The Miami Dolphins travel to face the Houston Texans this Sunday. To get a better idea of what we should expect from the Dolphins and the Texans this weekend, I turned to an outstanding community SB Nation's Texans blog, Battle Red Blog. Tim McHale, Battle Red Blog's managing editor, was kind enough to take some time and answer my questions about the Texans.
Kevin Nogle (KN): How healthy are the Texans? After last year's bloodbath that seemed to be every Houston game, are they ready to go full strength this year? (Read: Is there any chance Miami can come in and not have to face all those weapons?)
Tim McHale (TM): The Texans come into Sunday's game in very good shape. Arian Foster and Brooks Reed left practice early today with minor ailments, and Brian Cushing has been held out the past couple of weeks with bruised ribs, but everyone is expected to be ready to go on Sunday. Now, that's not to say the Texans won't suffer any number of crippling injuries at some point; they surely got the short end of that stick last year. But as far as Sunday goes, they should be in good shape. Consequently, the Dolphins will face a Texans squad at full strength, which is something that we haven't been able to say in quite some time.
KN: Who was Houston's biggest acquisition this year? What new name should we watch for this week?
TM: After being very active in free agency in 2011, the Texans were extraordinarily quiet on that front this past offseason. Their biggest acquisitions were from the draft. Two of those rookies, though not starters, should see multiple snaps on Sunday. Keep an eye on Whitney Mercilus (he'll rotate in at OLB) and Keshawn Martin (he should get some time in the slot).
KN: Who is set to have a breakout year this season?
TM: It might be ridiculous to say that a guy who notched 11.5 sacks last year is going to break out, but Connor Barwin is primed for a monster season. He's in the final year of his contract, and Wade Phillips' system is perfect for him. Even though Mario Williams played less than five (5) full games last year, Barwin played 2011 in Super Mario's shadow. Now, with Mario gone, Barwin is set to explode onto the national landscape. As much as I'd like to see Barwin in a Texans uniform for the next several years, I'd say there's a very good chance that another team (likely one that runs a 3-4) pays him a metric ton of money as a free agent in a few months. I have a feeling that what he's about to do this season will justify that decision.
KN: Last season, Houston fans were just hoping to finally see the Texans make the playoffs. Now, they are being picked to make the Super Bowl, or even win it (including my Super Bowl pick both last year and this year). As a fan base, are you all in on this year? Is it a sense of Super Bowl or bust? Or are you guys still riding the wave of last year's success?
TM: It's an odd time to be a Texans fan. We're so used to being an also-ran or outright disappointment that this newfound legitimacy is a bit offputting. I wouldn't say the majority of the fan base is of the "Super Bowl or Bust!" mindset, though many of us do think we have a good shot at being one of the last teams standing. We are, however, expecting to win the AFC South and, given what the Texans were able to accomplish last year, I believe the majority of us believe the Texans are primed to advance even farther than the divisional round. That felt really, really weird to type. A Texans fan with postseason expectations? What is this world coming to?
KN: If you were game planning against the Texans, what would you see as the weaknesses of on both sides of the ball?
TM: If I'm in charge of Miami's offense, I'm doing two things--running up the gut of the Texans' run defense and throwing at Kareem Jackson as much as possible. If I'm in charge of Miami's defense, I'm testing the new right side of Houston's offensive line early and often. Make Antoine Caldwell and Derek Newton show they're not the weak link.
Here's to a great game and good health to both teams on Sunday. Best of luck
I want to say thank you to Tim for taking the time to give us a better look into the Texans.