I am a capitalist at heart. I believe in free markets, supply and demand, and "getting while the getting is good." If someone has a product that carries enough demand that allows them to structure their pricing the way they want it structured, so long as it doesn't involve them holding a small child hostage or using any sort of blunt force trauma, I'm pretty much cool with it.
To that end, I've never been an advocate for the whiny NFL season tickets holders that complain about having to pay the same price for preseason games as they do for regular season games, that somehow they're being extorted for paying the same for each game in the ten game package. These people feel they're being extorted. I feel that when you buy an overall solid, multifaceted product with several elements, some of those elements will inevitably be subpar, or at least slightly worse.
Put differently, when you bought U2's Achtung Baby back in the day, most of the album was awesome, but sadly, you had to buy songs like "Acrobat" and "Love Is Blindness" if you wanted "Mysterious Ways" and "One" on the same CD. Today, iTunes has remedied this perceived market inefficiency in music, and actually, they have an iTunes equivalent for single game NFL tickets if you want it — it's called the secondary market.
And last I checked, tickets to preseason games in Houston are going for ABOVE face value. So there you go.
I say all of this to readily admit that if the season ticket whiners had a case to be made for dynamically reducing the cost of preseason game tickets, Saturday night's snoozefest between the Broncos and the Texans, Gary Kubiak's return to Houston, would be Exhibit A in favor of their case. That game SUCKED.
It was a game — a 14-10 loss, for you gamblers out there — where the Texans offense averaged 4.5 yards per pass attempt, 3.0 yards per rush, their only touchdown was scored by an outside linebacker on a pick six, and most importantly (and alarmingly) we got no closer to a starting Texans quarterback being named.
It was a decent night for some, not so good for others. Let's examine….
4. Kevin Johnson
Give Rick Smith credit for one thing — while their drafts overall have generally ranged anywhere from outright disaster (2013) to pretty decent (2009) on his watch, the Texans seem to get their first round pick right most of the time. Duane Brown (2008), Brian Cushing (2009), Kareem Jackson (2010), J.J. Watt (2011), and Whitney Mercilus (2012) have all received second contracts, and DeAndre Hopkins (2013) will soon. Jadeveon Clowney's (2014) jury is still out, obviously. As for 2015, the rookie cornerback Johnson has looked the part in training camp and the first two preseason games. The stage doesn't appear too big for him, and he has the luxury of not being rushed onto an island against frontline receivers right away like Jackson in 2010. Good pick, so far.
3. Charles James
One of the stars of the most recent episode of Hard Knocks when he skewered rookie safety Corey Moore for his lack of complementary play in practice, James made as big an impression on the field Saturday night on special teams as he did on Tuesday on HBO. With two special teams tackles and a big downing of a Shane Lechler punt inside the five yard line, James may have made the 53-man roster with his performance Saturday night. Those of us who love entertaining personalities hope so.
2. Texan tight ends
On my radio show this week, I predicted that Texans tight end Garrett Graham would have 50 catches this coming season, a bold prediction if you consider that all Texans tight ends combined for 35 catches a season ago (and three of those belonged to J.J. Watt). But if you watch Graham in practice and off the ball, he is open a LOT, he's very athletic, and I'm not so sure that the Texans' lack of productivity at tight end last season wasn't a function of Ryan Fitzpatrick's "safety valve" mode being set at "take off and run for your life" or "make very questionable throw into traffic." Most quarterbacks look for tight ends in spots like that. Whoever starts for the Texans at QB will, too, in my opinion. On Saturday night, the tight ends were targeted six times in the two quarters Mallett and Hoyer were under center.
1. Fringe outside linebackers
The top three outside linebacker spots on this team are pretty well set — Whitney Mercilus, Jadeveon Clowney (assuming healthy), and Jon Simon. After that, it's a free for all. Jason Ankrah has a year in the system and has done some nice things (sack for a safety last week), Kourtnei Brown had the Texans only touchdown on a pick six after two sacks last week, Carlos Thompson was in early on Saturday and made couple plays, and Lynden Trail (linebackers coach Mike Vrabel's whipping boy on the last Hard Knocks) even made some plays in the run defense that showed big time closing speed along the line scrimmage. It's an intriguing group.
4. Jaelen Strong
Final observation that incorporates what we saw on Hard Knocks this week — wide receiver Jaelen Strong was basically the "Lynden Trail" of the offense, the rookie that most befuddled the coaches. Of course, Strong's slow start is far more troublesome than Trail's, given what the team invested to get him (a third round pick plus a couple picks used to move up in the draft to nab him). Saturday night, against the Broncos reserves and with a quarterback that was throwing the ball fairly well, Strong could only manage one catch for five yards. Even worse, he flat out missed a block on a missile screen to Damaris Johnson that stymied the play for practically no gain. The blocking gaffe is a desire and mental engagement issue, a bad sign for a player whose weight has fluctuated and who's been a non factor for most of camp.
3. Fringe offensive linemen
When asked about offensive linemen outside of the starters on Sunday afternoon the day after the game, here was Bill O'Brien's answer:
"Some of these guys have played decently. I mentioned last week a couple guys. James Ferentz I think has played pretty well overall, pretty consistent. I think the young tackle, (Kendall) Lamm, has shown up and done some decent things for us. It would be good to get eventually, hopefully get Xavier (Su’a-Filo) back, get Xavier back from injury. Let’s get him in there and get him a ton of reps, see if we can get him better. So yeah, I think there’s some guys that are there that we just need to continue to work with.”
Ferentz feels like the go-to for an example of "anonymous linemen who played hard." He led the team in snaps on Saturday night as he seemed to last preseason as well. He's a virtual lock to make the practice squad, and I feel like he would be from now until the end of time, if they could put him there. Lamm nearly got Tom Savage killed on one play, and that's the only other guy O'Brien mentioned. (Discussing Xavier Su'a-Filo among backups unto itself is an indictment, because at this point, he is supposed to be starting!) Not exactly a resounding endorsement of the crew.
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2. Steve Sarkisian
The USC Trojans are ranked in the top ten in most polls coming into the season, but their head coach Steve Sarkisian is apparently conducting a heat check commensurate with a coach that's already won a national title. At the school's Salute to Troy event for donors and alumni over the weekend, an apparently inebriated Sarkisian got up on the microphone and said the Trojans opponents "all suck" and mangled the schools slogan from "Fight on" into "Fight FUCKING on". I mean, who does Sarkisian think he is…Bill O'Brien??
1. Alex Smith
J.J. Watt hasn't played one snap in the preseason yet. He may not play this weekend against the Saints and certainly won't play against the Cowboys in the preseason finale. This means that J.J. Watt's first game action in over eight months will come against the Chiefs in the opener. I'm guessing there will be a lot of pent up sacks bottled up inside young Justin James Watt that afternoon. Poor Alex Smith….
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/SeanTPendergast.