April 20, 2014

Anatomy of a Struggling Texans Team

Texans

If before the season started someone told you that the Houston Texans would be 2-5 entering the bye week, it would be a hard pill to swallow. The Texans are in this spot with nine games left in the season and looking like a team dead in the water.

The season looked promising when training camp arrived and there was plenty of chatter from the national and local media on the Texans contending for the Super Bowl. The roster is one of the most talented rosters on paper that the organization has ever had.

Like we all know, games are not won on paper but on the field, and that has shown some glaring weaknesses with this 2013 team.

 

reed2Free Agent Ed Reed

Texans owner Bob McNair asked for a playmaker on the back end of the secondary and General Rick Smith chased hard after veteran Ed Reed. His resume was filled with all the accolades anyone would want for an NFL player. The only issue with Reed was age and his hip, which seems to still be an issue for him seven games into the season. He has not really been tested with the pass, but his tackling has left something to be desired on the field.

Reed has been anything but an impact and him tackling is not what the Texans want from him. His strength is shutting down the pass, but with a faulty defense that has struggled to stop the run Reed is becoming a player he, at his age, doesn’t need to be.

 

The Rookies

We talked about this, but the lack of youth impact is big on this team. DeAndre Hopkins is the only real rookie making an impact out of the nine draft picks and four undrafted rookies.

This group was promising when the season started, but it has been anything but that. There were some players who were expected to inject some life in this older team, but injuries and off the field issues slowed the process.

 

Wade Smith

Wade Smith

An Aging Core Group

Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Danieal Manning, Matt Schaub, Ed Reed, Wade Smith and Antonio Smith are all considered key pieces of this team. Father time has caught up with this group and the majority of them have had down seasons in 2013.

The Texans have tied some serious money to this aging group to try to get a real shot at the Super Bowl, but bad play and injuries have fractured this core group of Texans.

 

Players Expected to Make the Jump Haven’t

Keshawn Martin, Brooks Reed, Whitney Mercilus, Bryan Braman, Brice McCain and Derek Newton are a few of the Texans that were expected to be bigger parts of the team. All have taken a step back in their performance, and all five of them play big roles on this team.

Martin has struggled with confidence to make anything positive in the return game. Reed has provided zero pass rush at outside linebacker. Mercilus showed for two games he could produce but inconsistency has plauged him. The special teams ace in Braman has been anything but that with mulitple missed tackles. McCain has been picked on out of the slot in the passing game. Newton has been a penalty machine at right tackle, adding to his struggles in protecting the quarterback.

 

MattSchaubThe Quarterback Position

If the Texans would have gotten average quarterback play from Matt Schaub, their record would be much different than 2-5. The one position that had no competition for a spot during training camp ended up being the Achilles heel of this team during the season.

Who was going to be the backup quarterback was the big story coming out of camp, instead of pressure being put on Schaub to produce. That situation has come back to haunt the Texans, and it is not so much to threaten Schaub’s position but to let him know he has someone pushing for his job.

The one position in the NFL that a team could not be weak at, the Texans are and the team is turning to it’s 3rd quarterback in Case Keenum to try to right the ship. It is clear the Texans quarterback position will need an overhual during the offseason, but for the time being they are stuck with what they have.

 

Defensive Woes

The reality is they cannot stop any team when they get in the red zone this year, and stopping them means not giving up a touchdown. Look at the defensive woes inside the red zone:

 

 

Also, throw in the fact that the Texans have given up some big drives that have resulted in points.

 

 

The yardage numbers look good for the Texans defense, but the Texans have done a horrific job of keeping other teams out of the end zone.

 

All Three Phases of the Texans

Offense

It has been a turnover machine with some questionable play calling to go along with it. Head Coach Gary Kubiak and Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison are sharing a big blame for these woes and for an offense that is predicated on the run has been throwing it way too much. The offense has been struggling at all levels of the offense, especially at the offensive line and quarterback play. They might have found a solution with Case Keenum, but seeing if the Texans will stick with him is another story for another time. Red zone issues, not many big plays and a stagnant play calling system have put the Texans’ offense in a world of trouble. Only a “spark” will save them moving forward.

 

Defense

This is more on what Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips has not done for the defense. The Texans play man to man coverage the majority of the time and they refuse to do anything else for the time being. Pass rush has been inconsistent and giving up long drives has grown into big issues for the defense. This has been the same defense for three years now, and it feels that teams are taking advantage of the soft run defense the Texans are displaying. With Brian Cushing out, the need for some increased play to keep this season alive is at an all time high.

 

Special Teams

Yes this has been an ongoing issue for the team and it has been in a holding pattern of getting better. Field goal kicking has been an issue, and coverage teams and decisions on kickoff returns have been poor. There is a collective “hold your breath” moment every time the Texans go down on coverage on kicks.  Where this rollercoaster ends, no one knows, but there will be at least nine more games of this up and down production from the special teams.

