Houston Texans: A Team in Transition
By Editorial Staff
By now, Texans fans, it is well known that the team has suffered a rash of injuries in the past few weeks. WR Andre Johnson, OLB Mario Williams, and RB Ben Tate were just a few of the many injuries that have plagued the Texans this season. With that being said let us take a look at some of the most recent transitions that have taken place and how they will affect the Texans as they prepare to take on the Baltimore Ravens.
The Texans were forced to address the one question that has been plaguing them for the last few seasons. How do you replace Andre Johnson? The answer, they found, is that you do NOT replace him.
Last week the Texans attempted to bump WR Jacoby Jones into the top spot on the receiver depth chart followed by Kevin Walter and Bryant Johnson. Jones, Coach Gary Kubiak had hoped, was to step up and big the impact player that everyone thought he could be. The end result of the game was that Jones finished with one catch for nine yards. Apparently, stepping into the top spot on the roster was too much pressure for Jones.
This week the Texans made a bold move by trading a late-round provisional draft pick to the New York Jets in exchange for veteran wide
receiver Derrick Mason. Mason comes to the Texans with 14 years of experience, 66 touchdowns, and over 12,000 yards of receiving. Implementing Mason into the Texans scheme will be of utmost importance to the Texans who are struggling to establish any semblance of a passing game after last week.
Unfortunately, for WR David Anderson, the Texans had to make some room on the roster for Mason. Anderson, who was just recently signed by the Texans, was waived as they began to make roster moves. Here’s hoping that Anderson lands on his feet…again.
What all of this means for the Texans this week is somewhat fuzzy. Mason will most likely start over Jones with Jones in the number two slot followed by Kevin Walter. However, Mason is well-known to be a good slot receiver meaning that the Texans could keep Jones in the top spot and play Mason behind him. Either way, Mason will need to make an immediate impact this week if the Texans wish to survive the brutal defensive attack that the Ravens will be bringing.
Luckily, Mason used to be a Raven. In fact, he was on the Baltimore roster for almost six years. For the Texans, Mason’s acquisition could prove invaluable as he will be familiar with what the Ravens will bring to the table. But let us not count our chickens before they hatch, instead let us scramble them, mix them up, and hope we come out with something the resembles a win.
How many teams can lose their top two players (one offense, one defense) and still manage to win games? The Texans are about to find out if they are one of those teams after losing OLB Mario Williams to a torn pectoral muscle.
Williams has already undergone a successful operation which fixed the muscle. However, the recovery time needed will keep him out for the remainder of the season.
Fortunately, for the Texans, they happened to sign LB Brooks Reed in the second round of this year’s draft. Reed had shown great promise throughout the preseason and has been a solid player during the regular season as well. He will take over OLB position abandoned by Williams and will now be backed up by fourth year LB Jesse Nading.
This transition, in my opinion, will not be as painful as many people expect it to be. Sure, Mario Williams is a beast and at 6′ 6″ and 283 pounds it is hard to argue with his effectiveness this season. His five sacks, through the first five games, had him on pace to best his 2007 season record 14 sacks.
However, Brooks Reed is no small linebacker either. At 6′ 3″ and 250 pounds, Reed is built almost identically to ILB Brian Cushing. Reed’s 40-yard time at the combine was faster than that of Cushing but his overall strength appears to be ever-so-slightly less than that of Cushing. Still, Reed’s explosiveness off the edge could prove to make him an effective threat against most offensive lines.
The Texans should survive without too many gashes even without Mario Williams. Brooks Reed is a solid starter and will effectively fill in at the OLB position. The way that DC Wade Phillips will use him will play to his strengths and could, in all reality, make him more effective than Williams against the pass.
RB Arian Foster has returned to the Texans roster with a vengeance. He is looking to re-establish himself as the sole heir to the top spot at the running back position.
This week, however, Ben Tate returns to back up Foster.
Tate, who had suffered from a hamstring injury, has proven to be a solid backup to Foster. Over the first four games of this season Tate was averaging around 80 yards per game. If he can continue to play solid, smart football he will maintain his backup position for the rest of the season (assuming Foster stays healthy).
Unfortunately, last week saw the terrible performance of RB Chris Ogbonnaya when he rushed twice for two yards. Ogbonnaya has been bounced on-and-off the team more than Matt Schaub’s helmet on the ground last week. He was initially cut from the team when the Texans were attempting to reach their final roster before the season started, then he was re-signed and promoted after the Texans cut RB Steve Slaton, and now he finds himself without a team once again…such is the game of football.
The Texans are a run-heavy team who will be facing a run-stopping team this week. Due to the weakness of the receiving corps Coach Kubiak could attempt to lean too heavily on Foster and Tate to win this game for the Texans. Establishing a play-action game and mediocre pass game will be essential in moving the ball down the field against the Ravens.
As if losing your star WR and beast-mode OLB were not enough, the Texans also lost break-out sensation FB James Casey. Casey also injured his pectoral muscle, but not nearly as bad as Super Mario, and will not play this week.
Filling in for Casey is the Texans early-season acquisition Lawrence Vickers. Vickers is more than capable than filling in for Casey when it comes to blocking for Schaub. However, Vickers is nowhere nearly as athletic as Casey who has shown some amazing skills when it comes to making huge plays down field.
The loss of Casey will not be a tremendous burden on the Texans as their pass game has been very limited as of late. As long as he keeps Schaub upright and opens holes for Foster he will do fine. However, if he fails to manage himself properly then the Texans offense could be in for a very, very long day.