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Texans – Falcons: In A Nutshell

By Paul Gallant. SportsRadio 610
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(Credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

(Credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

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There’s nothing quite like a slump buster…the sports variety of course. And the Texans finally did that Saturday night, blowing out the Atlanta Falcons 32-7 in preseason game number two.

It was difficult NOT to push the panic button after the preseason opener in Arizona. Houston looked lost in all facets of the game. Yet there we all were – myself included – freaking out over the potential of a possibly worse 2014 campaign. Wild guess…but we probably should have relaxed. Just a little bit.

Still – at the risk of sounding a bit hypocritical – I urge you not to overreact in the other direction after the W over the Falcons. The Texans still have a lot of issues to solve. But they did take one big step in the right direction. And when you win for the first time in 335 days, why not savor the moment for a bit.

THE GOOD
My name is Jadeveon. I kill people am good at the sports.

I think it’s safe to say Clowney be pretty good. My favorite play? It wasn’t the sack. And it wasn’t when he hulk smashed a fullback that thought he was going to lead block. It’s the obvious one: when he annihilated running back Antone Smith. The hit spoke for itself. But don’t tell Mr. Smith that.

“I don’t see anything special,” said Smith after the game. “[Clowney]‘s just a guy.”

Yeah, ok bro.

ibMQ5lLeq52oz

Fansided

Bam.

The Offense…Moved

And after the Cardinals game, that’s all you could really ask for. Ryan Fitzpatrick was far from dominating. But he was effective…especially with his feet. He had two scrambles for 10+ yards, extended multiple plays, and wasn’t sacked once despite playing behind mostly backups on the offensive line. And ran an effective two minute drill at the end of the first half. If the Texans want to win games on a regular basis, games like this from Fitz would definitely give them a chance. It’s just a matter of whether he turns the ball over.

In years past, Keshawn Martin looked the part during training camp. But those flashes in practice never translated to games…until Saturday night. He caught every pass thrown his way, made a couple of guys miss, and had a key 31 yard reception from Fitzpatrick on their pre-halftime touchdown drive. He made the most out of his opportunity (including on return duty), one that came about because Mike Thomas was unable to play.

Running backs Jonathan Grimes and Alfred Blue had good games themselves. They were an effective 1-2 punch on the ground with Arian Foster out again, and made some plays on special teams (especially Grimes, who had a tackle and returned a block punt for 6). And don’t forget slot receiver Travis Labhart, who seems hell bent on giving Case Keenum every opportunity possible to remain the team’s backup quarterback. The two have great chemistry.

Did Joe Marciano Do Any Coaching Last Year?

…Because the Texans did all of the following against the Falcons:

  • Blocked a punt (returned for a touchdown)
  • Blocked a field goal
  • Tackled THE Devin Hester at his own 18, then 10 on kick returns
  • Keshawn Martin had a 33 yard kick return
  • Martin, Travis Labhart each had 16 yard punt returns

 

That’s a great sign for special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky.

Swiss Cheese…No More?

I’m on record saying that the Texans shouldn’t spend ANY big money in free agency this offseason. If you want to rebuild your team, you look on the scrap heap for young guys that might still have potential. Why overpay if you’re not a heavy favorite? Take chances with cheap contracts, and you may find a diamond in the rough.

The Texans may have found one in safety Kendrick Lewis. They brought him aboard because of his knowledge of Romeo Crennel’s defense. And from the look of things, he’s been acting as a coach on the field for an inexperienced secondary. He’s directed corners and safeties where they should be lined up pre-play, and sometimes even forcibly moving players to the correct spot on the field.

This might not have been the case with Lewis last season in Kansas City, but he also made some plays of his own. Early on, he landed a crushing tackle, then deflected away a pass. Let’s see if he can keep it up next week against Denver.

While we’re on the secondary, you’ve got to give A.J. Bouye and Andre Hal a lot of credit for their coverage against the Falcons. Both had bad moments. And every cornerback in the NFL – from Patrick Peterson to our former favorite Brice McCain – will experience their fair share of “Ahh, sh*t!” moments. Some – like Brice – more than others. All you can do in that situation is have a short memory and move on to the next play. Don’t become psychologically defeated.

Bouye and Hal had some McCain-esque moments themselves. Bouye – coming off a week of practice where he went toe to toe with Falcons star receiver Roddy White – did not fare as well in the game. But after some early struggles, he bounced back to deflect a pass.

Much like Hal. Hal had perfect positioning when a receiver ran a go route against him. Despite getting a piece of the ball, the pass was still completed. But the freak catch didn’t affect Hal. On the very next play, he stepped in front of a pass and took it to the house.

Hastily Made Positive Postgame Power Rankings

10. Travis Labhart – Deceptively fast, a grinder, other stereotypes…
9. Ryan Fitzpatrick – Surprisingly effective, and mobile
8. Alfred Blue – Runs with power and solid on special teams
7. Andre Hal – To be a good corner, you’ve got to have a short memory
6. A.J. Bouye – …And these two did Saturday night.
5. Shane Lechler – Makes children dream of being punters.
4. Keshawn Martin – FINALLY showing skills in game situations
3. Kendrick Lewis – The backseat driver YOU ACTUALLY LISTEN TO
2. Jonathan Grimes – Every cliche about a “football player” applies
1. Jadeveon Clowney – …Almost killed a guy

THE BAD

There actually weren’t many negatives to take away from the game. Yes, I’M actually saying that. But let’s rapid fire our way through the few.

  1. The Texans and Falcons combined for a whopping 25 penalties and 226 yards in this game. Sorry, Jeff Triplette, but I don’t play that. And you shouldn’t either. The re-emphasis on illegal contact and defensive holding has been nauseating. But more importantly? Confusing. We’re seeing flags are being thrown for what seems like no reason on a regular basis. An Ed Hochuli explanation or two could go a long way. Until you remember these tune-up games are taking long enough.
  2. No Duane Brown meant the oft criticized Derek Newton got the start at left tackle instead of his typical right. Let’s just say he was awful. Xavier Su’a Filo started for the first time at right guard…and didn’t do much to stand out either. Ben Jones played left guard, while James Ferentz (who) played center and Tyson Clabo attempted to be the right tackle. The unit as a whole had issues in pass protection. Luckily, Fitzpatrick is not a statue like Matt Schaub often was last season.
  3. So much for a competition at kicker. Rookie Chris Boswell missed two extra points. Sure they were from 33 yards out, but that isn’t an excuse. If you’re an NFL kicker, only inclement weather should affect attempts from that range.
  4. I wanted to see Tom Savage get reps with the second string unit. And boy…he struggled. Savage was hesitant to throw the ball downfield, completing 4-5 passes for 8 yards. Averaging 1.6 yards per attempt as a quarterback is the equivalent of misfiring on ALL of those five attempts. After a performance like that, you have to wonder if he’ll return to being third off the bench – behind Case Keenum – like he was in the opener.

 

Paul Gallant hosts the “B-Straw and Pauly G” show – weeknights 7-11 PM – with Brien Straw. Get in contact with Paul on Twitter – @PaulyGSays – or on Facebook – Paul Gallant.

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