Texans the choice for Hard Knocks

TexansThe Houston Texans will be the featured team on Hard Knocks on HBO for the upcoming season. The series runs five episodes, with the first show airing the week of the opening preseason game, which for the Texans is Tuesday, Aug. 11 for the Texans before their preseason opener against San Francisco in Houston.

Not many members of the Texans team or football staff have been with the featured Hard Knocks team previously. Here’s the list I came up with:

Brian Gaine – asst GM Miami 2012 (current Dir. of Player Personnel)
Mike Devlin – Jets TE coach 2010 (current Texans OL coach)
Johnathan Joseph – Bengals CB 2009
Will Yeatman – Dolphins OT 2012

J.J. Watt will be all over this production to be sure and I think everybody remembers how he was introduced to Hard Knocks fans when the Falcons, the 2014 featured team came to Houston for some preseason practices.

Here’s the full video (NSFW – Mike Tice has a potty mouth) with Watt going up against rookie T Jake Matthews.

 

The other story lines that I will guess will be a part of the show :

– The QB battle: Remember the Texans QB room with Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer, and OC George Godsey, along with Bill O’Brien all were together in New England with Tom Brady. Wonder if any subtle, ball preparation topics get discussed. Also they were together for this little outburst, that may get brought up to illustrate O’Brien’s fiery personality:

 

– Arian Foster is very accommodating with the media when he wants to be – see him making the rounds at a Super Bowl or in sit-down interview with Hannah Storm – not to mention his acting career gets closer every day his NFL career gets shorter.

– JaDeveon Clowney – Injury recovery, rehab have always been a part of Hard Knocks and until they capture one that hasn;t yet happened, this recovery from microfractre surgery is a big one to follow if he is back on the field during training camp.

– There will be a rookie or two that they will focus on, plus the inevitable long-shot rookie, too. I’m guessing Jaelen Strong, since I imagine some focus on Andre Johnson being gong will be a storyline.

I’ve produced the Bill O’Brien TV show for the past couple of seasons and in getting to see his personality a little bit, while I don’t think he’s a big fan of the intrusion of cameras and the time it will pull from him and others, I think he will be quite good on the show. When he was at Penn State in 2013, the Nittany Lions were featured on ESPN’s training days and You can get a pretty good idea of the Bill O’Brien you’ll see on Hard Knocks.

Also if you’re really into seeing what O’Brien is like, here’s a huge video library from the Penn State TV crew from his time as their head coach in 2012 and 2013.

Remember these fisticuffs from last year, though D.J. Swearinger is no longer a Texan.

 

This is one of my all-time favorite clips:

 

On a side note, I have used Hard Knocks for my fantasy football team name several times in the past. Cheeseburgers on the Field from the Jets season was one of them, Tank from the Chiefs season was another. Child, Please was another. (This Chad Johnson clip is a big NSFW)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTrn2aZoZMU

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Watt the MVP, not likely

NFL-Logo-jpgFor weeks, I have said J.J. Watt, not only wasn’t going to win the award, but did not deserve to win the award. But as Aaron Rodgers has finished off his season of not leading the league in passer rating or yards or touchdowns or completion percentage, giving the award to him is no longer the obvious thing to do. While I still believe Rodgers had the best season of any quarterback, narrowly edging the season for Tony Romo, the margin is tiny. With Romo’s brilliant season clearly being aided by tremendous offensive line play and the most prolific individual rushing season in Cowboys franchise history coming from DeMarco Murray, even a vote for him is far from clear.

The idea of an award with the word valuable in it, seems to indicate that value should matter. As in, when this guy plays well, it leads to wins or at least a great chance to win. Looking at the last two seasons for Rodgers and Watt presents a great look at “value.”

Rodgers got hurt in 2013 during the 8th game of the Packers season. When Rodgers got hurt he was fourth in passer rating and the Packers were 5-2. In the eight games last he missed (he was hurt early in their 8th game), Green Bay went 2-5-1 and their quarterbacks produced a 75.7 rating, which over the course of a season would have ranked 26th league-wide. They missed the playoffs for the only time in the last six seasons with Rodgers as the starting quarterback. This season he led them to an 11-5 mark, while throwing 38 touchdowns against just five interceptions. He ranked behind only Tony Romo in passer rating.

