Take a look at this picture to the left.
Despite nearly 400 yards of offense and five trips inside Carolina’s 20-yard line, this was the ONLY time the Texans offense found its way into the end zone during their 26-13 preseason victory over the Panthers last Saturday.
But I digress. The Texans only scored touchdowns on 48% of their red zone possessions last season, good for 23rd in the NFL. And they were 1 for 5 Saturday in Charlotte. For a nit-picker like myself, this is a frustrating trend. Especially in a season where the Texans will have to match points with teams like the Bears, Broncos, Lions, Packers, and Patriots.
Gary Kubiak shares my opinion.
“I would attribute it to bad execution,” explained Kubiak. “The field gets smaller down there and you got to make little plays. If we play better in the red zone, there’s a lot more points. Getting down there was a good thing, but it was a negative as far as what we did offensively.”
Kubiak and I would both agree that with Schaub, Johnson, and Foster buckled up for a full 60, this team would be more efficient in the red zone. And also, that a large part of the Texans failures last year were a result of rookie T.J. Yates playing quarterback.
Still, the Texans have two new starters on the right side of the offensive line. One of whom – Rashad Butler – had a rough time against the Panthers Saturday in pass protection. Meanwhile, former tight end Joel Dreessen (now a Bronco) had five touchdown receptions in the red zone last season. It’ll be tough to replace his production, because with his size, he was a matchup nightmare.
Owen Daniels is obviously still the number one tight end. But from the look of things, some combo of James Casey and Garrett Graham will have to fill the 6’4 245 lb void. Graham, who had three catches for 44 yards and moved the sticks on two third downs, looks like he may be that guy.
“Whatever they ask me to do, I’m going to try and do it my best,” said Graham. “If that’s running routes or blocking, I’d definitely love to contribute more.”
He’ll have a chance to contribute more Saturday at Reliant, as he and the rest of the Texans’ offense will look to break into the end zone against San Francisco. The 49ers have an elite defense, and will provide the Texans with quality reps. If Houston’s starters can bust into the end zone a few times, we’ll all be feeling very confident entering the regular season.
That being said, Carolina’s kitten-esque defense (28th in the league last year) held the Texans touchdown-less four out of five times in the red zone Saturday.
Let’s see if a REAL challenge brings out the Texans’ best Saturday night.