October 14, 2014
Texans Portrait of Mediocrity
by Bob Hulsey
Through six weeks of Bill O'Brien's first season as Texans head coach, his squad is 3-3 and tied for eighth in the AFC - a study in mediocrity. They've blown out their opponent once and been blown out once. They've fought hard in the other four games, winning two and losing two.
The good news is that they still have all four games with Tennessee and Jacksonville ahead on their schedule. They seem capable of winning at least three of these matchups. The bad news is that they still have all four games left on the docket with the rugged AFC North and dates with Philadelphia and Indianapolis. The Texans appear on target for six-to-eight wins and a draft position somewhere between 8-13 next April in Chicago.
Defensive lineman J.J. Watt has been out of this world on defense. He's also scored three touchdowns. He's getting a lot of early talk about winning the league's MVP award but, beware, players on defense almost never win this award and players whose teams aren't in the marquee games usually don't either. It probably helps that he's doing some national tv commercials to increase his visibility.
Overall first-round pick Jadeveon Clowney was hurt early in the first game and is due back soon. I'm still excited to see a second pass rusher disrupt the offense and take blockers away from Watt. If Clowney can provide that, an already stingy defense may be able to take things up another notch.
Through six games, the Texans are fourth in the league in scoring defense (20.0 ppg) but 27th in yards allowed (397.2 ypg), exhibiting a bend-but-don't break ability that had often eluded past Houston teams. The Texans are +4 in turnover margin.
On offense, we can conclude a healthy Arian Foster is key to their success. Foster is second in the AFC in rushing yards after six weeks with 513 yards on the ground. He's also added 131 yards in receptions.
Journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been both gritty and frustrating at times. His 211 passing yards per game rank a paltry 26th in the league and his QB rating (86.1) is 24th. He's thrown for six touchdowns and six interceptions. Some have already pegged him as the weak link in the offense but behind him are two quarterbacks with very little NFL experience - Ryan Mallett and Tom Savage. For now, Fitzpatrick gives the Texans the best chance to win and it will probably stay that way, barring injury, until the Texans are out of playoff contention.
While special teams have had their moments, the return game has been anything but special. Shane Lechler is 13th in the league in net punting average. Fellow Aggie Randy Bullock is 9-for-11 in field goal attempts. The top five draft picks have not shown much thus far, though low-round picks like Alfred Blue and Andre Hal have shown well in reserve duties. It's too early to call this draft class a bust - more like an incomplete.
Two of the next three weeks will be road contests before the November 9th bye week. After another road trip to Cleveland, the Texans will close with four of their last six games at home.
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