Texans preseason game number 3 is done . . . and we’re oh so close to games with actual meaning. How are we feeling after the Texans took down the Saints 27 – 13?
So is the “But Ryan Mallett Is An Unknown” brigade done whining about “the lack of a fair chance” he got? Because despite no functioning running game, Brian Hoyer has taken the Texans on two game opening touchdown drives (against the 49ers, Saints) this preseason. On Sunday, Hoyer started the game 3-3 for 45 yards . . . AND saw what should have been a ridiculous touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins wiped out by a bad call. Hoyer finished 7-11 for 82 yards, leading the Texans to a field goal his second drive under center.
What I like most about Hoyer? For a “game manager”, he sure takes risks. That said, is lobbing up a ball in traffic to DeAndre Hopkins actually a risk? These days, it’s gambling with free money. Which is the only concept that could actually get my cheap ass to gamble . . .
PS – I think we can safely guess which receivers the Texans will roll into 2015 with:
DeAndre Hopkins, Nate Washington, and Cecil Shorts will start. Jaelen Strong – who had a solid game with 5 catches for 40 yards and a touchdown – will round out the roster along with Keith Mumphery – who had 2 catches for 24 yards AND was the first punt returner on the field for Houston. With depth issues at running back and on the offensive line, I just can’t see the Texans starting the year with more than 5 wideouts on the 53.
It’s tough not to be excited about Brian Cushing’s 2015 potential. He was extremely active and quick from point A to point B Sunday. Even better? For the second straight week he unleashed his inner defensive back – this time almost intercepting a Drew Brees pass in the shadow of his own goal posts.
On paper – which yes, is a cliché saying – the Texans defense could be incredible. IF they can conquer all the “What Ifs?”. The three biggest:
- How much does Vince Wilfork have left in the tank?
- Will Jadeveon Clowney be able to show the freak athleticism he flashed at South Carolina?
- And of course the biggest question: will we ever see the Brian Cushing of ~ 2 years ago?
I’ve got no answer for those first two questions, but I’m feeling pretty good about Cushing right now.
PS – Let’s keep talking about that defense. Rookie cornerback Kevin Johnson looks like the real deal. He plays like fictional Rudy at practice – with an unrelenting effort and intensity – and is surprisingly physical for such a lean player. Johnson might get a few illegal contact flags thrown his way once the regular season starts, but it’s refreshing to see a rookie corner who plays the position as if
Bill Polian never ruined the league the NFL never re-emphasized the penalty.
PPS – If not for Hard Knocks, we probably wouldn’t know Charles James the person. I’m glad we’ve gotten a closer look. Yes, his 73 yard TD run was called back by a holding (a hold that probably wasn’t needed) flag. But if that play – and James never letting go of the ball when he went back to the sideline – didn’t have you smiling, you don’t have a soul.
Mallett got off to a rocky start in relief duty – starting the game 2 – 5 for 9 yards and starting his stint under center with back to back three and outs. His third drive led to a field goal, with an awkward Chris Polk run call on 3rd and 10 ultimately setting up Randy Bullock.
Don’t get me wrong, Ry-guy wasn’t bad. But how many people are still upset naming Hoyer the starting quarterback over Mallett? I doubt there are many.
The Walking Game
The Texans running game has played like True Detective Season 2: a plodding turtle. I like me some Jonathan Grimes, but the rest of the group? It’s a tough watch. The Texans rushed the ball 36 times for 82 yards on Sunday. They averaged just 2.3 yards a carry. That is awful . . . and is unlikely to change before Arian Foster returns to the field. The problem with that question? Nobody knows when that will be.
The Big Question Mark
Does anyone have a sense of how the return battle is playing out? I don’t. I think it’s between Keith Mumphery and Chandler Worthy. But as far as punt returns – which we only say 1 of (an 8 yard Worthy return) – and kick returns (the Texans never returned a kick) – it was impossible for the Texans to get a better sense of who they should have back deep.
Paul Gallant co-hosts the “B-Straw and Pauly G” show – weeknights 7-11 PM on SportsRadio 610. He also hosts SportsZone Unfiltered – Fridays at 10 PM – on The Kube: Channel 57. Get in touch with Paul via email or at his facebook page: Paul Gallant: SportsRadio610.