HOUSTON — For the Houston Texans, containing quarterback Russell Wilson appears to be the top game-plan entering Sunday's Week 2 contest against the 0-1 Denver Broncos.
"It’s been that way for some time," coach Lovie Smith said. "I had an opportunity to go against him, of course. We played him last year. I’d say we’re dealing with some similar things offensively with him. As I mentioned, mobile, accurate thrower, smart decisions, that kind of opens everything else up."
Trying to keep Wilson from utilizing the attributes that have made him a first-ballot Hall of Famer is a tall order for any team. But amid trying to slow down Wilson, the Texans will be tasked with the obstacle of containing arguably the best wide receiver tandem he has ever played with.
Houston's secondary will have to find a way to defend the Broncos' wide receiver corps, headlined by third-year prospect Jerry Jeudy and veteran Courtland Sutton. Denver's prominent duo caught a combined eight catches for 174 yards and a touchdown during the Broncos' 17-16 Week 1 defeat to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday.
The dynamic duo of Jeudy and Sutton provides different challenges on an individual level. But it takes an entire secondary playing on one accord in hopes of leaving Empower Field at Mile High with a victory.
"You have to do a good job with understanding the spots they are in," safety Eric Murray said. "It gives you anticipation of what they are going to do. Courtland Sutton is more of an individual rout guy. Jerry Jeudy is going to be a part of a lot of rout concepts.
"That helps you narrow it down to what they are going to do during the game, and that is where you focus the most."
The Texans would have been at a disadvantage if they had to play the Broncos with their previous secondary unit. During the 2021 campaign, Houston's secondary gave up an average of 340.0 passing yards en route to a 4-13 record.
But with the addition of rookies Derek Stingley Jr. and Jalen Pitre, the Texans' secondary corps is better suited to match up against the talents of Jeudy and Sutton.
"Both guys play with really great vision," Murray said. "That is what this whole defense is built upon. With us playing so much zone coverage, that vision is important for all of us to get to the ball and to see everything going on with the quarterback."
Will rookie running back Dameon Pierce receive more touches in Denver?
The anticipated debut of rookie running back Dameon Pierce did not live up to the hype against the Colts. Pierce finished the game with 33 yards on 11 carries as the Texans utilized veteran Rex Burkhead more in the backfield.
After the offense had problems establishing the run against the Colts, Smith said on Monday there is a chance he will play Pierce more moving forward, which could begin against the Broncos.
But before Pierce can officially take the helm as the Texans' primary back, Smith would like to see the rookie prospect improve in his pass blocking and other on-field attributes that do not involve carries.
Pierce revealed on Friday that running backs coach Danny Barrett takes additional measures to help with his development. One of the notions Barrett has done to help Pierce improve his pass protection is to allow him to spend time with the offensive line during practice.
Pierce said it gives him a chance to examine what the offensive linemen are thinking in hopes of getting on the same page.
"That's something I am always trying to improve — especially with coach D.B. [Danny Barrett]," Pierce said. "The best thing for me to do is to embrace those challenges. I am going full steam ahead. I know I have guys behind me supporting me if I ever fall off."
Hard coaching decisions
Smith wasn't the only head coach who ended Week 1 with a controversial decision. During the Broncos' loss to the Seahawks, coach Nathaniel Hackett decided to kick a 64-yard field goal on 4th-and-5.
Smith, who settled for a tie by punting on 4th-and-3 inside the Colts' territory, never wavered from his decision. Hackett said if he had a second chance, he would have selected to go for it.
Sunday's match between the Texans and Broncos will give both coaches a chance at redemption with a much-needed win.
"That’s what I did then, and that’s what I’d do now," Smith said. "Once we got to fourth-and-3, we didn’t like our odds. The way we had played the previous plays and how we were playing defense, you have a decision to make then on a tie or a potential loss. We’ll see how it turns out the rest of the year on that decision."
- Due to personal reasons, veteran center Justin Britt will miss his first game of the season. According to Pro Football Network, the Texans will replace Britt with Scott Quessenberry as the starting center.
- The Broncos will be without All-Pro safety Justin Simmons against the Texans. Simmons is out due to a thigh injury.
- Since Wilson entered the league in 2012, the Texans have yet to beat the nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback. In three career games against the Texans, Wilson is undefeated. Dating back to the 2013 campaign, Wilson has recorded 835 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions while posting a passer rating of 102.4.
"Two weeks in a row we’re facing a future Hall of Fame quarterback," safeties coach Joe Danna said. "He [Wilson] knows the game. There’s nothing that he sees on Sunday that he hasn’t seen before. A good decision-maker. A good athlete who has got good arm strength. The total package — so we’ll have our hands full.”
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