Cardinals 32, Texans 0: 4 Winners, 4 Losers

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Yeah see, this was kind of my point.

In my bi-weekly piece that I wrote for the most recent edition of the Houston Press, I analyzed the Texans' near total failure in the three NFL Drafts (2011, 2012, 2013) prior to the most recent one. (I'll give the Class of 2014 more than two weeks of practice before passing judgment.)

I wrote most specifically about the unprecedented run of bad luck and poor evaluation that's beset the 2013 class, but the fact of the matter is that, outside of J.J. Watt, 2012 and 2011 have been nothing to write home about either.

And it shows. It showed big time Saturday night in the Cardinals' 32-0 slapping of the Texans in a game that looked a lot more like an early September "SEC vs FCS school" tune up than a matchup of two rosters of paid pros.

Granted, the Texans were without the services of Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, Brian Cushing, Johnathan Joseph, and Brandon Brooks (among a few others deeper down on the roster). But no NFL team should display a drop off this drastic from their ones to their twos.

The game was at its least competitive when the Texans had their starters on the field, and it was their starters who played most of the first half, at least on offense. That is, when the offense was on the field (they had only run about eight plays by halfway through the second quarter). The Texans had no third down conversions (they wound up with none all night), two horrific interceptions, and a gaggle of penalties.

And this was just the first half!

To start the second half, the Texans had a holding penalty on the opening kickoff which put them back at their own ten yard line, and then promptly picked up a delay of game penalty by not running the play in time. I half expected head coach Bill O'Brien to have the offense take a lap on the spot. (That's been part of O'Brien's gimmick the first two weeks of camp. Lots of punitive laps.)

Anyway, it went from bad to worse to Savage, and eventually, like a colonoscopy, the game ended with a lot of pain in a lot of really bad places, and we all wished we wouldn't have to re-live it.

But we do.

It feels like an overreaction, because it's the first preseason game for crying out loud, but can we really ignore that the Texans, without four of their top eight or so guys (and with the other four or so of those top eight guys essentially bowing out early), looked like an expansion team on Saturday night? In fact, calling them an expansion team is an insult to my dear friends Seth Payne and Marcus Coleman and the great men who repped the actual expansion version of your Houston Texans.

This game was horrible, and it was validation of all the things I feared would and will come back to roost on Bill O'Brien's front lawn this season. The Texans, outside of their upper crust, just don't have a lot of good NFL players right now. This is what happens when you continually whiff on second, third, fourth, and fifth round picks.

Finding winners and losers in Saturday's rubble, well, this is what I do, so here you go... WINNERS

4. Alfred Blue Blue was the Texans' Fantasy Performer of the Game with a mildly grin-induding stat line of five carries for 30 yards. Let me repeat...he was their Fantasy Performer of the game with thirty yards!! Yes, it was that kind of night. He also dropped two easy passes, including one on third down that would have kept a drive alive in the first half. So five ho hum carries and two botched plays a high schooler could have made....and Blue was easily the best part of the Texans' offense on Saturday night. That's how bad it was.

3. Jerrell Powe Louis Nix is supposed to be the starter at nose tackle for the Texans when he gets healthy. (He's been on the preseason PUP list since camp started, and it was recently revealed that he had his knee scoped shortly before training camp.) So the veteran Powe, who the team picked up as a cheap, Crennel-system free agent, is running with the ones. And dammit if he didn't look like he fit in on Saturday! Three tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, a hit on the QB. If you're getting stat lines like this from Powe, you're piling up house money. (My 610 post game show colleague Ted Johnson, who played for Crennel in three Super Bowls, made a case for having Powe and Nix on the field at the same time once Nix is healthy. Interesting thought, for sure.)

2. Randy Bullock The Texans two kickers, Bullock and Chris Boswell, are supposed to be battling each other for a job. However, it's going to be tough for them to conduct this battle if the Texans don't ever score. This felt like one of those matches that's advertised for a WWE pay per view, but gets trimmed off because they're running short on air time for the main event.

1. J.J. Watt J.J. played ten plays and had one sack. He also was in roughly, no exaggeration, one out of every three commercials that ran on Channel 13 during the breaks. If there were a fantasy league for endorsements, J.J. Watt would be like the 2013 edition of Peyton Manning.

Speaking of which...


4. The poor people responsible for the "We Are Texans" commercials I realize that the team has "x" amount of spots that they get to run on Channel 13 during their games, but the "rah rah," "we can't wait to exact our revenge on the league" nature of the spots falls flat when they run throughout a game where you don't convert one third down. Again, nobody's fault with the team, just bad happenstance. (One question -- why is a team with a wait list 20,000 people deep running ads for ticket sales?)

3. Brandon Harris If you're looking for proof that being a second round draft choice in the NFL (especially one that the GM trades up to go get) makes you a "made guy" through the duration of your rookie contract, look no further than Harris, who was given a great opportunity Saturday to establish himself in the pecking order behind starting corners Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson. Instead, he gave up a touchdown (nice cushion inside the five yard line), committed a 38 yard pass interference penalty (nice "incomplete" hand signal before spotting the flag), and generally did "Brandon Harris" type things. If you're looking for a candidate for a sacrificial early cut to make people sit up straighter this week, here's your guy.

2. Whitney Mercilus Friday on my radio show, I asked John McClain, if the Texans had to make a decision right now on Mercilus' fifth year option (which they do after this season), what would they do? Let's face it, Mercilus has not lived up to first round expectations, despite a handful of sacks on his stat sheet. On Saturday, he was playing against Arizona third teamers, getting single blocked, and the only reason I knew he was out there was because Twitter was overrun with tweets from fans aghast that Mercilus couldn't do anything against third teamers while being single blocked. (By the way, McClain contended definitively the Texans would exercise Mercilus' option if they had to on Friday. After Saturday's performance, I'll ask him again this week.)

1. Case Keenum With just five pass attempts in less than a quarter of play, this game had a definitive feel of one of those Hollywood auditions where the director cuts off the auditioned after like four lines and says "Ok, thank you, we've seen enough. We will be in touch...." It'd be one thing if Keenum had been having good practices to offset his total irrelevance on Saturday, but he's been bad in practice.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.

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