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Texans-Saints: 4 Winners, 4 Losers (The Trindon Holliday Conundrum Edition)

All eyes on Andre Johnson.
All eyes on Andre Johnson.
Photo by Marco Torres

If you are a sports couch potato (and if you are reading this, chances are that is the case), Saturday night was one of those nights that we probably take for granted all of the technological advances that allow us to consume all of the fare on the sports buffet simultaneously.

Picture, if you will, me sitting on my comfortable leather sofa with the Texans-Saints preseason game on the flat-screen wall television, Roger Clemens's start with the Sugar Land Skeeters streaming on my laptop and Season 3 of Friday Night Lights paused on Netflix on my iPad to play when both live games were in break. On top of that, I tweeted all about it on my iPhone! Seriously, it was like going to Golden Corral with four stomachs. It was awesome! (By the way, if you think my goal is to never communicate verbally with a human being outside of my radio show again, well....)

So obviously Apple was one of the big winners on Saturday night, but there were others. And losers, too! Here they are:

4 WINNERS 4. Matt Schaub Other than the one bad throw against Carolina in the opener, the Texans have to feel good about what they've seen out of their most important player. Last night, Schaub showed good poise in the pocket, good rhythm and pinpoint accuracy. (All I need is a mention of footwork and tempo in that last sentence, and it would almost make me sound like I know what the fuck I'm talking about! Almost.) Schaub's numbers -- he completed 15 of 18 for 194 yards and a touchdown -- were stellar, and most important, he stayed healthy.

Quarterback sidebar -- if the Texans' second unit on the offensive line is going to be such a massive sieve, I would request Gary Kubiak kindly place John Beck in there to take the hits. Poor T.J. Yates looked like a carcass getting mauled by jackals by the end of the night. We need Yates healthy, and we like Case Keenum. The irrelevant fourth-string quarterback is supposed to be the one to get the shit kicked out of him, not the second-stringer.

3. Gravity Five fumbles in the first half between the two teams, here's what I liked and disliked about those plays:

LIKED: Glover Quin tattooing Chris Ivory and recovering the ball on the same play. Other than the one botched interception last week versus San Francisco, Quin has been playing at a high level for the whole month of August.

DISLIKED: Trindon Holliday's fumble would obviously be a near hanging oftense if it happened in the regular season and as it is, it refunds a lot of the goodwill he'd accumulated over the first two games (LOTS more on this in a minute). One of the problems with the other two fumbles is they were committed by the guy (Keshawn Martin) who would likely take Holliday's spot returning punts if Hoilliday does get cut.

2. Dudes with the last name Graham While this was a terrible week to have the last name "Armstrong" (R.I.P. Neil, by the way. I think his dying and Snooki's reproducing on the same day is as good a metaphor for the direction our country is going as anything), last night was a good night to have the last name "Graham."

First, Garrett Graham was once again the Texans' leading receiver, showing that what he lacks in Joel Dreessen's underrated blocking skills, he might make up for with some explosive plays in the passing game. Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham in a poor man's version of the Gronk/Hernandez deal the Pats have might be one way to make up for the uncertainty at wide receiver opposite Andre Johnson.

As for the other Graham, Shayne, he hit a 53-yard field goal (firm and down the middle) and continues to show better overall consistency than fifth-round draft choice Randy Bullock, so much so that the Texans concocted some bogus groin injury so they could save face on wasting a fifth round pick on Bullock and that's a good thing, too, because as of yesterday, Bullock is done for the season with a groin injury. The job is officially Graham's.

 

1. The "one person" Roger Clemens made "smiling and happy" On my radio show a couple years ago, my co-host John Harris and I used to play this game called the "T-Mac's Blog Game." At one time on his Web site, Tracy McGrady had a blog (He might still, I just don't give a shit) and at the height of his brittleness, he would spew forth myopia on this blog that was downright special (and not the good kind of special). We would read the blog on the air (with Dionne Warwick's "That's What Friends Are For" playing underneath us. Don't ask, long story.) and our producer Kyle Manthey would play a DING or a BUZZ after each sentence, signifying whether or not the sentence we had just read was truthful (DING!) or bullshit (BUZZZZZ!).

Fans who didn't get out to New Orleans headed for Sugar Land.
Fans who didn't get out to New Orleans headed for Sugar Land.
Photo by Marco Torres

So let's play the T-Mac's Blog Game with some of Roger Clemens's quotes after his stellar work (3 1/3 shutout innings, 1 hit, 2 strikeouts) for the Sugar Land Skeeters on Saturday night:

(on whether or not his start has him thinking about a return to MLB)

"No, it doesn't." BUZZ!

"I've had success before at that level and other things." DING!

