Let’s admit it.
We’re all a little concerned about Texans rookie quarterback T.J. Yates now. After being pressed into duty and then playing way beyond his fifth round expectations, we started to see some troublesome signs two games ago even as he quarterbacked the Texans to the AFC South title.
It all snowballed last Sunday when Yates got off to his second straight rocky start, but unlike the Cincinnati Bengals game the youngster couldn’t get right in the second half which led to the deflating 28-13 loss at home at the Carolina Panthers.
Suddenly there is reason for concern as the Texans not only try to position themselves for home field advantage during the playoffs in a couple of weeks, but also as they try to fine tune the offense in hopes of making a run in their first ever postseason appearance.
We should know much more about Yates after Thursday night’s road game against the Indianapolis Colts. This is his first real adversity and how he bounces back will tell the Texans everything they need to know going forward.
The early anticipation is that Yates will be just fine.
“T.J. is going to be a heck of a player, he’s done a great job for us so far,” said tight end Owen Daniels. “We all need to play better around him to make him better. He’s going to make mistakes, he’s young. It happens. We understand.
“We’ve all got to play better, T.J. has got to play better. It was not his fault this past weekend. It was the whole team’s effort that wasn’t good enough. He’s going to bounce back because he’s a competitor so he will be ready to go.”
But is it really that simple?
What we’ve seen the last couple weeks are defenses start to bring more pressure to throw the rookie off and both Cincinnati and Carolina mixed up coverage enough that Yates wasn’t always seeing what he thought he was seeing.
And the one-time third-string quarterback behind Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart caved against the Panthers. He completed 19 of 30 passes for 212 yards and zero touchdowns while throwing two costly picks.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak has been impressed with the way Yates has gone back to work this week. But honestly Kubiak has to find the silver-lining because neither Schaub nor Leinart will be returning from injured reserve to save the season.
“I continue to see good things, so that’s very encouraging, but there were too many mistakes in the game the other day. He knows that, but what you’re seeing is a guy who can make all the plays an NFL quarterback needs to make,” said Kubiak, whose 10-4 team saw its seven-game winning streak end Sunday. “Now, the consistency of making them and doing it on a week in, week out basis, that’s the key. But he’s very open for criticism, if you want to use that word, and getting better, and he handles things very well. I expect him to bounce back.”
Yates, who returns to his hometown as the unexpected starter Thursday, expects to rebound, as well. This week he has displayed that same Joe Montana cool that allowed him to guide the Texans down field in the waning moments against the Bengals for the game-clinching touchdown pass.
“I definitely made mistakes out there that shouldn’t have happened and I know that I’m better than what I showed out there on that field,” said Yates, who has thrown three interceptions in his last two games.. “We came in and looked at the film. It’s very fixable things. It’s just decision making, not getting caught up too much in the moment and going out there and doing the right thing.
“It’s encouraging when you go back and look at the film and you see that you can improve from these things. I was excited to get back out there to practice and get back at it.”
Now it’s time to see if he can get back at in a live game-situation the way he did in his first start against a quality Atlanta Falcons team. He will have to do so in a game that has a lot background noise, including playing in front of his hometown crowd, facing a team that has been a longtime nemesis of the Texans and then there is the fact that Yates’ current team has never won in Indianapolis.
That’s a lot for even the more experienced and coolest of quarterbacks to have to deal with.
It’s a good thing Yates won’t have to against Peyton Manning, too. Instead he will he have to get back right against a team with even more troubling quarterback issues than the Texans. The Colts’ season has been derailed because of their void at quarterback.
Dan Orlovsky, a former Texans backup, has been unexpectedly elevated into a starting role much the same way Yates. Ironically, the two spent quite a bit of time this summer working out together here in Houston.
“It’s kind of weird how this game kind of fills out,” said Yates, who is 2-1 as a starter since taking over for Leinart. “Different things happen in different situations. We could never have predicted something like this.”
Neither could we.