The POGs: Carolina Edition

Patrick D. Starr

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - In the first pre-season game of the Texans' 2012 football season, they overwhelmed a Carolina Panthers team that have high hopes heading into this year. Although there were mistakes made by the Texans, it was a strong performance by the reigning AFC South Champs. Pre-season games are typically used to get your starters in a rhythm but more importantly a way to gauge your rookies and second team players.

The Texans' defense seemingly picked up where they left off last year. It is hard to imagine this group being another top 5 defense, simply because it is so hard to maintain, but if last night was any indication, look out league. With 8 total sacks in the game and two takeaways, Bulls On Parade were especially impressive in the second half by managing a shutout and holding the Panthers to 13 total yards.

Defensive Player of the Game:

For this reason, I am giving the defensive player of the game to the entire defensive unit - as well as the coaches. It is hard to pick just one player that stood out above and beyond but here is my list of defensive players that lead the unit.

Brooks Reed, in limited action, was all over the field and able to get a sack for his relentless effort. Rookie first round pick, Whitney Mercilus, registered 1.5 sacks and gave the second team Panthers' offensive line fits all night. Inside linebacker, Tim Dobbins, filled in nicely with 1.5 sacks and some solid tackling. The third team made their way onto the field mid to late third quarter and maintained the theme of dominance. Undrafted hopeful, outside linebacker D.J. Bryant, made his presence felt by continuously harassing quarterback Jimmy Clausen. His efforts were rewarded with his first NFL sack. All this without their two better if not best players in Brian Cushing and J.J. Watt.

Offensive Player of the Game:

As mentioned, pre-season games provide only a limited sampling of plays for starters but collectively the offensive unit or units put up 375 total yards. It appeared Kubiak wanted to get Schaub and the passing game going early and often as the Texans came out throwing. Schaub followed his progressions, connected and looked in rhythm for the most part. However, the running game is arguably the offense's strength. The offensive player of the game goes to running backs Ben Tate and undrafted rookie Jonathan Grimes.

Tate was running with such violence that I can't help but think this guy is headed for a 1,000 yard plus season. He led all rushers with 38 yards on 7 attempts in limited action. He appears on a mission.

Grimes finished with 37 yards on 9 carries, a touchdown, and 1 reception for 13 yards, which came on a 3rd and 9 play. Grimes looks the part and may turn out to be a good fit for this system long-term. Other players such as Keshawn Martin, Lestar Jean and Garrett Graham were impressive as well in the debut. If this offense can put up 20+ points a game combined with the defense’s efforts, this could be what we all expect – a very strong year.

Special Teams Player of the Game:

The special teams player of the game goes to Trindon Holliday. Although he received some good blocking on his 90 yard kickoff return for a touchdown, it was his vision and world-class speed that finished the run. Not only did he have the one big return, but Holliday amassed 182 total return yards, including 159 in kickoff returns.

Having Holliday as your full-time returner is a high risk high reward solution, however. The risk is you only have 53 spots on the roster of which only 46 can suit up each week, so Holliday, who will be used only in return scenarios (and maybe an occassional reverse), will take up a roster spot. The obvious reward is that he is explosive enough to score or at least set up a big return every time he touches the ball. It will be interesting to see how Holliday fairs throughout pre-season and how the Texans proceed.

Overall, it was a solid first pre-season game. The test this week is NFC power and last year’s NFC Championship finalist, San Francisco.

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