10 Thoughts from the Texans vs. 49ers
Patrick D. Starr
Life is good when you win, but we have to remind ourselves this is only preseason. I hate to tell you but it is nice to see a different team and mentality on the field. The Houston Texans improved their preseason record to 3-0 with a 30-7 win over the San Fransisco 49ers. It the NFL dominant teams still have to beat the inferior teams, and the Texans dominated the 49ers after the first play from scrimmage.
There was vast improvement on special teams and the defense continued to progressively look better in game three. The offense looked sharp despite their three turnovers, which only one really hurt them (Returned for a TD).
It is encouraging to see the Texans look like a totally different team from 2010, and it has shown from day one. Here are ten random thought from the Texans preseason win.
1. Arian Foster, Xavier Adibi and Glover Quin all exited with injuries in the game. Foster re-aggravated his hamstring injury, and he looked good in all of his touches the past two games. Fingers are crossed he can get healthy before the week one clash with the Indianapolis Colts. Adibi suffered a stinger and Quin left after making a tackle. Quin says he will be ready for the opener and it looks like Foster will be taking it easy to see if he can get ready to go for the season opener.
2. Troy Nolan showed he is a play-maker with two picks (one was returned for a TD) and some nice tackles. Even in a lackluster defensive scheme in 2010, Nolan still made plays, and against the 49ers Nolan took full advantage of his opportunity. He seems to have a knack for the football and makes big plays, and in the NFL teams need depth, which he provides.
3. Turnovers! This is a word that has been non existent in Houston football vocabulary when it comes to defense. The Texans have caused seven turnovers (4 fumbles and 3 ints) which have made the defense a story within itself. If the defense can improve to a middle of the league defense, it will dramatically increase the Texans chance for wins.
4. If you haven't noticed but J.J. Watt is a man, and is on the track to prove he was the right pick for the Texans in the NFL draft. Watt has looked like a rookie at time, especially in the New Orleans Saints game, but has made enough impact plays from the 5 technique position (DE) to make him an early fan favorite in Houston. Watt has done it by pressuring the quarterback, knocking down passes and making plays in the backfield, but most importantly he has a never say die attitude. He has taken pressure off his other teammates and given opposing offenses another player to worry about on the defensive side of the ball.
5. I wasn't for the move of James Casey to the fullback position, but his ability to give the offense another dimension on offense should make Texnas' fans forget the name Vonta Leach. Casey causes match up problems for the defense by making them decide to who they want to cover him with, either a linebacker or a defensive back. He is opening up so much for the offense with his new position that he will give Matt Schuab another target in the passing game. Casey has also proved that his run blocking is nothing to laugh at, he is not a a battering ram but he does a great job of putting his nose in there and moving opposing players.
6. People have been talking about Brian Cushing's knee and how it will hold up during the season. In his second game action of the preseason, Cushing looked active and made some plays out on the field. Cushing is better on the move, blitzes, because he can beat players to the point of attack with his speed. He was all over the field putting hits on the quarterback, covering tight ends and taking on full backs. It was good to see him playing at a different speed and with DeMeco Ryans the Texans have a chance to have a great 1-2 punch in the middle, if their health permits.
7. Mario Williams have five quarterback pressures in twenty snaps according to head coach Gary Kubiak. Williams has progressively improved at the outside linebacker position during the preseason. He even showed his athleticism when he hurdled a running back to put a questionable roughing the passer penalty on Alex Smith. Mario is getting better at the position, despite what the stat sheet says he is drawing much needed attention from other defensive players. Watt, Antonio Smith, Connor Barwin and others look like real players because of their ability to dominate in one on one situations. Williams was the offenses primary focus in years before, but with the new scheme there are plenty of options to help Mario become a real force on defense.
8. Special teams are still a concern for the Texans. Sherrick McManis returned kickoffs and Jacoby Jones and Shiloh Keo returned punts. It seems the shuffle is one to find the right combination for their returners. McManis, Keo, Quintin Demps, Derrick Townsel and Danieal Manning have all returned kickoffs during the preseason. It looks like Jones will probably take over the punt return duties for the season and he looked pretty good despite his fumble on one of his returns. Dominique Barber caused a fumble on punt coverage that was covered by Chris Ogbonnaya, which was a good sign for a struggling special teams.
9. It's hard not to get excited about the new look Texans, but we all need to remind ourselves it is only preseason. It is nice to be 3-0 and look like a team on a mission, but too bad these wins don't count. I like the facts that Texans are winning games, something that is foreign to Texans fans. Let's keep the faith and hope that the Texans can build confidence from their early success in the preseason.
10. Fans look around and see the Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning came to Houston as great free agent acquisitions. I think the best free season pick up in the NFL has to be the fact Wade Phillips came back to his hometown. Phillips has changed the culture of a team and this is evident with what the defense looks like now. The offense should feel confident to play their game and let the defense handle theirs. Against the 49ers it was fun to watch the defense on the field and it was nice to see the Texans dominate an inferior team.