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

Light pre-game reading: Texans (4-5) at Browns (6-3)

– After Brian Hoyer starts on Sunday, he’ll have the fewest completions among quarterbacks who have started every game this season. He currently ranks ahead of only one quarterback  – the Texans Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was benched for today’s game in favor of Ryan Mallett.

– Cleveland leads the AFC with 13 interceptions and second in the NFL. Nine of the 13 interceptions have come in the last four games against Blake Bortles, Matt Schaub, Mike Glennon and Andy Dalton. Here’s synopsis of their 13 picks.

Dalton (3) – He ranks 28th (of 31) in passer rating, in short, Dalton has been the biggest quarterback disappointment in the NFL this season.
Glennon (2) – He was benched after this performance against the Browns, in favor of Josh McCown, who has lost all of his starts this year for Tampa Bay.
Schaub (1) – It is the only pass Schaub has thrown this season and it came on a trick play, fake field goal, botched snap.
Bortles (3) – This rookie quarterback leads the league in interceptions.
Roethlisberger (2) – One in each game in 77 overall pass attempts
Flacco (1)  & Brees (1) – The Browns had admirable performances against these two respectable quarterbacks, including beating Brees and the Saints and holding him to his fewest yards passing this season.

Now, to be fair, Ryan Mallett has never started and NFL game and has thrown only four career NFL passes. Unless he proves otherwise, he is no different than the riff-raff group the Bengals have faced the last four games, when they grabbed nine interceptions.

– The Browns ran the ball on the highest percentage of their plays in the league. They ran the ball 52 times with zero kneel downs in their 24-3 win against Cincinnati. But they averaged just 3.3 yard per rush, which of course is terrible. But that’s not the worst part for the Browns. The 3.3 yards per rush represented their best effort in their last four games. In their three previous games, they ran the ball 83 times for only 158 yards – a paltry 1.9 yards per rush. Oh yeah, and they faced the hapless Jaguars, Raiders and Buccaneers in those three games in which they were outscored 54-51.

– Andre Johnson is the longest tenured Texans and this will be the eighth time, he’ll take the field with a quarterback making their Texans debut. Three of the last four, T.J. Yates, Case Keenum and now Ryan Mallett, will be making their first ever NFL starts. Houston has won six of those eight games. Johnson missed Sage Rosenfels debut as Texans starting quarterback due to injury, a game the Texans also won. Here’s a look at Johnson’s numbers in the debuts.

Andre Johnson in QB debuts for Texans

Andre Johnson in QB debuts for Texans

 

Manning Absence Is Major Concern

TexansDanieal Manning left Sunday’s game against the Rams in the third quarter with a leg injury. He limped off the field and did not return. At his locker room after the game, he didn’t appear a whole lot different than Owen Daniels did the week before after the San Francisco game.

Unfortunately just like Daniels, the Houston Chronicle’s Jerome Solomon reports today, that Manning will be out with a hairline fracture and could need surgery. The suggested timetable for a return is 6-8 weeks. There are 11 weeks left in the regular season. Regardless of how feel about Manning’s play this year, the key in this situation is that he has played, and played a lot.

He missed the final 12 defensive snaps of the game yesterday and those are the only defensive snaps he’s missed all year. Free agent signee Ed Reed returned from his own injury 4 weeks ago, which does coincide with the Texans four-game slide. Rookie D.J. Swearinger has played nearly 40% of the defensive snaps on the snaps, but he saw his least action Sunday, playing just 9 plays on defense.  Take a look at the snap counts through the first six games of the season for the Texans safeties.

HouSafetySnaps

Shiloh Keo was the starter in Reed’s absence and he replaced Manning on Sunday. I expect he will do the same this week in Kansas City. The Texans pass defense, especially their safeties, have not been exposed much this year. But in my opinion, it’s mainly because it hasn’t been necessary. They were torched in the Chargers game in week one by Antonio Gates in the only game where the Texans weren’t giving up points and touchdowns on offense.

If the Texans keep a game close and don’t self-destruct and actually force a team to make plays, they could look very bad. I’m not convinced that Alex Smith and the Chiefs will do that, but I am convinced coming out of the bye week, it will be a major concern facing Andrew Luck and the Colts.

This is a bad time for the Texans pass rush to look bad – they have only 1 sack in the last two games combined. Granted Colin Kaepernick and Sam Bradford dropped back to pass only 33 times combined. Houston had just 8 quarterback hurries in those two blowout losses as well.

– Wex (@awexler)

Texans-Rams Preview

Simply put, if the Texans lose at home today to the Rams, then they’ve locked up a losing record heading into their bye week in week 8. Why is that relevant? They already trail Indianapolis (4-1) by two games and after Houston goes to Kansas City next week, they’ll take a week off than welcome the Colts to town.

The Colts are at San Diego this Monday night, then host Denver the following Sunday. If they haven’t closed the gap on Indy heading into that week 9 game, then the division title and likely the playoffs are out of the question.

Now to the task at hand today against the Rams. The Rams are doing one thing well. Hanging on to the football. They’ve given it away only 6 times in 5 games, Only 4 teams have given it up fewer times. The Texans have taken it away just 3 times. Only 2 teams have taken it away less.

