hamstring injury. Last years second round pick Ben Tate missed the game along with Steve Slaton. In the first quarter Derrick Ward left the game with what appeared to be a concussion. Wards injury as unfortuante as it was opened the door for Chris Ogbonnaya. The third year running back and the former Texas Longhorn stepped up big when needed. Ogbonnaya ended the game with 104 total yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. Ogbonnaya did most of his damage in the air catching 6 passes for 67 yards.
The Texans will have some decisions to make at the running back position. It’s not likely that the Texans will keep five running backs. Odds of Ogbonnaya being waived in hopes of resigning him to the practice squad can be forgotten after Monday nights performance.
Another predicted practice squad player that the Texans stand to lose if they attempt to waive in hopes of resigning to the practice squad is Florida Atlantic University undrafted free agent Lestar Jean. Jean has been making plays all training camp especially in the red zone and last night was no diiferent. The big play receiver from FAU netted two catches for 52 yards. Jean’s final catch was a 28 yards touchdown pass from fellow rookie quarterback T.J. Yates that was reviewed and reversed to be down at teh one yard line instead. Jean caught the ball away from the the body well and displayed this usual knack for adjusting to the ball well once it’s in the air. The 6’3″ 218 pound wide receiver will be closely watched the rest of the preseason and has every Texans fan salivating over his potential.
Unfortunately T.J. Yates seemed to have out played back-up quarterback Matt Leinart. This could be a good thing in the long run. However after Houston resigned Leinart with the sole intent of having Leinart back-up Matt Schaub while Yates develops as the third quarterback doesn’t seem to be going as planned. Gary Kubiak called a very safe game for Matt Leinart and Leinart didn’t dissappoint. Leinart completed only 8 of 14 attempts for 78 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Leinart’s QB rating was 67.0%. Leinart hit all of his first reads never looking down field much at all. Coach Kubiak had Leinart roll out at times in order to give him open looks down the field but more times than not Leinart hit his first read either in the short right or left of the field. After five years in the league Leinart still seems to be a first read quarterback. Leinart threw only one pass longer than ten yards in the air going in a north and south direction of the field. At some point T.J. Yates may get a chance to run with teh number two offense to see what can be done by the rookie QB. Yates numbers on the the night were 6 of 12 for 97 yards and a nice 28 yard pass (in the air) to Lestar Jean to set up the go ahead touchdown by Chris Ogbonnaya. Yates ended up with a QB rating of 77.4% and no interceptions.
Some of the wide receviers other that we were excited to see was, other than Lestar jean and Terrence Toliver, were Dorin Dickerson and Derrick Townsel. Unfortunately they both ran with the second string QB Matt Leinart. Townsel actually would likely have had a long touchdown reception or atleast one for a very nice gain on a nice throw by T.J. Yates that would of hit Townsel in stride if Townsel doesn’t slow down early in his route. Both Dickerson and Townsel should get more opportunities during the rest of preseason.
The big story on defense was the Texans getting to the quarterback seven times last night. Seven sacks for the Texans last night was a preseason franchise record. Yes, that is not a typo. Count them again. Seven sacks by the Houston Texans defense.
J.J. Watt and Mario Williams both seemed to play better when they both lined up on the same side. J.J. Watt is aggressive and contributed with half a sack but seemed over aggressive or maybe anticipating pass when the Jets actually called run. Two times were counted in which Watt over pursued and by passed the runner who had a wide open lane right through Watt’s assigned gap. Otherwise he looked relentless, high motor type and did very good things.
The big story on defense was the play the back up linebackers. Linebacker depth was definitely a question coming into the preseason. Xavier Adibi filling in for Brian Cushing and two undrafted free agent linebackers in Bryan Braman and Jesse Nading. All three contributed in some way to the seven total sacks the Texans ended with by the games final tick of the clock. Bryan Braman came up with a key QB pressure resulting in a incompletion during the Jets final drive.
Sherrick McManis locked down one entire side of the field during the final two quarters to provide a pleasant surprise for the revamped secondary. McManis has had a very good training camp to date. If nothing else McManis should provide quality depth to the Texans secondary.
Overall the Houston Texans played a good game at home in front of a national audience. Houston fans have a lot of things to be excited about this but the team still has a ways to go!
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