The Houston Texans switched quarterbacks just 54 minutes into the regular season and some called this a panic move by head coach Bill O’Brien. By giving up on Brian Hoyer so quick after saying he was not on a short leash, it signaled the team was making random moves on the fly.
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Instead, I believe O’Brien is doing what he has always done since coming to Houston, admitting a mistake and moving on quickly.
While O’Brien didn’t draft safety D.J. Swearinger, he did inherit a player that was selected very early. The 2013 second round pick from South Carolina lasted only one season with O’Brien as he was released this offseason after only two years in the NFL.
Again this season O’Brien showed that previous status means nothing when considering who will be on the field for game day. After only one season, and zero games played, the Texans cut third round pick Louis Nix III before the start of the season.
Cutting a third rounder only one year into his career is nearly unheard of. Cutting a second round pick in his third season is equally unusual. O’Brien did both in the same offseason.
The fact is, O’Brien saw enough of Hoyer to realize his practice habits and knowledge of the system meant nothing when the game got real. He saw that Hoyer was still indecisive and mistake prone and knew it was best to see what backup Ryan Mallett could do.
As the head coach himself said, there was a spark in the team when Mallett stepped in and he waisted no time deciding that was enough to make the change.
Now some may be wondering if Mallett was in trouble following the 24-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers, but that is simply not the case. Mallett performed better than his stats indicated as he just missed a couple of big plays to receiver Nate Washington (one he completed the pass but Nate stumbled as he was running free).
There were also an insane number of dropped passes by the team. When Mallett was on target it seemed iffy whether or not the receivers could bring it in. There were four or five drops in the first half alone. If those passes were hauled in, the first half looks much different and who knows what happens if the pressure was put on Carolina.
With Mallett at the helm, they have the potential to be a quick strike offense and according to the coach, there are only subtle areas of improvement needed for the young signal caller.
"“Part of what we have to work on this week, some of the checkdowns and the shorter throws,” O’Brien said. “He does throw very hard. We’ve gotta work on his footwork. Some of those things he can clean up. When he’s on the money with his footwork, and his throwing motion and things like that, he’s really very, very good.”"
As far as the check downs go, I have to disagree with BOB here. Mallett was a check down king in the preseason and it cost him his job. What makes him strong is his ability to push the ball down the field.
There were times during the Carolina game where he went to running back Jonathan Grimes almost instantly, rather than look past the first down marker. The check downs are not friendly to Mallett, but rather counter productive at times.
If these were used as an absolute last resort, I could understand. But far too often in the preseason and in the Carolina game, Mallett was looking to his backfield counterpart. What made him look good enough to win the job against Kansas City was his ability to hit receiver DeAndre Hopkins for big gains. Not finding Grimes for five yards.
The best news overall for Houston is that after a rough start and being 0-2, they are still right there in the mix for the AFC South title. Indianapolis is also 0-2 and getting a lesson in why 32-year old running backs and 34-year old receivers are not an offseason haul, especially when your defense is a joke. Their season had disaster written all over it the minute the headlines read “Colts sign running back Frank Gore.”
Tennessee and Jacksonville are both 1-1 and while they have looked good at times, they are very young. If Indy continues their free fall, I like Houston’s chances against either of those teams, especially knowing running back Arian Foster is close to returning.
As long as the defense holds up and keeps the games close, the Texans will have a shot every single week. Also, as long as Mallett stays the starter, he will surely find a rhythm and start to connect with his receivers.
The fact is the offensive line has been banged up and their best player has yet to play. Once the o-line is fully healthy and Foster is pounding the rock, this team will look way different. And just imagine the room some of these receivers will find once safeties are biting on the play fake with Foster behind the quarterback.
The AFC South is still very winnable. And believe it or not, the Texans are in a great spot to come away with the title, all they need is to get healthy and stick with the better quarterback, Ryan Mallett.