 

The issues are far and wide for this team and they have to get it corrected during this two week stretch of getting their minds back into football. The Texans have had plenty of drama this season with off the field issues and on the field play. If the issues are corrected, it will have to be a collective effort from the entire organization. The cards are stacked against this Texans team and coming out of the bye week will truly show what this Texans team is about.

 

 

You can follow Patrick on Twitter.  He is the Editor of State of the Texans.

 

  • cartooner

    I’ve made this point elsewhere, but I think it’s still valid. Texans’ problems cut across all three units and extends from mid-season last year. Then, we excused the defense because Cushing was out and J Jo played hurt. That hasn’t been the case this year. We excused the special teams because of a dearth of linebackers and, of course the offense had a malfunctioning QB, even tho’ the line had big problems and Kubiak’s predictable play-calling.
    What we have, it seems to me, are two good coordinators on each side of the ball, but what we lack is a strong, ingenious head coach. In his 8th year, Kubiak has long lost the “rookie coach” consideration. When someone is promoted one position above their competence it is called “The Peter Principle”.
    BTW, I’m not in favor of requiring a new head coach to accept Kubiak and Phillips as coordinators or any of the current coaches at all. A head Coach should pick his own people.

  • W

    The Texans have so many issues, the fact that Kubiak and Smith have a job still is beyond comprehension. Outside of a few exceptions, their evaluation of talent is absolutely abysmal. They constantly fail to get the most of their drafts. Yes, Dre Johnson, JJ, and Cush are the all too few exceptions. They overpay for mediocre performance–Schaub being the poster child, but Antonio Smith being a close second. Then to exacerbate things, with the number of injuries that occur in the NFL, they lack any depth whatsoever. Just look at the OLine and LB positions, for example. Lastly, on this issue, they let go players that do not perform for the Texans but have a major impact for their subsequent employer–Jacoby Jones and Trindon Holliday being exhibits 1 and 2.
    Then their coaching is near the bottom of the league. I truly believe that maybe Schiano in Tampa and Frazier in Minneosta are the only head coaches worse than Kubiak. The play book is stale–a good portion of Schaub’s interceptions are because the opponent’s secondary are jumping his checkdown routes. As Patrick Starr noted, they are calling a bad game plan for the type of team they are supposed to be. Their defense and special teams have had the same problems forever. How many years must the Texans fans have to witness the horror show that is the Texans special teams? As noted above, our major special teams contributors do nothing for the Texans but somehow flourish as soon as they go elsewhere. So whose fault is that? And why has their been no change in the special teams coach?
    As for the defense, the Texans defense has never been a turnover machine and, as in years past, craters in the red zone. Notwithstanding, I do believe Phillips is a major upgrade over his predecessor as DC.
    All of these issues fall on the GM and HC. Why the Texans hired Kubiak, I will never know. But he has shown that he is completely incapable for the position he holds. He also consistently fails to get his team to play an entire game. The Texans only playing one half–a la the game against the Chargers (they only appeared to play hard in the 2nd half) and the home game against Seattle (they completely collapsed in the 2nd half)–has been an issue throughout Kubiak’s tenure. Whether it is a failure to motivate his players, a failure to make adjustments, a failure to gameplan from the start properly, or something else, there are only so many times the HC can blame everyone and everything around him for that, and for his team’s perennial lack of success.
    Eight years of this is much too long. Bottomline, this team rots from top to bottom and needs a major overhaul. And the fans deserve much better for having had to suffer through this for so long.

    • cartooner

      When using hindsight, don’t cherry pick, try to at least be fair and put the history in context.

      I agree that Kubiak has peaked and needs to go. But to say they CONSTANTLY fail to get the most from their drafts? Every team qualifies for that. This and every team’s draft results are mixed. Oh, and Andre Johnson wasn’t a Kubiak/Smith pick. Look up the Texans draft record before making such statements.

      Worse is that you say,”Why the Texans hired Kubiak, I will never know.” Really? Try reading his resumé.
      Jacoby Jones and Trindon Holliday? Kubiak held on to Jacoby too long hoping he would be the #2 to Andre. He showed nothing but poor judgement with the occassional good play mixed in. When it became clear he’d never be a #2 receiver, we were depleted of WR talent. Holliday took up a roster spot for special teams and we had a critical depth problem at linebacker due to injuries.Try remembering the circumstances instead of passing events off as a wrongheaded Kubiak whim. BTW, LBs are the backbone of special teams, too. While I think it’s time for Marciano to go, look up his record. Not as bad as you’d have us think.
      Defense never been a turnover machine? 7th in the league in ’12, 8th in ’11.
      You don’t fire a coach who is coming off back to back divisional championships and two playoff wins. You fire him for not having a clue why the wheels started falling off at the end of one season and still coming off at the beginning of the next. The irony is that Kubiak’s success may have all been luck thanks to all the talent you say he didn’t find, brought him, and he’s incapable of keeping it running.
      In any case, we do agree a regime change is needed.

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