Behind Enemy Lines: Week One vs. Houston Texans

This season, Coltsider is going to attempt to gain information about the upcoming opponent via partnership posts with other blogs. This week marks the first in the series, as Coltsider chats with Patrick from State of the Texans.

1. How is Arian Foster’s hamstring? There’s been a lot of rumors circulating about the severity of it, along with the Twitter photo. What’s your take on the photo, and the chances that he plays on Sunday?

According to Arian and Head Coach Gary Kubiak the hamstring is coming around slowly. During camp Foster was hampered with the injury, but he was working on the back practice fields running full speed and cutting, while he was “supposed” to be injured. Foster is a fast healer and has already been running, just not practicing. Just like you, it remains a real mystery how injured he is, but it may be an issue for the Texans during the course of the season.

2. It seems like this question is asked every single year, but it needs to be asked. Is this finally Gary Kubiak’s make or break year?

To me, this is the year for the Kubiak Regime. Owner Bob McNair opened his pocket-book and signed Johnathan Joseph, and brought in a “real” defensive coordinator in Wade Phillips. Kubiak has everything he needs to succeed, and it is apparent that talent is not an issue for the Texans, it was coaching. If he wins and makes the playoffs he stays and get an extension, if he doesn’t, he is going to pack his bags, with Phillips moving to the Head Coach of the Texans.

3. How is Mario Williams adjusting to being a 3-4 linebacker? Is Wade Phillips’ defense going to work for Williams?

Let me be the first to say there is no other Texans player under the microscope more that Mario Williams with the fan base. Right now, Williams can’t do anything right in the fan base’s eyes, but he has slowly progressed in the position since the beginning of camp. Williams really looked good during the third preseason game against San Francisco, but what he does doesn’t show up on the “stat sheet,” which clouds people’s minds. 31 other teams would welcome Williams to their roster with open arms so Texan fans better be careful what they ask for. He is athletic enough to make the transition, and will be rushing the quarterback probably 90% of the time. I think as the season goes on,because of his play, Williams will be getting a contract extension to keep him here as a Texan.

4. Speaking of the defense, how are the new additions, along with Wade Phillips, going to affect the league’s worst defense from 2010? Can the Texans defense be an above average unit in 2011?
We are going to get better by default, but I think the jump as a unit could be scary. When I was at camp there was a different vibe with the defense, Wade Phillips, new linebacker coach Reggie Herring, and new secondary coach Vance Joseph have put their stamp on the team immediately. The Texans look like they know what they are doing defensively and have made the defense fun to watch. New cornerback Johnathan Joseph has been limited with a groin injury during the preseason, but looked good during camp and has the capability to shut down a half of the field. Safety Danieal Manning finally gives the Texans a free safety that can run and tackle, and also the threat he poses returning kicks makes him a valuable player.

The Texans have the chance to be an above average defense, with an improved pass rush the Texans secondary will look much better than the 2010 version.

5. What are the weak areas of the team after watching the preseason and training camp? Is there any positions that still need addressing?

The biggest issues have to be the nose tackle position, inside linebackers and offensive line depth. The Texans say they are happy with the NT rotation with Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell but their lack of body makes it easy for opponents to double team them and move them with ease. The New Orleans Saints gashed the Texans in the preseason up the middle and marched right down the field, and really showed a big hole in the Texans defense. It’s not scheme, but personnel in my opinion. As for the inside linebacker, DeMeco Ryans need to prove he can overcome his Achilles injury that put him out for majority of the 2010 season and Brian Cushing needs to bounce back after having a terrible 2010 season that included a 4-game suspension and an offseason knee surgery that limited his camp and preseason. Both are gifted as players but overall health is what makes the inside linebackers question marks. The offensive line’s major concern is depth, their starters are as good as anyone in the league, but the Texans lost two backups for the season, and they signed a few players off the street to fill their spots. The Texans offensive line is close to having some issues if one of the starters go down. 

6. Which player was the most surprising during training camp/preseason? Will he make a difference in the opener?

I may get disowned by some of my fellow readers, but cornerback Kareem Jackson, to me, has made a dramatic improvement as a player and is showing some confidence. During the preseason he had some passes completed on him, but none for touchdowns and really played some solid technique this year compared to 2010. Jackson’s major growth period was early during camp, as he was getting abused by Andre Johnson during team drills. As camp went on, Jackson was standing toe to toe with Johnson and breaking up passes. Jackson has shown some fight in him being able to overcome one of the most disappointing rookie seasons in Texans history, but the majority of Jackson’s short comings fall onto last years coaching staff not putting him into positions to succeed. This year the Texans are being carefull with Jackson and putting him in situations that he can be successful in, and he will make a nice tandem with Joseph on the other side.

7. All four of the top four picks in the 2011 draft were defensive players. Will they get a crack at the starting jobs this season? I know J.J. Watt likely will, but how about LB Brooks Reed, or cornerbacks Brandon Harris and Roc Carmichael?

For Roc Carmichael, he was injured in camp with a shoulder injury that limited him to a handful of practices and he played in no preseason games, but still made the 53 man roster. That to me shows what the Texans think of him as a player. Brandon Harris (cornerback) is currently sitting 6th on the depth chart, but will be playing on majority of the special teams units. I was an advocate for the Texans on day two of the NFL draft to draft Brooks Reed and it happened. Reed was making a position change during camp and was struggling mightily, but then somewhere in the middle of camp it was like a light switched on and he has shown why he was such a commodity during the draft. Reed makes the Texans deeper at OLB and shows he can get to the quarterback and devastate opposing blockers at the point of attack. As for J.J. Watt, many Texans fans were convinced they dropped the ball again in the draft, but Watt is better than advertised. He has made an impact on the football field, but more importantly, with the community. Watt’s presence on the starting defensive line has made other players like Antonio Smith and Connor Barwin better because of the ability for all three players to play one on one with opposing offensive linemen. Teams are going to have to decide who they are going to have to double team and this is all caused by the presence of J.J. Watt. This draft class has the chance to rival the 2006 draft class that included Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, Owen Daniels, Eric Winston, David Anderson and Charles Spencer.

8. The big one: Is this finally the Texans year?

One would think that this is the year, but there is always a chance for something disastrous to happen. Maybe a last second loss or a batted Hail Mary play, but the Texans fan base are ready for a playoff team. I’m not being greedy, we just need a taste of the playoffs, because the Texans are going to have to prove they can handle success if they start winning games. With all of that said, this will be the year the Texans finally break though to the playoffs. With all of the uncertainty in the AFC South, if they do not do it, you can expect some changes on the sideline.

Big thanks to Patrick for talking with us, you can view my take on the Colts at State of the Texans.

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.