Another game is on deck for the struggling Houston Texans and this week the Jacksonville Jaguars are coming to Houston. The expectations are low and rightfully so with the production the Texans have put out this season, but they might have a ray of hope with Jaguars coming to town.
The focus will be on evaluation and what the Texans have in store, good or bad, will be the price of admission.
What To Watch
Progression of Case Keenum
Taking a step back and looking at Keenum with a realistic eye, it will be easy to see that he is struggling within the offense. Take away his big play to Garrett Graham last game, Keenum had 128 yards on 13 completions. Keenum has really struggled with being responsible for his reads on the blitz, which led to him being pulled on Sunday. Another area of concern is his completion percentage in the passing game:
vs. Kansas City, 60%
vs. Indianapolis, 58.8%
vs. Arizona, 51.2%
vs. Oakland, 54.2%
As a starter in the NFL, this is a low number and his completion rate for passes thrown in the 1-10 yard area is 46.8%. There is no mistake that Keenum can produce big plays and put touchdowns on the board, but wins and consistency are the one thing that Keenum needs to prove he can do. Keenum has the opportunity to put together a good game, but if he can't do it against the Jaguars, can he do it at all?
The clock is on Keenum and he has to prove that he can do it as the starter for the Texans. It will be his show here on out because the Texans have to see if he could be the starter for the coming years.
Andre Johnson Watch
After last weeks meltdown, all eyes will be on Johnson and his demeanor on the field. His big play ability has increased with Keenum on the field but this team looks at Johnson for leadership. He is the one player for the Texans that can set the tone for the team and him walking off the field last week showed the amount of frustration this team has put on themselves. Johnson is the exception to the rules and the organization's most decorated player needs to be happy. Getting him back on track is key to finish this season the best they can.
Outside Linebackers Need to Do Something
Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus have had seasons to forget and the position group last registered a sack in week five of the season. Combined they have 5.5 sacks (4.5 by Mercilus, 1 by Reed) this season, and from a production stand point that is unacceptable. Reed at least holds up against the run (36 total tackles) while Mercilus has been struggling with setting the edge in the run game. Mercilus has fallen victim to the screen game too many times, and against the Oakland Raiders he was thinking about it too much and it led to some slow reactions which led to his worst game of the season.
The outside linebackers have been struggling and something positive from them will help this defense produce. They just are not very good football players late in the season and it is getting tough to watch.
Special Teams Is Waking Up
We know it is too late and this is not a vote of confidence for Joe Marciano, but since the bye week the special teams for the Texans have improved. Coverage has tighten up, there has been a punt return for a touchdown and a blocked (not really) punt too. The Texans have improved the bottom of the roster to fix these issues and it has shown these past weeks. Players like Mike Mohamed, Josh Victorian and Elbert Mack have helped bring some consistency to coverage teams and throw in the reemergence of Bryan Braman and steady returns of Keshawn Martin, the group all together have looked improved.
The only problem with this is that special teams play cost the Texans early in the season with penalties and missed field goals. All these positives have been overshadowed with the horrid play by the special teams early in the season. No one pointed it out, but the special teams last week produced 17 (Punt return TD, 3 FGs, 2 PATs) of the 23 points the team scored last week. The special teams kept the Texans in the game for the first time all season.
Coaches Want to Win or Evaluate?
This is probably where the biggest disconnect comes looking from the outside in. There is a consensus that the Texans need to tank and work on getting a better draft pick, but the coaches are honed in on winning a football game. That is all this team wants to do is win and break this ugly streak of losing football, and draft picks are the furthest thing on the minds of all 53 players on the roster and the coaches.
Evaluation needs to take place, but there is a fine line of running players out there just because. It is a sensitive subject among the people who watch the Texans on a daily basis, but winning is the only thing this team is trying to do.