“Next man up” has been the battle cry of the Houston Texans this season as player after player has succumbed to injury. Unlike years past, this years team has been able to not only plug in another player to fill the voids, this years team has been able to plug in players that have played well enough to make the Texans one of the best teams in the NFL. Now it is QB Matt Leinart’s time to be that next man up.
Tons of controversy has surrounded Leinart, who, in his sixth season in the NFL, is looking to revitalize his image. When he first entered the league in 2006, with the Arizona Cardinals, he was deemed “immature”, “unprofessional”, and other terms of endearment. After a coaching change in Arizona he lost his starting job to Kurt Warner and has played second fiddle ever since.
With the injury to Texans starting quarterback Matt Schaub, Leinart has the opportunity of a lifetime. He is being handed to keys to a well-tuned vehicle and simply needs to keep the steering wheel pointed in the same direction – towards the playoffs.
The Texans are currently 7-3, they are the top seed in the AFC, have the best defense in the NFL, have the best running back tandem in the league, and will soon have the best wide receiver in the league back on their active roster. To say that this is an ideal situation for Leinart would be an understatement.
Fans of the team have decried Leinart’s ability to throw the deep pass. They have criticized his ability to be accurate and to play the game in a way that will help the Texans win. What most fans do not realize, however, is that Leinart will not need to throw the deep pass in order to win games. The last few games that the Texans have won are a testament to that fact.
Over the last four games, Texans QB Matt Schaub has completed, on average, 15 passes per game. During those same four games Schaub had a grand total of 882 passing yards which means that he averaged around 15 yards per pass. If you take away the huge plays made by both RB Arian Foster and WR Jacoby Jones, his stats become even more telling. The point is this, Schaub was not throwing a ton of deep bombs, rather he was finding guys over the middle, on play-action passes, and along the sidelines and allowing them to make the big gains. Leinart will simply have to repeat that performance.
Teams around the league are rumored to be prepared to “stack the box” against Leinart, meaning that they will bring extra pressure on the front line in order to stop the run. So be it. With WR Andre Johnson, Jacoby Jones, and TE Owen Daniels, Leinart will have plenty of other options. However, when defenses drop into pass coverage and begin to double-team the ever dangerous Johnson, Leinart will simply have to give the ball off to one of his running backs and let them do their thing.
The Texans offensive line has been of the best in the league this year. They have allowed the fifth fewest sacks in the league and have opened up holes for the league-leading rushing offense.
So, to sum it all up…Texans fans need to relax a little. The defense has been the backbone of the team this season. The offensive line in dominating up front, the ground-and-pound attack of Foster and Tate is destroying defenses, and Andre Johnson is returning. Leinart is a capable quarterback (or else Coach Kubiak would not have kept him around) and the Texans still have a good chance of being a top seed in the conference at the end of the season.