At this point in the season, it's more about effort than execution. We're all rusty, even the media.
Hell, Saturday night alone one local sports anchor mistook Keshawn Martin being the rookie wide receiver who was suspended last year instead of DeVier Posey (tweets deleted), the Houston Chronicle
trolled for hits lamented that the Texans had "SERIOUS problems" after one preseason game (which they won 26-13), and I inexplicably butchered the Twitter name for the uber-glorious Fake Jon Weeks (he's @46longsnap, not @longsnap46, fail by me).
Point being, nobody is immune to the rust of the offseason, not me, and certainly not the Texans players. On the scoreboard, the Texans won their first preseason game of 2012 by a score of 26-13 over Carolina, but in the preseason winning on the scoreboard is not the main issue. Roster spots, impressions on the coaching staff, that's what it's about.
To that end, there were winners and losers Saturday night. Let's take a look:
4 WINNERS 4. T.J. Yates This time last year, Yates was a fifth-round rookie with a satchel full of hopes and dreams like all of us. When the season kicked off, Yates was the third-stringer and was more focused on running the opposition's offense than running the Texans' offense.
T.J.'s short run of warm, fuzzy, decidedly adequate play in December and January was a mere gleam in Gary Kubiak's eye at that time. But, my oh my, our little fifth-rounder is all growns up! Now, Yates is the uncontested backup and one hit away (or depending on how you feel about Matt Schaub's durability, one stiff breeze away, one slight tap away, whatever) from becoming the team's starter again. Fortunately, Saturday night, Yates looked ready to go (8/12, 89 yards). Like Schaub, T.J. moved the team pretty well between the 20's, but bogged down in the red zone. In fact, the only touchdown the Texans scored on offense came from....
3. Jonathan Grimes Earlier this summer in training camp, Gary Kubiak called this set of running backs the best group that he has had since he arrived in Houston in 2006. Now, other than last season, when he had Arian Foster and Ben Tate both go for over 900 yards, it's not as though recent Texans' history has featured a stable of yardage-chewing beasts. (Ron Dayne? Chris Brown? Anyone know what Darius Walker is up to these days?)
But the point is with Foster, Tate, and now Justin Forsett strengthening the third-down back role, making the team as a running back might be tough. But you can tell Kubiak likes Grimes. When asked about him at Sunday's press conference, Kubiak's voice actually elevated a tenth of an octave, which is the Kubiak equivalent of three cartwheels and five screaming fist pumps. Kubiak likes him some Grimes. Hell, I like me some Grimes! We all like us some Grimes! At the very least, Grimes (9 carries, 37 yards, 18 yards receiving on a nice screen pass, one rushing touchdown) set himself up for the "Arian Foster Memorial Sneaky Practice Squad Tailback" spot. 2. Trindon Holliday This is going to sound weird, but of all the things Trindon Holliday did on Saturday, his 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown late in the first quarter was probably fairly far down the list of things the coaches would point to as "things [we] were looking for." The coaches already know that Trindon Holliday has breakaway speed and when there's a crease he can go the distance.
But if Holliday is going to make the team as "all-time returner" (Kubiak's own term for the spot Holliday is vying for, which I love because it sounds like something a nine-year-old would declare in a sandlot game -- "I get to be ALL-TIME RETURNER!!"), it's as much from his other two kickoff returns (combined for 69 yards) in which he showed good toughness (I'm assuming in the regular season that Trindy might kneel on the kicks that go nine yards deep into the end zone, but maybe not.) and the fact that he actually caught all of the punts that came his way.
I don't know what Kubiak's criteria will be for Holliday to take a roster spot come September 1, but I have to imagine that whatever it is, he exceeded it by a mile on Saturday.
1. Hard Knocks for one week I realize I'm an outlier among football fans, but I've never been someone who has had to watch Hard Knocks every week, and with the Dolphins as the subject team of this year's series, I really don't have to watch Hard Knocks every week. From what I had heard, Chad
Ochocinco Johnson had, not surprisingly, been the star of the first week's episode. Sure, he can't catch passes anymore (In the Dolphins first preseason game, he was targeted once and dropped the ball.) but man alive, can he act like a dipshit when the cameras are turned on!
