Anatomy of a Struggling Texans Team
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
#Texans D in the redzone vs. opponents. 15/22, 15 TDS (9 passing, 6 rushing) 70.8% completion rate, 23 first downs/65 plays. 1 sack, 0 TO
— PDS (@PatDStat) October 23, 2013
Also, throw in the fact that the Texans have given up some big drives that have resulted in points.
In the #Texans 5 consecutive losses they have allowed 10+ play drives 9 times. (6 TDs, 2 FGs, 1 Stop)
— PDS (@PatDStat) October 23, 2013
For the season the #Texans have allowed 10+ play drives 12 times. (9 TDs, 2 FGs, 1 stop)
— PDS (@PatDStat) October 23, 2013
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
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.
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.
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.