This week we have John Hallam from the Texans Bull Blog. Every indication points to this being a Ravens victory, we have heard that before………
1) What happens to Gary Kubiak if the Texans miss the play-offs?
Barring a poor finish (1-3 or 0-4), I think it is unlikely that Gary Kubiak is fired this off-season. There are three reasons that I believe this to be true. First, Bob McNair believes in organizational stability and will always err on the side of stability over instability. Second, unless the collective bargaining situation miraculously resolves itself by March, it will be practically impossible to make organizational changes in a seamless way that have the team ready for quality football in 2011. In addition to the shear level of uncertainty if there is a lockout, new coaches would not have any contact with the players (mini-camps, OTAs, etc..), which would make changing offensive and defensive philosophies and systems very, very messy. Finally, Bob McNair really likes Gary Kubiak. They share similar life philosophies and have genuine affection for each other. From McNair’s perspective, except for the winning, Gary Kubiak is the perfect representative for the Texan organization.
2) Is Andre Johnson fully healthy? Are there any other health concerns?
Andre Johnson is certainly NOT healthy. He has been dealing with a high ankle sprain since the third quarter of week two. Almost every week, he has limped off the field to be re-taped and/or given a painkilling shot. He aggravated it against Philadelphia the first time he touched the ball and missed the next offensive series. He will play and play well but he certainly lacks the explosiveness he normally plays with.
3) Should the Ravens bother running the ball on Monday Night?
Everyone is aware of the horrific Texan pass defense. Mario Williams is playing with a sports hernia and it has dramatically affected him since October. Right now, Antonio Smith is the Texans’ most consistent disrupter on the defensive line. Mario will certainly rev his enging up for a Monday night game, but if you notice, he will play stiff and upright and simply lacks the explosiveness in his core to be anything near dominant. The secondary has settled down some over the past month but is clearly a weakness. The strength of the defense is the run defense due to a quality group of LBs, large DEs (Antonio Smith and Mario Williams), and a very good run enforcer at SS (Bernard Pollard). It is unlikely that Ray Rice has a big game rushing the ball, but he will have an opportunity to make some big plays in the pass game. The Texans struggle to tackle on the edges and their aggressiveness can certainly be exploited with screen passes.
4) With fantasy studs such as Schaub, Johnson, and Foster, what limits this offense from scoring even more points?
Schaub is an excellent rhythm QB. He has an average NFL arm, slightly elongated mechanics, and feet that run slower than molasses. I think he’s one of the ten best QBs in the league, but he lacks the physical abilities of guys like Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisburger and lacks the hair-trigger release of Phillip Rivers or the Mannings. All that is to say that when a play breaks down due to poor pass protection or good coverage, the best hope is that Schaub can successfully dump the ball away without getting an intentional grounding penalty. Also, the offense is in a bit of a transition this season. Last season, it was solely dependent on the pass game. This year, however, the running game is excellent with Arian Foster and some changes made on the offensive staff and on the offensive line. The offense can be slow to adjust to defenses playing them in unique ways. Last season, the Texans knew going into the game that most teams would sit in a cover 2 look and role safeties over the top of Andre Johnson. The Texans could gameplan based on that assumption. This season, the Texans see all kinds of different defensive game plans. Some teams still concentrate on doubling Andre Johnson. The Eagles focused on stopping Arian Foster by sending a myriad of LB blitzes. The Texans offense tends to start slowly as it figures out how to adjust to the defense. Their poor first halves have kept their scoring down… that, plus mediocre special teams and a lack of defensive turnovers.
5) Assuming the league contract stuff gets all worked out, what does the team to take it to the next level?
Well, that is the question, isn’t it? The honest answer is, “nobody knows”. We all have our theories about what coaches need to be fired and what philosophical changes need to be made. Clearly, the defense needs some work but nobody really knows how much of this season’s nightmare is a result of inexperience, lack of talent, or poor coaching. Here’s my simplistic answer: they need a better pass rush. The Texans have, at best, servicable DTs. Antonio Smith is a very solid DE that can move all over the line and can create havoc and disruption but lacks the elite talent to be a pure playmaker. Mario Williams has struggled with injuries the past two seasons and they need to get him healthy. The Texans also were counting on Connor Barwin, a second year player with elite athleticism, to be highly involved in their nickel and dime packages. He broke his ankle in the second quarter of week one’s game against Indianapolis and was put on I.R. Hopefully, the Texans will get Barwin and Williams healthy, add a talent at DT, and look for quality depth at DE, as well. I would also expect to see some coaching changes on the defensive side of the ball, though I am not sure where the problems lie.
EC- Andre Johnson has some tenacity with his fists. Who else on the team might make a good transition into MMA?
The Texans lack the toughness of the top half of the AFC North. However, thanks to the dirty play and coaching of Jacksonville and Tennessee, the Texans have been forced into developing some toughness. Offensively, Duane Brown (LT) or Vonta Leach (FB) is the closest thing we have to an enforcer. That being said, the OL does its share of cut blocking, which tends to wear down the opposition… and pisss them off, too. On the defensive side of the ball, Bernard Pollard is the guy. He hits hard (very hard) and is passionate about it. Brian Cushing can lay some wood and get into a scrum, as well. We don’t have anyone on the team that has been arrested for murder, though… another advantage the Ravens have on Monday night.