Behind Enemy Lines: Houston Texans

This week, State of the Texans editor Patrick D. Starr joins me to give us an inside look at the Colts upcoming opponent. You can find my answers to his questions here

What exactly has happened in Houston? Some of us expected the Texans to take a step back this year, but this far?

If you find out for me let me know. Everything you can imagine that has gone wrong has happen. Between innconsistent offensive line play, poor running defense and now poor quarterback play, the Texans have done nothing right this season.

Also throw in some questionable play calling from Head Coach Gary Kubiak and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips; things could not be going worse in Houston. To be honest the play of Matt Schaub has really put the Texans behind the eight ball this season. 

J.J. Watt is still dominant, even if the stats aren't quite the same this season. What exactly does he do every week that makes him so special?

The disruption he causes from play to play is something special. His sacks last season were on another level but what he can do in one on one situations is what people want to watch. His ability to diagnose plays from the defensive line position and understand what the situations are on the field.

He makes offensive game plans adjust to him and now it is up to him to take over the leadership role for a struggling defense.

Alright, you knew this question was coming. What in the name of Jamarcus Russell happened to Matt Schaub, and why does Case Keenum give Houston a better option?

Schaub has been on a steady decline since last season and it has all come to a melting point for the Texans. The NFL game has caught up to Matt Schaub and his limitations as a player have stunted the growth of the Texans team. Kubiak was waiting for Schaub to come out of his "funk" but unfortunate interceptions and struggling to make confident decisions have put Schaub on the bench.

Keenum at least gives the Texans a chance to run the offense the way it was designed with playactions and bootlegs. The weapons are there for the offense and getting Keenum to get the ball to them are what is important. He has shown that he can run the offense out of the pistol which gives the Texans some "new looks" offensively. The offense looks faster and the pace with Keenum at the controls which is a good look for the team.

How has DeAndre Hopkins looked? He was a favorite of mine pre-draft, and I'm still a little (ok, a lot) jealous when I think of Bjoern Werner being injured and stuff.

Hopkins is what Texans fans have been looking for over the years. Seeing him since OTAs to now Hopkins is special and you can see what he could be. He has adjusted well to the NFL game and his catch radius is large. Hopkins finally showed he can go vertical and do things underneath with ease. He is a great compliment to Andre Johnson and getting the ball in Hopkins hands really opens up this offense.

It seems like Houston's defense hasn't been playing poorly, but opposing teams have scored over 28 points per game over the last five games. Where's the disconnect here?

The redzone and causing turnovers has been the biggest issue for the defense. They have looked great in spots and it shows in those pretty statistical categories but they have been really disappointing. Pass rush has been bad and run defense has been bad too. To be honest the more we talk about this the defense has been inconstent, and now without Brian Cushing things could get even worse.

Is this the year that finally gets Gary Kubiak fired?

I think they will let him ride out the last season if his contract and give him a chance with a different quarterback. Still don't think that this is the year for the end of the Kubiak this year.

This particular game is an intriguing matchup. It's a home game for the Texans, the Colts just lost Reggie Wayne, etc. Does Houston break its five-game losing streak Sunday night?

Right now I really don't feel the Texans breaking though this week. The city of Houston is in buzz mode with their own Houston product in Case Keenum. Andre Luck gives the Texans nightmares and for good reason, and the Colts are a good team. Running the ball and some solid play from the defense only makes the game tougher for this struggling Texans team.

Big thanks to Patrick, don't forget to follow him on Twitter.

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.

Behind Enemy Lines: Houston Texans

“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. This phrase was coined by a famous Chinese military strategist and philosopher named Sun-Tzu. Essentially, what Sun-Tzu was trying to say is to always keep tabs on your enemy so you will be prepared to face whatever they will throw at you.

In the NFL teams are always changing, for better or worse. One season, a team could be 12-4, the next, they have a top ten selection in the NFL draft. However, you would rather be safe than sorry in this league. Underestimating a team based on previous performance is a risky proposition. Last year, the Pittsburgh Steelers were stunned as they lost to the then lowly 4-8 Oakland Raiders. To ensure this does not happen to the Colts, we will examine each opponent week by week. We’ll start with the Texans.

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How they are built: The Houston Texans are built in a similar fashion to the Colts. They have a powerful passing game led by Matt Schaub who can distribute the ball to a bevy of weapons featuring Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels. As soon as they open up the scoring, this allows their defense to tee off on the quarterback, using their top pick of 2006, Mario Williams. However the Texans are still slightly off in trying to emulate the Colts. Although Kevin Walters is a good up and coming receiver, they still do not have a viable second option to complement Andre Johnson and help take the pressure off him. Their offensive line, though improved, can still be shaky at times and still have problems opening holes for running backs, despite running a zone blocking scheme.

The defense’s problems mirror their offense. There is no one opposite of Williams to complement him and thus far, the tenth overall selection of the 2007 draft, Amobi Okoye has been a bit of a disappointment. In the backfield, the Texans’ secondary has shown improvement, however, players like Bernard Pollard and Eugene Wilson are only temporary fixes to a still glaring problem.

What they did last year: The Texans started off on a roller coaster ride as they went back and forth between winning and losing for the first five weeks before reeling off a three game win streak. After beating the Buffalo Bills, their final opponent in that streak, they lost to the Colts and subsequently lost the following three games, before closing out the season with four wins.  These struggles were due mainly to an inconsistent defense and a non-existent running game, and it just barely cost them a trip to their first-ever postseason appearance.

When they play the Colts: The Texans strategy has been very consistent against the Colts and quite frankly, it’s been very effective despite only beating the Colts one time in the past four years. Offensively, the Texans will try to run the ball whether it’s effective or not. Off the run, the Texans use a variety of play-action bootleg’s to get the Colts defense to over pursue, which they usually do as Matt Schaub does an excellent job of selling it. Schaub does so well at selling the play fake, that even the camera guy loses sight of the ball. This creates plenty of room for Schaub to pass and puts him out of harm’s way from the Colts dynamic pass rush tandem of Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney. Defensively, they rely heavily on their front four to stop the run and generate pressure. This strategy is inconsistent. While they do a pretty good job of stopping the run, it seems that their line generates pressure only half the time and when the Colts make an adjustment their strategy is neutralized, as we witnessed in the Colts Week 12 match last year.

Off-Season moves: To gain consistency on defense and to bolster a rather porous running game, the Texans invested their top two draft picks on those areas, respectively. In the first-round the Texans selected Alabama cornerback Kareem Jackson in hopes of allowing the pass defense to become a more aggressive unit. In the second, the Texans took Ben Tate in hopes that he will be the premier back that Steve Slaton has failed to become.  Though the Texans did select pass rushing defensive tackle Earl Mitchell in the third-round, one has to wonder why they were not seeking out another pass rushing end to complement Mario Williams. Additionally, selecting Ben Tate is nice, but he cannot run if his offensive line is not opening up holes. We shall see if the Texans offensive line has found enough cohesion to improve, or if one of their later selections surprises.

Outlook: Though the Texans still have a few concerns, I believe that they are a team primed to break through the regular season barrier and make their first postseason appearance. They were a few near victories away from the postseason in 2009 and appear to have the pieces to make that final push.

Prediction: 11-5