After a heated quarterback battle all throughout the offseason, Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien finally named Brian Hoyer his team’s starting quarterback before the start of season. So naturally, heading into Week 2, Ryan Mallett is expected to be the starter.
Hoyer was benched in the fourth quarter of Houston’s 27-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the team’s season opener. It only took Bill O’Brien a little over three quarters of regular season play to rethink his initial decision and look to Mallett. After entering the game down 27-9, Mallett tried to mount a comeback, leading two scoring drives including tossing a touchdown and 2-point conversion to DeAndre Hopkins with 4 minutes left in the game.
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Now it seems as though Mallett won’t have to come in and start the game from behind, but will instead be given a chance to give his team a boost starting at the kickoff:
"“Ryan Mallett has been informed that he will be the Houston Texans’ starting quarterback in Week 2 against the Carolina Panthers, multiple sources confirmed to ESPN’s Tania Ganguli.“"
Mallett wasn’t able to bring his team back for the win in Week 1, but he did close a large gap after Hoyer struggled most of the game. One of the keys to Mallett’s performance was his ability to take care of the football. Brian Hoyer turned the football over twice, both leading to Kansas City turnovers. Mallett on the other hand completed over 60% of his passes, and finished with a QBR of 85.9, as opposed to Hoyer’s QBR of 12.3.
Mallett also found a way to get the ball into the hands of his top playmaker, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Mallett was 5 of 5 for 59 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, and also added a 2-point conversion completion after the touchdown.
Of all of the statistics Mallett accumulated in the season opener, his efficiency when targeting Hopkins may be the most important. With Arian Foster not expected to play for at least another week, Hopkins is undoubtedly the team’s most valuable offensive weapon in Week 2 against the Panthers. Being able to get the ball to Hopkins may be the best quality in a starting quarterback at this point.
In Week 2, the Texans face off against the Carolina Panthers, who have made their name with their stout defense in recent years. However, after the Panthers offense struggled mightily in Week 1 against the Jaguars, we have to wonder if they won’t be similarly shut down by an elite Texans defense. The game may come down to which team’s offense can make a big play to take the advantage. That’s where Ryan Mallett comes in.
With Arian Foster sidelined, its unlikely that any of Houston’s running backs will have huge games on the ground. The Mallett-Hopkins connection is the team’s best chance of having some big momentum-building plays. One of the things the former Arkansas quarterback is best known for is his huge arm, which can come in handy when trying to go deep to Hopkins.
In the short amount of time he was able to play, Mallett showed that he was not afraid to test the defense through the air, trust his arm, and push the ball downfield. That may be just what his team needs against a Panthers defense that may be without star linebacker Luke Kuechly after he suffered a concussion last week.
This will be only the second start for Mallett while fully healthy, and the first one was a 200-yard, 2-touchdown performance in a big win against Clevland in 2014. I expect similar results from him in Week 2 this year.
Houston’s defense will be enough to keep the team in the game, and Mallett’s biggest goal will be to ensure his team holds on to the football. If he can limit turnovers, his arm talent should be enough to create enough big plays to win the game for his team. Mallett should have an excellent first start of 2015 in a crucial win for the Texans.