When a team wins just six games during a regular season that was supposed to provide that franchises first ever playoff appearance, there are obviously many things that went wrong.
We can talk about the problems on defense and the ineptness from the Texans in the secondary until we’re blue in the face. We can talk about the fact that the Texans quite simply couldn’t expect to win many games to begin with when the offense was having to fight from behind most of the time. We can talk about the fact that the return game and coverage, or lack there of on special teams last season was down right pathetic.
We can talk about it all we want, but Joe Marciano, who is entering into his 10th season as special teams coordinator of the Texans and is still regarded as one of the leagues best at what he does, is looking for solutions.
I spoke with him after Wednesday’s practice before he headed back to the meeting rooms to go over film with his players and meet with the coaches the rest of the afternoon. Marciano was his usual intense and focused self during our brief talk.
I asked him first about his impressions of the coverage and return game on special teams during Monday night’s preseason opener against the Jets, he responded as I expected him to, “what coverage? You mean the coverage as in the lack thereof?”
If you watched Monday night, that response should sum it up for you as far as his first impressions go…just wait until he actually breaks the film down! YIKES!
Marciano went on to say that the coverage has obviously got to improve and was confident it will. He told me fans and the media shouldn’t get too bent out of shape from what they saw Monday night because there is going to be a lot of turnover on punt and kickoff returns. However, he did catch me before I was able to utter the names of Jacoby Jones and Danieal Manning, saying, “A couple of our veterans weren’t out there.”
I stopped him and asked him what exactly he needed to see out of those two guys this preseason as far as the return game goes, being as that Jacoby was underwhelming to say the least last season and all we have is the scuttlebutt on Manning, that he is one of the best return men in the league, but how will he perform running behind a bunch of guys that didn’t necessarily block anyone last year on special teams?
Marciano told me, that the veterans, when they get out there will perform, that the return game is going to be much more effective because he’s got a lot of guys with high motors, a lot of guys that will only see a paycheck if they take care of business on special teams.
He has a ton of confidence in rookie Brooks Reed, who he says is as disruptive and high energy as a guy can be on special teams.
I asked him about the rookie out of Idaho, who the Texans drafted in the 5th round this past draft, Shiloh Keo. If you don’t know who this guy is after Monday night, you should be ashamed of yourself! Not because he did anything to wow any of us, but because Keo was the first guy down the field on every single special teams play. He didn’t make any plays, none at all…but the guy is one of those players Marciano says will help this special teams squad take significant strides from last season to this season.
“Shiloh has got to realize it’s not college anymore, he can’t just go down there and blow somebody up, it doesn’t work like that in the NFL”, Marciano said. ” He needs some veterans around him that can help contain the return guy, return guys are too smart for that in the NFL.”
Marciano is a confident guy. yYu don’t stick around as long as he has (25 years in NFL as special teams coordinator) if you’re not confident and have that ability to get the very best out of your players.
He’s right too, people want to see all three facets of the game click during the preseason, but the preseason is about seeing what your 2nd and 3rd team guys can do, and how many of them that may not be able to contribute elsewhere, may contribute on special teams. He knows what Jacoby and manning can do, lets just hope health is on their side and coverage is as good as Marciano thinks it will be.