Much like Kim Kardashian’s ass, these are the things that stick out to me when contemplating the Texans’ performance through the season’s first four games.
1. The team has DRASTICALLY upgraded itself at the quarterback position. There are no words to describe the difference between Matt Schaub and David Carr. Instead, let’s just take a look at what the numbers tell us. Yesterday, Schaub was 28-40 for 317 yards and a touchdown. Keep in mind, those stats came while Schaub directed an offense missing its top two receivers, number one running back and starting center. Oh, and did I mention this was just the 6th start of his NFL career? Meanwhile, 6th year veteran David Carr did what David Carr always does: He threw for 155 yards, one TD, and one pick. The Panthers’ (relatively healthy) offense produced a whopping seven points. Yes, both Houston and Carolina lost, but I think it’s obvious to all that the Texans’ big off-season acquisition was a gamble which paid off handsomely.
Keep in mind, this is coming from someone who supported Carr for most of his Texans tenure and felt the team did a very poor job of providing him with the necessary tools to succeed. My mission is not to heap even more blame and ridicule upon him. I’m simply stating the obvious: For the first time in franchise history, the Texans have a quarterback capable of winning games, not merely managing them.
Needs Improvement: Considering his inexperience, it’s not surprising Schaub shows a tendency to force some throws and make the occasional questionable decision. Hell, every QB in this league does this. Still, there’s definite room for improvement as his maturation process continues. It would also be nice to see a little more zip on his passes. Obviously, he’s never going to be Brett Favre, but quarterbacks such as Tom Brady and Drew Brees have increased their arm strength since entering the league, so perhaps Schaub can follow suit.
2. The offensive line, while only average, is better than previously believed. Again, it took a legitimate QB for most of us to figure this out. Houston’s O-line has surrendered only six sacks so far in ’07. Too often, that was one game’s worth during the Carr era. That having been said, the run blocking has proven to be spotty at best. Certainly, it can’t be easy opening holes wide enough for the plodding Ron Dayne to run through (I’m resisting another Pam Anderson joke here). But that still doesn’t excuse the Texans’ maddening inability to convert several short yardage situations against a previously sieve-like Atlanta run defense.
Needs improvement: A healthy Charles Spencer would be a great start. Of course, nobody really knows what to expect from him when he finally makes his return from major knee surgery. In the meantime, a run-blocking behemoth would be a welcome addition.
3. Ahman Green and Ron Dayne are not the answer at RB. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this comes as no surprise to absolutely anyone possessing even a modicum of objectivity with regard to the Texans. I like Green’s ability and burst when healthy. Of course, as is the case with most RBs in their thirties, Green simply can’t be trusted to stay out of the doctor’s office. As for Dayne, I don’t think any explanation is needed. He’s a part-time, short-yardage back who should not be asked to carry a full load.
Needs improvement: Want to know the most underrated injury the Texans sustained this season? Chris Taylor’s season-ending knee injury, suffered during the first week of training camp. When Taylor went down, Houston lost its most explosive player at the running back position. Now, the team is suffering the consequences, having to get by with the Dayne and Samkon Gado combo meal. Not good times. Needless to say, acquiring a young stud who can tote the rock has to be GM Rick Smith’s top priority this off-season.
4. The defensive line, while stout against the run, simply cannot generate pressure from the edge. Houston defensive ends have produced a measly three sacks so far this year. Two of those came courtesy of Mario Williams in the season opener. The front four’s inability to create pressure from the outside means fewer forced turnovers and an increased reliance upon the blitz, which is dangerous because that places an additional burden on an already over-matched secondary (see item 5).
Needs Improvement: It’s obvious, isn’t it? Assuming Mario never becomes a true pass-rushing force (and while it’s still early, I think that’s a safe assumption). Houston absolutely MUST find someone who can create havoc from the defensive end position. If acquiring a top-shelf running back prospect is priority 1A for the Texans this off-season, procuring an edge pass-rush specialist has to be 1B. It should be noted, Texans’ long-snapper Bryan Pittman disagrees with me on this point. He believes Houston already has the necessary personnel capable of pressuring the QB. But while I acknowledge my football IQ is far below Bryan’s, I just can’t side with him on this one.
5. The Texans’ defensive backs, save Dunta Robinson, are awful. DeMarcus Faggins is headed to the bench. The safety position was a mess before the season started and it’s no better off now. If it weren’t for the presence of the aforementioned Robinson, this group might be the NFL’s worst.
Needs improvement: Ummm, everything? This isn’t something the Texans will be able to fix in one calendar year. Instead, they’ll have to survive by generating increased pressure from the front four and, hopefully, finding help for Dunta via the draft or free agency.
6. Gary Kubiak is forcing fans to question his clock management and replay-challenge skills. For the second week in a row, the Texans’ head coach misfired with the red flag and left himself open to criticism for his team’s ineptitude during the critical moments of its final drive. I’m not ready to put Kubiak in the Jack Pardee time-management Hall of Shame, but this disturbing trend needs to disappear immediately.
Show the coach old two minute drill footage of teams led by Pardee, Art Shell and Herm Edwards. Then tell him to do the exact
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of everything he sees.
So there you have it: The good, the bad and the ugly of the Texans’ season to date. Like with Kardashian’s can, you’ll either be repulsed or aroused by the picture in front of you. Are you the type who sees the ass half-full or half-empty (okay, there’s nothing half-empty about that caboose, but whatever)? To be honest, I’m not even sure where I stand, myself. But I do know this much: Somewhere out there in one-hit wonder land, Sir Mix-a-lot is a BIG fan of the Houston Texans today.
And that has to count for something. – Jason Friedman