It is tough not to appreciate what the Houston Texans have been able to do over the first three preseason games, especially after the disappointing start against the Arizona Cardinals. With that said, Bill O’Brien has concentrated on turning his team into a group that understands their assignments at its simplest form.
The defense still has work to do on cleaning up their zone concepts in coverage and their timing in the passing game, which are both important for the
Texans success. They are getting better week to week and still have over two weeks to get their starters ready for week one against the Washington Redskins.
-One thing to watch is how the Texans use Mike Thomas from here on out. Thomas was out against the Atlanta Falcons with a head injury and got very limited work against the Broncos. There are three slot wide receivers the Texans are currently using in Thomas, Keshawn Martin and Travis Labhart.
Here are their snap summaries vs. the Broncos.
(They are considered a slot when the offense goes three WRs.)
Martin, 26 total, 6 from the slot
Thomas,11 total, 9 from the slot
Labhart, 9 total, all from the slot.
With the drop in total plays for Thomas, it appears that Martin has passed him up on the depth chart. With youth at a premium in the NFL, the Texans could easily look to the younger Labhart to fill out their wide receiver depth chart on the 53 man roster.
-The offense showed a glimpse of how their offensive line could be and this was without starting center Chris Myers. Duane Brown, Ben Jones, Xavier Su’a-Filo, Brandon Brooks and Derek Newton could be the offensive line of the future for O’Brien’s offense. They protected well in passing situations and, most importantly, moved the line of scrimmage in the run game.
They were also able to get some key fourth down conversions to set up an early touchdown run by Jonathan Grimes. Add the rookie play of C.J. Fiedorowicz and Jay Prosch, the offense has a new mentality when it comes to running the football.
-The best personnel move the Texans staff made from last season was moving Kareem Jackson to the slot cornerback when the team is in nickel and dime. There were a high number of missed tackles from the slot cornerback in past seasons where a short pass turned into a big gain because of one missed tackle.
Enter Jackson, who is one of the best tacklers out of the secondary. Against the Broncos, he gave up some receptions but instantly made sure tackles for minimal gains. With so much emphasis on the middle of the field, Romeo Crennel has moved one of his better coverage players to the interior of his defense to tighten up that aspect of the unit.
-Case Keenum has his struggles as a quarterback. He has his moments where he moves the team with good quick decisions, but then in an instant he starts holding onto the ball too long and throwing receivers into coverage. He is still struggling with throws to the middle of the field, which is a necessity for this offense to function.
Outside the numbers vs. the Broncos: 5 of 5 for 38 yards (7.6 yards per attempt)
Inside the numbers vs. the Broncos: 4 of 9 for 38 yards (4.2 yards per attempt)
-At first glance, it looked like Eddie Pleasant had a game he would like to forget. The first touchdown seemed to be a complete communication breakdown between A.J. Bouye and Chris Clemons which caused Pleasant to try and cover from the opposite hash.
The second touchdown also looked like a breakdown between him and Bouye on a pinpoint pass from Manning to beat the Texans cover two look.
No doubt Pleasant has to improve his coverage skills, but his special teams play and above average tackling should not be overlooked. He even put some hurries on the quarterback when asked to blitz from the safety position.
Pleasant is the fourth best safety on the team and looks to be headed to the 53 man roster unless the Texans look for better options on the waiver wire when final cuts start in less than a week.
-C.J. Fiedorowicz has snuck into the starting lineup and is looking like the best fit on an every down basis for the offense. His inline blocking has improved and now he has started to understand his role in the passing game. Fitzpatrick is leaning on the tight end more than any of his other options at the position. Fiedorowicz will be on the field his rookie season and be depended on from day one to be a key component for the offense.
-Alfred Blue and Jay Prosch are turning into the short yardage duo that will be used for the tough yards. Prosch, with one good hand, is fitting in nicely as the go to lead blocker while Blue, at 6-2 and 233 lbs., is a tough runner that has shown the knack to break tackles. With 27 rushing yards, Blue had 26 of those after contact on 9 carries.
The rookies are being used in situations that make them successful and they are developing a good on-field relationship.
-The defense has put together a solid defensive line and this week Ricardo Mathews showed why he has a chance to stay on the 53 man roster. He has a good skill set that allows his 300 lb. frame to rush the passer with speed and enough strength to hold up against the run.
-The offense has been keeping their playbook hidden and only attempted one pass for more than 20 yards against the Broncos. They have only attempted 6 all preseason for more than 20 yards, but it should not be a concern at the moment. The Texans have it in their passing arsenal but feel no need to show it prior to the regular season.