He can also act like a dipshit in private, too, like over the weekend when he allegedly head-butted his new wife Evelyn Lozada in an argument about a receipt she found for a box of condoms. Now was it out of line for Johnson to head-butt his wife and open a three-inch gash on her head, allegedly? Sure it was. But in fairness to Johnson, if Lozada didn't want to get into arguments about condom purchases she should have married Antonio Cromartie. Whatever the case, The artist formerly known as Chad Ochocinco is now a former Dolphin and I'm anxious to see how they write his character out of Hard Knocks the next couple weeks, like a football-based soap opera.
4 LOSERS 4. Veganism Arian Foster fumbled on his only carry Saturday night, and since the biggest story of this past offseason in all of Houston sports is the fact that Arian now stuffs his face with leafy vegetables and tofu every meal, naturally it's fun (more fun than I thought it would be, honestly) to blame Foster's staunch adherence to veganism for his losing focus and fumbling the ball on Saturday.
Never mind that Foster was having fumbling issues in nearly every game down the stretch last season, who cares. Do we really want the next generation growing up not knowing the succulence of a juicy steak or sweet, sleep inducing satisfaction of a 32-ounce milkshake? I say HELL NO. We must stamp out this veganism, and if Arian Foster's inability to hold onto the football becomes the centerpiece of my propaganda campaign, then that's just me working with that I'm being given. Don't judge me, JOIN me! Down with veganism!!
3. Jeff Maehl When you're the eighth wide receiver trying to crack what, best case, will be a six-wide receiver rotation, it's probably not a good idea to short-arm a crossing route in a preseason game against another team's fourth-stringers. Especially when the style of receiver your body type and athletic ability lend itself to is one that will spend a LOT of time going, ya know, over the middle. But that's what Maehl did Saturday night. Not good. It even prompted Spencer Tillman on the local broadcast to say "You gotta take the high heels off on that one." If Chris Berman were still alive, after Maehl's alligator arm incident, he might be calling him Jeff "Feeee" Maehl.
2. Alan Ball Let's just get this out of the way -- the replacement referees are awful. They are a joke, a complete affront to any semi-intelligent fan, and the latest example of Roger Goodell's honing of his bully tactics. If someday the league chooses to make a DVD of the worst calls from the magical 2012 preseason of scab referees, the Texans-Panthers crew would have made the cut a few times for sure, in particular a pass interference penalty on Texans cornerback Alan Ball late in the second quarter to set up the Panthers only touchdown. Okay, so the refs are bad. But Alan Ball is worse. Way worse. Cowboy fan, you were right.
1. Jimmy Clausen I was going to leave this space for the new "AP Pro32" poll that has been concocted to give a handful of NFL media members
another form of opinion masturbation the chance to rank the 32 NFL teams purely subjectively for no real reason, but I think that might deserve its own post. Hell, Jimmy Clausen might deserve his own post if I lived in Charlotte or wrote for a Notre Dame website. But I am in Houston, so he gets a mere paragraph.
Back in 2010, when Clausen was one of a quartet of quarterbacks coming into the league with fairly high scores on the hypemeter (Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy were the other three.), and people were downgrading him to a second-round pick (He was eventually taken in the second round), I stuck up for Clausen.
Me and Mel Kiper, we were the only two giving him first round dap. What Mel and I collectively lacked in the looks department, we made up for in our man love for young Clausen. Did he look like an emu? Sure. DId he have the hairline of a 37-year-old? Absolutely. Late in his junior year, did someone punch him in the face at a bar in South Bend basically just for being Jimmy Clausen? Indeed.
Was he, well, a CLAUSEN? He was and is. But that didn't stop me from extolling his virtues -- his arm strength, his experience, and the fact that he continually put on one-man shows at Notre Dame on teams that had doodly squat around him. But I have now seen the error of my ways. After watching Clausen sustain another five sacks last night while running around like a frightened kindergartener, I now know -- Jimmy Clausen is a pocket-wetting, emu-faced, fraction of a quarterback. Congratulations draft dorks, you got me on that one.
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