Zooming in from the 10,000 foot view, fans can watch certain key offensive players and position groups. Here’s what to look for against the Cardinals.
Do the Texans have a center on their roster who can hold the fort until Nick Martin returns? Update: Nick Martin has undergone surgery and is likely lost for the entire season. Greg Mancz is younger and stronger than Tony Bergstrom. Once he locks-in he holds his own against big, strong defensive linemen. However, he has allowed some free runners to the quarterback and incurred some penalties when getting beaten. He has the raw skill set to succeed but must clean-up the errors, both mental and physical.
Tony Bergstrom exhibits the same consistency problems as Mancz. In addition, he often gets blown back into the quarterback’s lap. A big, long striding quarterback like Brock Osweiler needs a clean pocket in front of him. The center is key to avoiding a collapsed pocket, so Bergstrom must lower his pad level and improve his leverage if he is to hold-up against bigger, stronger defensive linemen.
The Cardinals have a strong front seven and like to get penetration up the middle. If current Texans centers can’t control the middle, management will be shopping the waiver wire as teams make their last cuts. In fact, Rick Smith may be kicking himself right now for missing on Bryan Stork. The former Patriots starting center was just traded to the Redskins for a conditional seventh round draft choice.
Maybe the Texans like Mancz and/or Bergstrom better than Stork. Maybe they know something the Redskins don’t. Or, did the Texans just whiff?
Can the makeshift offensive line run block? Texan running backs took some heat for a lack of productivity against the Saints. However, most of the blame lies with the offensive line. They allowed too much penetration and failed to open running lanes. The line got blown off the ball.
True, only one projected regular season starter, Xavier Su’a-Filo, played against the Saints. Projected starting right guard Jeff Allen comes back against the Cardinals. Maybe Derek Newton gets back to start the regular season against the Bears. But, the fact is that at least two projected back-ups, Chris Clark and Greg Mancz, are likely to start the season opener. Therefore, what you see against the Cardinals is pretty much what you get to open the season.
Texans fans should pay particular attention to the play of Clark and Mancz. While the Texans express optimism about Duane Brown‘s “progress”, Chris Clark should be considered the starting left tackle until Brown is full-go for at least a week. He has yet to take part in a practice. Clark is a competent swing tackle, but he is not Duane Brown.
Nick Martin is likely out for an extended period. That leaves the center position in the hands of a second-year undrafted free agent Greg Mancz. The coaches like him, but is he ready to start? Fans should focus on his performance against the Cardinals.
Next: What To Look For - Receivers