Two in a row! Yes, it’s only preseason but any instance when the Houston Texans don’t look inept at this point is still an accomplishment until they show us that they can put it all together in a regular season game. The 18-17 victory over the Denver Broncos last night was not quite the dominance that the Texans showed against the Falcons but there were some encouraging signs as well as some areas that they clearly need to shore up.
It may not seem like it, but for a quarterback group where nobody thinks the starter is a franchise quarterback and likely the only one of the bunch would could be is a 4th round rookie, a B is a solid grade. Fitzpatrick once again was relatively efficient 10-for-17 for 80 yards. He moved the chains at times, got the ball to Andre Johnson and allowed him to shake off some rust and most importantly did not turn the ball over.
Case Keenum once again showed that he’s at his best in shotgun, spread formation and was 11-for-18 with 2 solid drives where he moved the chains and picked up a couple key 3rd down conversions. Case definitely had some off target throws and was lucky to not get intercepted on a couple of those, but you could see a conscience effort to get the ball out more quickly.
Tom Savage had his best showing of the preseason by far, going 5-for-6 for 68 yards and although it was against the Broncos 3rd team defense he very quickly marched the Texans down the field for the go ahead touchdown with a beautiful strike to Ryan Griffin. Then he came back and converted the 2 point conversion for the win. But we at least got a glimpse of what Savage could be in this offense.
Running Backs: B+
The running backs only totaled 74 yards on 21 carries but there were enough key runs to be very encouraged by the group behind Arian Foster, who keeping with tradition was held out once again. Alfred Blue continues to show why the Texans took him ahead of other backs that media types liked better in the 5th round this year. Blue is big athletic back that can get tough yards and is more than capable of ripping off long gains as well. Blue had a couple tough runs for key first downs in this game and is absolutely looking the part of a legit NFL running back.
Jonathan Grimes, who started and has led the team in rushing in the preseason, had 22 yards on 5 carries as well as a long 24-yard gain on a pass reception. Grimes shows quickness and versatility in the backfield and seems to have solidified his place on the opening day roster.
Veteran running back Ronnie Brown also had a solid showing with 19 yards on 4 carries, continues to show value in pass protection as well as the ability to catch. It will be interesting given that Blue, Grimes and Brown can all play special teams if the Texans keep three or four backs along with FB Jay Prosch who has shown his value in run blocking.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B+
It was a good game by the wide receivers. Andre Johnson was able to get some game action and caught 3 Fitzpatrick passes for 18 yards. The rest of the completions were spread throughout the group with DeAndre Hopkins catching a couple and DeVier Posey leading the receivers with 4 catches and 21 yards. The receivers didn’t stretch the field much but were efficient and successful for the most part in the short passing game.
What bumped this grade to a B+ however was the tight end play. Welcome back Ryan Griffin! Griffin, who has had a very quiet camp so far this season after being last year’s best rookie surprise, woke up in a big way against the Broncos, catching 5 passes for 71 yards from Keenum and Savage. Griffin scored the late touchdown from Savage as well as reeling in a big 3rd down conversion from Keenum in the 3rd quarter. Rookie C.J. Fiedorowicz again played well. Starter Garrett Graham did not have a catch and will have to pick it up maintain his starting position at this rate.
Offensive Line: B
The offensive line was solid. It was nice to see Brandon Brooks back starting at right guard giving the Texans some much needed depth. This should allow rookie Xavier Su’a Filo to complete for what is most likely his normal spot at left guard, making Ben Jones the interior lineman who can move around and backup both guard spots as well as center. At tackle we saw more of Derek Newton at left tackle with Tyson Clabo at right tackle. It seems clear at this point that Duane Brown, Newton and Clabo are the top 3 tackles, although Clabo did get beat a couple times with speed off the edge. Newton has shown improved play from last season to this point.
The 2nd and 3rd team groups played well and only gave up 1 sack in the game. But unless someone has truly impressed the coaches in practice beyond what we’ve seen in the games it’s very feasible that the Texans will be scouring the waiver wire as cuts are made in the next week-to-10 days for their 8th or 9th offensive lineman, a job that likely would have belonged to Cody White had he not suffered a season ending injury in camp.
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