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Consistenty Will Define Texans in 2012

Should easily cage Jaguars

By Barrett Walton, 9:58AM, Sat. Sep. 15, 2012

Andre Johnson is still in the prime of his career
Andre Johnson is still in the prime of his career
by Bill Baptist courtesy of the Houston Texans

It is often said that good teams will beat the teams they are supposed to beat. One of the tell-tale signs that a team has not quite arrived is when they struggle with consistency. 8-8 teams are the kind that can flash one year and fall to pieces the next.

They can be dominant one week and look like a terrible team the following Sunday. Good teams can still lose games, obviously, but they will consistently beat the teams they are supposed to beat. Consistency comes when a team has a solid foundation in the front office, on the sidelines, and in the huddle.

After a decade of struggling, the Houston Texans have climbed out of the midlevel group of teams and are now positioned among the elite in the NFL today. Consistency should define this Texans franchise in 2012.

So what was that sloppy mess we saw on opening day against the reality star Miami Dolphins?

It was just that, opening day. Opening day is different than every other game of the year because itʼs the first time any team shows its cards. It has been well documented, for example, that Wade Phillips runs a base scheme throughout the preseason and rarely even blitzes.

Houston was facing a team with a new coaching staff and they simply had little to go on from a scheme standpoint. Miami did an excellent job offensively of keeping the Bulls on Parade on their heels. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill looked like he will develop into a very good NFL QB. The NFL wasnʼt too big for him on Sunday. Unfortunately for him, J.J. Watt was.

It wasnʼt until turnovers from Wattʼs batted balls and a solid hit from Glover Quin led to three consecutive turnovers that Miami was forced to play catchup. Once they fell behind by three scores, their goose was cooked.

Offense
Matt Schaub, who signed a four-year extension over the weekend, looked as good as Iʼve ever seen. The most impressive thing about Schaub is how consistent his decision making is. He regularly finds the mismatches on any given play. Andre Johnson and Schaub both have something to prove this year and itʼs exciting to think about what that means for the rest of this team. Schaub was deadly accurate throughout the entire game and Johnson was making impressive catches all over the field.

The run game was putrid by Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennisonʼs standards. “I think everybody in the building needs to do a better job in the run game” Dennison said, “me included.”

While I donʼt see any reason to panic with the run game as a whole, it is apparent that Houston is not firing on all cylinders just yet. The issue is not just because of two new starters on the right side of the offensive line. Houston runs the zone scheme better than anyone in the NFL and when at its best, it can truly be a thing of beauty. It will take time to gel with new starters but the other eight players involved in the run game have to do a better job as well. I expect they will and you should be able to see improvement from week to week as the season progresses.

Defense

The Bulls on Parade were getting run on early but several key plays by defensive superstar J.J. Watt turned the tide. Watt batted three balls and had 1.5 sacks on Sunday. The sheer number of playmakers on this defense is frightening. Watt, Jonathan Joseph, and Glover Quin all forced turnovers that led to scores and by halftime the game was out of reach.

Inside linebacker Brian Cushing was a shell of himself because of a rib injury that will probably linger. Cushing is the kind of player who will play through the pain but it was evident that it effected his aggressiveness. I would love to see his reps limited next week but the Texans are very thin at inside linebacker due to injury, so Iʼm sure weʼll see No. 56 take the full load on Sunday versus the Jacksonville Jaguars.

As I predicted early in the preseason at Texans Bull Blog, Bradie James looks terrible. Heʼs not aggressive enough and he can't shed blocks. With Cushing hurting and backup Tim Dobbins injured during the game, the Texans inside is suspect against the run. Getting Dobbins, who is a banger, healthy and Darryl Sharpton back from the PUP will make me feel much better about this group going forward.

Special Teams
Overall, special teams was a total bust. Houston had terrible starting field position all game unless J.J. Watt was setting them up inside enemy territory. Houston started multiple drives from inside their own 20. On top of that, Shane Graham, who won the starting job due to injury to Texas A&M standout “Fat” Randy Bullock, missed a 52-yard field goal early. Punter Donnie Jones had a shank as well.

I am not a Trindon Holliday fan. I think he can be special but heʼs too inconsistent. I think that the Texans believe they are good enough to overcome his gaffes while they wait for a few special plays. Will he get it together? I donʼt think so.

Week 2 Preview
Houston will travel to Jacksonville to face the improved Blaine Gabbert and holdout Maurice Jones-Drew. Jacksonville is a physical team and I would expect them to be able to run on Houston early but the storyline should play out very much the same as last week. If the Texans get ahead early and Gabbert is forced to drop back regularly, itʼs all over for him.

While I do think he is much improved, fear is a very real issue for him and Houston rocked him last year. He wonʼt forget that and you can bet heʼll be bailing out of throws, which means errant passes and interceptions.

On offense, Houston will want to prove to themselves that they can run the ball. Just like last week, I expect they will run early and pass heavily to get ahead and try to close it out on the ground.

Prediction
Texans 30 - Jags 13

[Barrett Walton is the managing editor for Texans Bull Blog. Click here for news, analysis, and commentary on the Texans.]

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