Reporting Paul Gallant
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It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was quite sloppy. But coming out of their preseason opener, the Texans can look back at more positives than negatives.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
>>> The nose tackles dominated. First it was Earl Mitchell, who had a sack, three tackles for a loss, and appeared to graze the pass that Shiloh Keo intercepted. He did all of that without the help of J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith. Then it was Terrell McClain with 2.5 more sacks and 2 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
>>> Case Keenum and the third string offense scored 17 points – and looked pretty damn crisp. Outside of a few drops…which I’ll get to later. The key? Keenum, who showed some quickness, pocket awareness, and made a couple of money throws while rolling to his left. That ain’t easy.
>>> The special teams were…bleh for the most part. But the legs? Faith-Hill-esque. Kicker Randy Bullock showed some power on kickoffs, and hit 2-3 field goals. The miss – a 54 yarder well short before halftime – was the only blemish. Meanwhile, punter Andrew Shapiro put out some quality tape together, averaging 47.3 yards a punt and downing 2 inside the 20.
>>> DeAndre Hopkins seemed to have at least one WOW moment per practice at Training Camp. It happened again Friday Night. T.J. Yates lobbed a 34 yard pass towards the end zone. And this happened. Click the link.
Yeah. Decent start.
WHAT WENT WRONG
>>> First let’s just start with this catastrophe. Watch it with the music below in the background for full effect.
And then move on.
>>> When an established player screws up, it’s easy to criticize. But you have to feel for wide receiver Jeff Maehl and cornerback Roc Carmichael, two 3rd years players fighting for a roster spot. Both were…bad. Maehl had two key drops in the red zone on money throws from Case Keenum. Carmichael was routinely a few steps behind his man, and whiffed on a few tackles. My guess? Neither will make it to the final cuts of camp.
>>> Lestar Jean had some good moments early in the game. But he also had two baffling drops. Unlike Maehl, Jean has a little leeway because of his experience last season and the injury to DeVier Posey. But he has to do everything he can to remain on the roster when Posey returns from his torn achilles.
>>> How about those special teams Joe Marciano?
- a 50 yard kick return by Viking KR Cordarelle Patterson to open the game
- a kick return by Texans KR Dennis Johnson to his own 15
- a fair catch by Johnson inside the 10 yard line
- Eddie Pleasant with kick catch interference on a punt return
I’m willing to give Marciano the benefit of the doubt…for now. After all, he’s working with a bunch of rookies in week one of the preaseason. But the spotlight is on, and the unit MUST get better.
>>> Quarterback #2: T.J. Yates v Case Keenum
Yates may have the regular season experience over Keenum. Unfortunately, he was shaky in his first few series Friday. He looked uncomfortable in the pocket, held the ball too long, and sailed a couple of passes over open receivers. He eventually settled down (13-21, 151 yards and that TD pass to Hopkins), but it’s tough to shake that first impression, especially with how well Keenum played. Case looked very confident and made the most of several off schedule plays.
Should Keenum be locked in as the #2 QB? Not yet. But he definitely deserves time with the 2nd string unit after his performance Friday. We’ll see Saturday against the Dolphins.
>>> Safety: Shiloh Keo v Eddie Pleasant v D.J. Swearinger
Both Keo and Pleasant had interceptions…something we’d love to have seen from this defense down the stretch last season. As for Swearinger? That whiffed tackle is hard to ignore from a safety known as a big hitter. After one preseason game, I think we have a pretty good idea of why Keo is penciled in as starter over Swearinger right now.
>>> 3rd Running Back: Cierre Wood v Dennis Johnson
Wood doesn’t have the special teams value/blitz pickup ability/ or raw speed of Dennis Johnson. But he did have the better game on the ground, looking very natural in the zone blocking scheme (10 carries for 59 yards). On the other hand, Johnson did a little too much dancing before hitting the hole (7 carries for 11 yards). Wood won the battle Friday, but I expect Johnson to win the war for third string RB.
>>> Cornerback: A.J. Bouye v Roc Carmichael
With Carmichael’s off night at corner, all undrafted rookie A.J. Bouye had to do was not screw up. Check. Bouye also helped his cause by stopping an Andrew Shapiro punt from bouncing into the end zone (eventually downed by Shiloh Keo at the 6).