Houston Texans Report Card – Preseason Game 3

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Aug 23, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos center Manny Ramirez (66) prepares to hike the football across from the Houston Texans in the first quarter of a preseason game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Line:  C-

The defensive line, playing without Jadeveon Clowney and with only a few snaps from J.J. Watt in the early going of this game, was a bit underwhelming for where we expect them to be when the season starts. The only player that really distinguished himself and made a case for a roster spot, that is not a given, was Ricardo Mathews. Mathews got a sack and 2 tackles for loss and did so from the defensive end position showing some positional versatility that very well may get him a spot on this roster.

The other defensive lineman Jared Crick, Tim Jamison, Jerrell Powe and Louis Nix, who saw his first action, contributed very little in terms of pressure on Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler. Understandably these guys will depend on Watt and Clowney in order to get one-on-one matchups and apply pressure, but they need a better showing game in and game out than they had against the Broncos. The defense allowed the Broncos 127 yards on the ground and 272 yards in the air.

Linebackers:  C-

Aug 23, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman (23) is tackled by Houston Texans inside linebacker Brian Cushing (56) in the first quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Texans defeated the Broncos 18-17. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Texans welcomed back Brian Cushing as he tried to knock off some game play rust, but the bright spots in this group tonight were Whitney Mercilus and Jeff Tarpinian. It was a very needed step up from Mercilus who has yet to find his role and comfort level in the Romeo Crennell defense. Mercilus came up with a sack and a tackle for loss to go along with 7 tackles. It’s the kind of play that should get Mercilus some rotational play with Brooks Reed instead of just backing up Clowney in the regular season.

Jeff Tarpinian chipped in 4 tackles from his inside linebacker spot. No other linebackers stood out and as a group gave up too much yardage on the ground to the Broncos who are not a running team. Beyond Cushing, it’s still very tough to see who else is going to play at inside linebacker this year for the Texans. Mike Mohamed has been starting but has shown very little. Justin Tuggle has flashed a bit as has Max Bullough but there is still a need here. With the play of Jason Ankrah and Quinton Groves along with Mercilus on the outside, you have to wonder if the Texans will once again consider moving Reed to inside linebacker.

Secondary:  C+

The secondary, given that there was very little pass rush played fairly well against Peyton Manning, until the final 2 drives of the 1st half. When twice Emanuel Sanders beat corner A.J. Bouye deep for touchdowns and there was no safety help over the top. Although Bouye was beaten badly a couple times he did come up with an interception on Manning to stop one drive.

Same song, different verse, the Texans have 2 starters Johnathan Joseph (assuming he will be healthy) and Kareem Jasckson at the corners. They also have some promising young corners in Andre Hal & Marcus Williams who should be 5th and 6th corners and special teamers or practice squad. And they have a journeyman like Elbert Mack who is a solid special teams player. What they do not have at the moment is a #3 cornerback. They are forced to go with A.J.Bouye because he has, well… a better shot than the rest at covering starting caliber receivers, but in truth he’s not ready for that role yet. And Brandon Harris doesn’t appear ready for any role. They simply must find a 3rd corner if Bouye doesn’t learn to swim, and soon!

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The safeties again played well in run support with D.J. Swearinger, Chris Clemons and Kendrick Lewis all showing that they are willing to come up and lay the wood to someone. Swearinger still struggled in coverage and once again was flagged with a significant penalty. Although it’s not clear why Wes Welker continues to lower his head, making it difficult to avoid his head on the hit and still draws a flag. Eddie Pleasant took another leg up on Shiloh Keo for the 4th safeties job with some solid special teams play and an interception. And Pleasant is the better special teams player which is clearly more of an emphasis with the Bill O’Brien led team.

Special Teams:  B

Special teams was once again solid. We’re seeing much better coverage on punt and kick-off returns this preseason and the Broncos game continued that trend. Josh Victorian, Pleasant and Swearinger all continue to shine with solid tackles and hard hits.

In the kicking game Randy Bullock was solid on kickoffs with a couple touchbacks and converted his only field goal attempt.

Martin had the only kick return for 21 yards, but amazingly Denver never did punt because the only times when the defense truly stopped them was on the interceptions.

Click here to see preseason week 1 report card

Click here to see preseason week 2 report card