The Rams offense is terrible. They’re 30th in rushing yards per play, they’re 29th in passing yards per play. They’re 31st in 3rd down conversions. They’re 20th in points. They should not be able to march up and down the field against the Texans, who are allowing just 260.2 yards per game.

The Rams defense is nothing special either, while they have some talent – most notably up front, they’re 25th in rushing yards allowed per play, 28th in passing yards per play allowed. They’re 22nd in sacks per pass attempt and the 28.2 points per game they allow put them 28th in the league.

This one today is all about the Texans. All about Schaub and the offense.

I spent the week figuring out how the Texans could drop this one to the Rams. I should’ve spent 2 minutes on it, because it’s so simple. If they turn it over, they could lose. If they don’t, they won’t.

– Wex (@awexler)

Russell Wilson Is A Star

It’s not very easy to locate a weakness in second-year quarterback Russell Wilson’s game. He’ll be making his 20th regular season start in Houston today against the Texans and currently leads the NFC in passer rating this year at 109.6. He’s lost just 5 of his 19 starts and none in his last eight. He’s led the Seahawks to a 10-0 mark at home in his career.  So that means he’s just 4-5 on the road. Also the road opponents haven’t exactly been a  murderer’s row of defenses. The Niners, Bears and now today with Texans are really the best he’ll have seen.

Just when you think you have something, let’s dig a little deeper. Take a look at his first six road starts, then look at his  last three. Each of the last three have been wins, two this year, and he’s been sensational.

russellwilson

His passer rating in his last 5 road games is well over 100 and no performance has been worse than 96.8. He has six touchdowns and zero interceptions in his last four road games. And none of even accounts for his scrambling ability and yards he churns up on the ground.  He’s not perfect, he’s not the best thing ever, but he’s been better than all the other newcomers. Better than Luck and Newton. Better than Kaepernick and Griffin. All but Newton play on a playoff team, so it’s not like the other guys don’t have good players, too.

– Wex (@awexler)

Pick Your New QB

TexansYet another rough patch for Matt Schaub with the hometown Texans fans. Of course it’s not all on him, the offensive line has been way below par in pass protection all three games. Plenty other issues as well, but in football, it’s simple – easiest way to make change is dump the QB.

So tell me  –  which QB do you want to replace him? (Vote below)

Joe Kane – The Program (Scouts love his passion, questionable decisions off-the-field, already in and out of rehab)

Johnny Utah – Point Break (Not much of a book on him, athletic, determined, always gets his man)

Jimmy Dix – The Last Boy Scout (rocket arm, good leader & teammate, gambling problems)

Tami Maida – Quarterback Princess (Not the best athlete, not the strongest arm, tremendous intangibles, leader, team rallies around her)

Thanks for your vote and for having a little fun here.

– Wex (@awexler)

Texans-Titans halftime report

After a rollicking good start with both teams going on long touchdown drives, each team’s defense dominated. Following the two early TDs, fans had nothing to cheer about until the halftime performer, Vanilla Ice, dropped a “Word to ya Mutha,” which brought the loudest cheers in hours.

The Texans ground game looked stellar on the opening drive, with plenty of holes for both Foster & Tate to barrel through. They gained 79 yards on  4 carries, including Tate’s career-long 60-yard tote. Since then 8 carries for 28 yards. Schaub did not have a good first half, connecting on just 8 on 14 passes and his last throw was tipped and intercepted by Bernard Pollard. That allowed the Titans to take the lead going into the half on a field goal, 10-7.

I mentioned in my preview, I think the Titans defense is underrated, but I do think the Texans have some of their own problems to work out before I give all the credit to Tennessee.

Back with more after the game

– Wex (@awexler)

Game 1:Texans-Chargers Preview (PODCAST)

Seems like we’ve been waiting forever to see the Texans back on the field after their disappointing exit from the playoffs last year. Ed Reed sits, all the undrafted free agents that made the team are active. I address it all in this Game 1 preview, including a score prediction.

Also when you’re done with the podcast, check this post for me LIVE TWEETING the game.

LISTEN:

– Wex (@awexler)

Texans-Saints Preview (Podcast)

Here’s a quick Texans-Saints preview. Check the chart below for performances by elite QBs vs. Texans defense last year. That’s what the Texans face today in Drew Brees. Brady and Manning are on the schedule again this year, along with budding talents like Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck (twice). They can’t expect better things as a team, unless they produce better results against the best QBs in the NFL.

TexansVseliteQBs– Wex (@awexler)

Foster vs Lynch (Video)

FosterEAThis is just phenomenal. The Madden game pretty much sells itself, but it sure is nice EA puts so much effort and creativity into their promotional campaign. Otherwise we’d have never seen this from Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch. Or should I say Darian Foster and Marshawn Lynch, Sr.

FosterLynchEA

Madden 25 looks awesome and the players usually love it – these two sure make it seem that way with : Running Backs Sons.

(Did you catch Ed Reed trucking Rob Gronkowski? Check it again. ReedEA

EA does us one better by offering up a bunch of behind-the-scenes photos and background. Here’s the link.

Now if Foster can just get back on the field soon, this’ll be even more fun to watch.

– Wex (@awexler)