What a difference a week makes! The Houston Texans who looked so inept last week against the Cardinals, dominated the Falcons on Saturday night in all phases of the game. It’s hard to get too excited about any preseason game but the Texans needed this more than any preseason game in memory coming off a 14-game regular season losing streak and the debacle last week.
Texans special teams looked better than they have, well… almost ever did under Joe Marciano. It took a 2-14 season for the Texans to pull the plug on Joe Marciano after fans had clamored for years about the lack of PLAYS made by the special teams units.
But let’s get to the offense first! Here it is, our Houston Texans report card!
Quarterback play was much improved from last week. Ryan Fitzpatrick played as I imagine Bill O’Brien expected when the decision was made to bring him in as the stop-gap quarterback until they find or develop their franchise starter in the future. He was efficient and didn’t turn the ball over. Fitzpatrick went 9 of 12 for 97 yards and a touchdown. He ran well when necessary (2 scrambles for 25 yards) and moved the Texans down the field in the 2-minute drill at the end of the first half.
Rookie Tom Savage got 1 series with the 2nd team group in the 2nd quarter and was 4 of 5 but for only 8 yards. He also saw some “run out the clock” duty late in the 4th.
Case Keenum played all of the 3rd and most of the 4th quarter. It was refreshing to see O’Brien and his coaching staff being much more flexible and put Case in a mode that he is used to and has had success. Running mostly from a spread offense in shotgun with 3 or 4 wideouts, twice Keenum moved the team down the field once for a field goal and the 2nd of which was intercepted at the goal line on a nice play by the Falcons DB. But unlike the Gary Kubiak administration, O’Brien is showing flexibility to play to his players strengths rather than make everyone fit a style of play.
Running Backs: B
Jonathan Grimes and Alfred Blue again got the bulk of the carries in Arian Foster’s absence and appear to have the backup running back slots locked down. Both had some very nice runs and are also playing well in special teams, which is an added bonus. Grimes led the way with 42 yards on 9 carries. Blue showed some strong power running as well as a touchdown. Grimes also caught 3 passes for 25 yards.
FB Jay Prosch had an excellent game helping find holes for the running backs. Newly signed Ronnie Brown did play well in pass protection which was lacking last week although he and also newly signed William Powell didn’t show a whole lot running the ball. However, it was mostly with the 3rd string offensive line.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B
Nice turn around also from this group, from the previous week. Fitzpatrick did manage to find DeAndre Hopkins twice, with Andre Johnson sitting once again. Rookie Travis Labhart and Alec Lemon also had some nice gains on receptions and are making a case to make the roster or at the very least practice squad.
Keshawn Martin led all receivers with 3 catches for 39 yards mostly on wide receiver screens and bubble screens where O’Brien seemed to be saying to the Falcons, “we’re going to run this play until you stop it”.
C.J. Fiedorowicz was the only tight end that had receptions, with 2 catches for 14 yards. Again he showed strong blocking in the run game and that he has better hands than a lot of inline tight ends in the league.
Offensive Line: B+
The 1st group played well, opening some good holes for Grimes and Blue to run through and kept Fitzpatrick clean. Xavier Su’a Filo started at right guard as Brandon Brooks is still out with injury and last week’s starter Alex Kupper was bumped down the depth chart after struggling badly. Tyson Clabo saw some snaps at right tackle in place of Derek Newton with the 1st group and played well.
The 2nd and 3rd groups also played much better than last week and only allowed 1 sack. The Texans, I believe however, are struggling to find depth that they can count on. At this point only Duane Brown, Chris Myers, Brandon Brooks, Derek Newton, Ben Jones, Su’a Filo and Clabo appear to be locks to make the team, barring injury. And there is still no time table on Brooks’ return putting added pressure on them.
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