"Again, it's a great deal of work, and I'm not thinking that at this point." BUZZ!

(on the stir his return has created)

"I knew it might make a little noise, but I never expected this." BUZZ!

"I was able to go out and make a good showing." DING!

"If one person was smiling and happy, we got out of it what we wanted to get out of it. I'm happy for them." BUZZ!

Unless Clemens was referring to Astros owner Jim Crane being the one person smiling, then that last one is a DING! Circle the weekend of September 21 through 23 for Roger's return to Major League Baseball. The Astros are welcoming back all of their legends, the equivalent of a struggling wrestling organization trying to pop a crowd by booking Ricky Steamboat and Jake Roberts to sign autographs in the concourse.

4 LOSERS 4. That somewhat comfortable leather sofa I mentioned in the open Okay, several hundred words into this post now, I feel like if I'm going to bang on Roger Clemens for being untruthful, then I should come clean about something I typed earlier.

"My comfortable leather sofa" that I mentioned in the open? Well, I need to clarify something. The sofa technically belongs to my girlfriend, Amy. She brought the sofa into our relationship. It replaced a sofa that I now have in storage, one of those La-Z-Boy jobbies where the legs kick out like a recliner. Goddamn, I miss that sofa. This is a huge point of contention in our relationship, and the more I type about it the more I don't want to talk about it. Pray for me.

3. My stomach every time Andre Johnson hits the turf This is how it's gonna be, I guess. When Andre Johnson went down last season for the first time with a hamstring injury in the Pittsburgh game, I'll be honest -- I hated it like everyone else, but I didn't immediately start thinking this would be the beginning of some age-fueled injury obstacle course for the rest of his career. Now, when he got the second hammie pull in the Atlanta game, THAT was a red flag.

And then when he was held out of practice a few weeks ago with a groin strain, that was like a huge red banner draped down from the Reliant Stadium ceiling. And now, every time he goes to the ground, all I see is red! I'm afraid Andre Johnson isn't going to get up! Last night, he went up for a catchable ball (which he dropped) and was slow getting up. According to Kubiak, Dre "fell on the ball" (replays showed, if anything, he fell next to the ball), but really he just landed hard on his shoulder and rib cage.

And that was enough to shut him down, send him to the back for MRI's and call it a night. I'm telling you, I think I hate Andre Johnson getting old more than I hate myself getting old.

2. The "Trindon Holliday is a lock" crowd Sometime during the past week on my radio show on the (newly rebranded) 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio, I got into an argument with my co-host John Granato (Chapter 917 in our ongoing book Frivolous Sports Talk Radio Arguments That Only True Nutjobs Care About) over Trindon Holliday's spot on the Texans roster. Granato's contention was that Holliday had returned a kick for a touchdown in each of the first two preseason games so the Texans "couldn't" cut him, he was a lock to make the 53-man roster. My contention was that two games is a minuscule sample space, especially for a guy who is only going to get on the field for seven to ten plays, at most, who can be game-planned around with directional punts and touchback kickoffs, and who (most importantly) has shown just as many glimpses of potentially cataclysmic play as he has the spectacular.

In short, yeah, he's returned two kicks (actually a kick and a punt, to be literally correct) for touchdowns in two games, but my point to Granato was what if he has two terrible fumbles in the next two? If we learned anything from Jacoby Jones (aside from creative ways to spell the simplest monosyllabic words), it was that one colossal error in the kicking game cancels out a TON of goodwill, because for virtually all of last season, Jacoby was very good in the return game. But the muff in the Baltimore game -- the timing, the place on the field, the lack of thought -- gave it all back and essentially punched his ticket out of town.

Trindon Holliday's fumble that the Saints took back for an easy touchdown which piled more momentum on top of the momentum the Saints had already seized had to give Gary Kubiak (and special teams coach Joe Marciano, for whom Holliday has been a pet project for over two years now) cold sweats. KUBES. CAN. NOT. HAVE. THAT. And honestly, the scarier play in terms of forecasting whether or not Holliday can fill this specialty role was the fumble of the punt that rolled out of bounds. The fumble of the kickoff was a hit on a guy trying to make a play, which happens. The muffed punt shows that he fundamentally still has trouble CATCHING THE BALL, and if that had happened in the middle of the field, it would have been another turnover.

Trindon Holliday's spot on the roster is one of the things I think is at stake in the final week of the preseason. His margin for error has to be razor thin, one would think. Unless "one" is John Granato.

1. The Texans AAA affiliate relationship with Dallas Bradie James. Alan Ball. I liked it a lot better when we were using the Denver Broncos as our AAA affiliate. Yikes.

Be sure to check out the five things we learned in the Texans-Saints game.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.


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