In Watt’s case, in 2013, he wasn’t all-worldly, but he was very good for 16 games. He had 10.5 sacks and led the NFL in quarterback hits. He was 1st team All-Pro. But Houston was a 2-14 team, losing their final 14 games in a row to close out the season.

This season he had 20.5 sacks for the second time in his career, becoming the only player in NFL history to post multiple seasons of 20 or more sacks. He was absolutely all-worldly, scoring 32 points on top of being the most dominant defensive player the league has maybe ever seen. The best quarterback never misses the playoffs in the NFL, especially not now, with the rules set up as they are now, so clearly benefiting offenses.

The best individual season by a defensive layer in the history of the league was just turned in by Watt, yet his team won just nine games and six of those wins came against the five worst teams in the league. But before I completely bury Watt, let’s take a look at his domination.

J.J. Watt led the league in quarterback hits for the third consecutive season. That’s impressive. What’s more impressive is the margin between Watt and the next best guy. Watt had 50 quarterback hits. No other player had 40. Or even 30. The two most prolific quarterback smashers combined had 56 quarterback hits, a mere six more that Watt had on his own. (Dunlap and Miller combined for 1853 snaps, while Watt had 1050). His pattern of nearly lapping the field in this category is nothing new.

Quarterback hits
2014: Watt 50, Von Miller & Carlos Dunlap 28
2013: Watt 46, Robert Quinn 34
2012: Watt 43, Cameron Wake 33

No player has had more than one season of 30 or more quarterback hits since 2000…except for Watt and he has three consecutive seasons of 43 or more quarterback hits.

Watt also led the NFL in tackles for loss for the 2nd time in the last three seasons.

Tackles For Loss
2014: Watt 29, Houston 23
2013: Quinn 23, Watt 22
2012: Watt 39, Miller 28

It was a tremendous season for Watt defensively, and as seen above, but he also scored 32 points. He caught three passes – all for touchdowns, the final two of which would make any NFL wide receiver proud. He picked off a pass and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown in a game the Texans won by six points. And he scooped up an Andrew Luck fumble, one of his league-leading five fumble recoveries on the season, and returned that 55 yards for a touchdown, too. He scored points in six games. The Texans were 5-1 in those games.

So Aaron Rodgers was arguably the best quarterback his season. Not clearly or overwhelming better than Tony Romo or Tom Brady. And possibly no more valuable than Andrew Luck.

J.J. Watt unquestionably was the best player at his position in the league. He was unquestionably the best player on defense in the league as well. He did things the league hasn’t seen in 50 years, 60 years in some cases. For instance, he was the first player in more than 50 years to have a touchdown reception, interception returned for a touchdown and fumble recovery for a touchdown in the same season. He was the first player since 1956 to have more than one touchdown in a season on offense and defense.

And none of what he did was aided by an emphasis on rule enforcement (illegal contact) that saw a record nine quarterbacks amass 30 touchdown passes. The league had never had a season with more than five quarterbacks throwing 30 or more scores.

Alright, hang on a second, the Watt hyperbole has gone too far, right? What about Justin Houston in Kansas City?

Justin Houston has 22 sacks, topping Watt’s 20.5. He also played for a 9-7 team. He was second to Watt in tackles for loss with  23 and fifth to Watt in quarterback hits with 25. He even had four fumbles forced, just like Watt (though he had zero recoveries, unlike Watt who led the league with five). The Chiefs defense also had only 14 takeaways, only the Jets had fewer. The Texans defense had a league-high 34 turnovers. So enough of that.

And again, while the perception is that Aaron Rodgers was clearly the best quarterback in the league, the numbers do not support that. He was 3rd in touchdowns, 2nd in passer rating, 2nd in yards per attempt, 7th in passing yards, 1st in lowest interception rate. He was 9th in completion percentage, one spot behind Jay Cutler.

But having said all that, I think Aaron Rodgers wins the award. It is virtually impossible to argue that a defensive player in this era of football, impacts the game in such a way that he can more directly lead to victories and thus have more value.

But if it’s any solace, the non-existent award for the best player in the NFL in 2014, goes to J.J. Watt. If 50 people had a vote, it should be 50-0. Every other elite player had a season in 2014 comparable to other players at the their position this season or comparable to recent seasons put up by their contemporaries. (DeMarco Murray had a Dallas Cowboys franchise record 1,845 yards rushing. A number topped twice in the last five seasons in the NFL.) The season Watt produced, had no equals – ever.

