Defensive Line: B
This was easily the strongest area of the team. J.J. Watt continued his strong play and registered a sack in his only series of the night. Jadeveon Clowney also flashed with an impressive tackle for loss. While listed as an outside linebacker, let’s face it he is a rush player and it should be a very rare occasion when he doesn’t. Between the two of them, it easy to see that offensive lines will have their hands full trying to account for both of them. Jerrell Powe registered a sack as well and Tim Jamison showed some pressure.
This group wasn’t destroyed but did very little to make an impact, a big play or stop of any significance. Playing without Brian Cushing, Mike Mohamed started but looked like he was over his head. Justin Tuggle and Jeff Tarpinian played a little better but are not starters. Max Bullough was the best of the group with 6 tackles and looks the part of a solid inside linebacker. I would not be surprised if it’s between Bullough and Akeem Dent who ultimately ends up starting next to Cushing. Brooks Reed and Whitney Mecilus failed to show anything on the outside nor did the reserves. And although I feel Clowney could be OK in short zone coverage…why would you ask him to do that and take him away from what he does best???
The Cardinals seemingly threw at will against the first group. Brandon Harris was beaten regularly and has yet to show that he belongs on an NFL Roster. D.J. Swearinger had some big hits and some stops in the run game but has no business being asked to cover a slot receiver as he was on a couple of plays. Besides Eddie Pleasant who got a sack on a safety blitz, the only players to distinguish themselves were 2nd and 3rd teamers Josh Victorian and undrafted free agent Marcus Williams who both made some plays in the 2nd half and should see more opportunities.
Special Teams: C-
A mixed bag here as we really only saw the punt coverage team and kickoff return teams all night. Yeah, it’s never good when that’s the case. The punt coverage team performed well and much better than last season. D.J. Swearinger, Eddie Pleasant and Andre Hal all made some nice open field tackles and had a couple of hard hits. The kick return team was terrible. Obviously the kick returners were told to bring it out no matter what as they continued to attempt returns from 8 yards deep in their own end zone. The problem is none of them are exceptional enough to do that and it constantly pinned the Texans offense deep in their own territory as the blocking was not there either.
Coaching Staff: F
Again no way to sugar coat this either, the team did not look prepared. Granted they were without some key players and nobody cares about a pre-season win or loss, but the Texans did not look ready to play, and some of the decisions were questionable. Asking Swearinger to cover a slot receiver, asking Clowney to cover a tight end and allowing the kick return team to constantly put the offense in a difficult position to have any success was less than you would hope for.
The offensive play calling was also uninspired and more closely resembled a Gary Kubiak offense than a New England Patriots offense, with dump off passes and nothing to stretch the field vertically at all, which the Cardinals did regularly and successfully most of the game. Hopefully there were some learnings and they will adjust.
Guess what Texans fans…it can only go up from here.