With the game just a few days away, Tim from Battle Red Blog, SBN's Texans blog, and I decided to exhange a few questions about each other's team and this week's game. His responses to my questions are below. Be sure to head over to Battle Red Blog to see my responses to his queries about the Fins.
Matt Schaub has been freaking ridiculous thus far. I always temper that answer by asking the reader to understand that I'm easily impressed; I mean, we had to deal with five (5) years of subpar QB play, so the slightest sense of pocket presence and good decision-making leaves me gushing like a school girl. Despite the fact that I'm easy to please, The Schaub has looked like he has a complete mastery of the offense and knows how to successfully play QB in this league. He gets rid of the ball quickly, and he seems to have an uncanny ability to take what the defense gives him, particulary in the middle of the field. He's made some poor decisions in the red zone; in fact, that's really the only area that I'd say he's prone to forcing the action. It's just four (4) games into what I hope is a ten-year tenure, but so far I'd have to say that Matt Schaub has looked worth every bit of two (2) second-round picks and a swap of first round picks, especially because that swap still netted us Amobi Okoye at No. 10.
The loss of Andre Johnson is obviously a big one, though I believe I heard he was "close" to returning (correct me if I'm wrong on that). So in the meantime, how have the team's other receivers fared in Johnson's absence? Are you confident they can get open against Miami's relatively weak secondary?
'Dre has missed the last (2) games, and he's not expected to play this week either; in fact, he may miss next week's game against Jacksonville as well. To compound his absence, the Texans also lost their other primary deep threat (and special teams demon), rookie Jacoby Jones, in the Indy game; he is likely out this week as well.
So the Texans have been left with a severely depleted WR corps that saw them dress only three (3) wideouts last week--Kevin Walter (a possession receiver), Andre' "Apostrophe" Davis (inactive for the first three weeks), and David Anderson (signed last week after being cut in training camp). Davis was HUGE last week (117 yards, 1 TD), and I expect he'll be Schaub's primary deep threat again this week. Walter was solid (77 receiving yards) as well; expect him to work underneath the defense. The most underrated receiving weapon? TE Owen Daniels, who is a nearly automatic 50-60 yards per game. I expect a big game out of him as well.
That Texans defense has played surprisingly well so far, especially against the run. What's been the key to this Houston defense thus far and do you think they can continue to play at this high level?
The Houston front seven is rather stout, which it should be when the line features three (3) former first round picks and the MLB is the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year. The key, in my opinion, is that ROY--DeMeco Ryans. He makes everything go. But the additions of Amobi Okoye (four sacks) and a healthy Mario Williams have firmed up the line as well. Okoye is simply a beast in the middle, and opposing offensive coordinators have nearly given up running outside to Mario's side of the field, as he's quick enough to catch RBs before they turn the corner.
Barring injury, I do believe the Texans can sustain this level of success stopping the run all year. The real problem is stopping the pass. Or to put it more succinctly, stopping the pass on Petey Faggins' side of the field. Watch for the Dolphins to pick on him all day long.
How do you think the Texans will attack this Dolphins defense? Miami's weakness all year long has been stopping the run, but running the ball hasn't been the strength of Houston's offense. Will they look to attack this run defense despite averaging just 3.3 ypc or will they take to the air early?
Against Atlanta's below-average run defense last week, the Texans got little done. Still, Kubiak has made clear that running the ball remains the primary objective, so I'd expect him to attempt to pound Ron Dayne between the tackles in the hopes that Houston can take advantage of Miami's allegedly poor run defense. I only expect any modicum of success on the ground to come if Ahman Green is able to play. There's a reason Ron Dayne is on his third NFL team, and it's not because he's in high demand. If Green can't go, the Texans will try to establish the run; when it becomes clear that it's not working, they'll rely almost entirely on Matt Schaub to pick apart the defense.
How do you see this game playing out? What is the key for Houston and what do you think will be the end result?
The key to the game will be the secondary of each team. I think both teams will neutralize the run, so it's going to be on the QBs and secondaries to determine the outcome of this game. The Texans will give up a big play or three, but I ultimately believe Matt Schaub will outplay Trent Green, who will be under severe pressure all day. It's going to be ugly...Houston 20, Miami 17.
Big thanks to Tim for taking the time out to do this. Also, be sure to head over to Battle Red Blog to see my responses to his questions.