NFL Pro Bowl predictions

NFL-Logo-jpgClearly J.J. Watt will hear his name announced Tuesday night when Pro Bowl announcements are made. The Texans defensive end is the best defensive player on the planet. Texans running back Arian Foster should also be selected.

Any other Texans selected would be surprising. DeAndre Hopkins is 11th in the NFL in receiving yards, but Jeremy Maclin, Randall Cobb and Odell Beckham could easily be considered ahead of him, along with the 8 selections.

Duane Brown, as a two-time Pro Bowler will draw consideration, but he’d have to be considered among the top 6 tackles in the NFL to make the cut and I don’t think he was.

Here are my selections at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end. Remember, conference affiliation no longer matters in Pro Bowl voting.

QB
Tony Romo (DAL)
Aaron Rodgers (GB)
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT)
Tom Brady (NE)
Peyton Manning (DEN)
Phillip Rivers (SD)

RB
DeMarco Murray (DAL)
Le’Veon Bell (PIT)
Arian Foster (HOU)
Marshawn Lynch (SEA)
Justin Forsett (BAL)
Eddie Lacy (GB)

WR
Antonio Brown (PIT)
Julio Jones (ATL)
Jordy Nelson (GB)
Demaryius Thomas (DEN)
Dez Bryant (DAL)
T.Y. Hilton (IND)
Emmanuel Sanders (DEN)
Golden Tate (DET)

TE
Rob Gronkowski (NE
Antonio Gates (SD)
Greg Olsen (CAR)
Martellus Bennett (CHI)

Texans snap counts vs Jaguars

Here are the Texans offensive snap counts vs Jaguars in week 14.

Wk14vsTitansSnapsO

Here are the Texans defensive snap counts vs. Jaguars in week 14.

Wk14vsTitansSnapsD

Notes:

– Just seven plays for rookie guard Xavier Su’a-Filo. He took slightly more than half the reps at guard a week ago splitting time with Ben Jones and played well. Just wasn’t used in this game.

– With Garrett Graham inactive due t an ankle injury, Ryan Griffin got the majority of the work at tight end, he was in on 50 of the 66 offensive plays, while Fiedorowicz playing just 20 snaps. Griffin is clearly the pass-catching option, although with Fitzpatrick only throwing 19 passes, Griffin was targeted just once. He found himself wide open inide the five-yard line and had Fitzpatrick gotten the ball to him just a tad quicker, he probably would have scored following the 25-yard catch. He had to go to the ground to get it and being so open, he was nearly able to flip himself into the endzone before a Jaguar touched him down. Rookie tight end Anthony Denham made his NFL debut recording his first special teams tackle. He also lined up at wideout at least once during the game.

– After Andre Johnson left the game with a concussion in the first half, Houston was left with just three active receivers, Hopkins who got 61 snaps, along with Damaris Johnson and Keshawn Martin, who each saw their most extended playing time. Johnson was in for 49 snaps, while Martin got 46. DeVier Posey has been healthy and inactive for all 13 games this season, that could change, finally, this week when the team is at the Colts.

– Kareem Jackson returned to the lineup after missing the last three games with a knee injury and took all but two snaps. Johnathan Joseph also handled a full workload with 68 snaps. The third corner, somewhat surprisingly, continues to be clearly be A.J. Bouye, who played 48 snaps. Darryl Morris only got nine snaps and Jumal Rolle had zero snaps with the defense.

– No word on an injury, yet, with OLB Whitney Mercilus who saw 41 snaps in the game, although it appeared all of them came in the first half. He was on the sidelines, still in full uniform, during the second half. With Jadeveon Clowney out and soon to be on injured reserve, the Texans only remaining outside linebackers are Brooks Reed (53 snaps) and John Simon (20 snaps).

– Five players were used exclusively on special teams: CB Jumal Rolle, SS Eddie Pleasant, LB Jeff Tarpinian, LB Justin Tuggle and RB Jonathan Grimes. Rolle had been playing very well as recently as last week, when he picked off his team-leading third pass, but got zero snaps defensively.