Texans to Watch: Titans Edition
The second game of the season and the Tennessee Titans are coming to town to open up the football year at Reliant. This is an important game for many reasons but most importantly the divisional game label comes to mind. The Houston Texans, coming off a West coast road trip and late second win, are looking to get going early against the “new-look” Titans.
Players will make the difference in the outcome and we have pinpointed a select group to keep an eye on.
Texans to Watch
Suspended for the first game of the season, the defense gets another starter back for the home opener. A good football player and an emotional leader for the defense, Smith will be a welcomed site at the other defensive end. He can generate a pass rush when needed but more importantly provides another player against the run. Depth was an issue against the San Diego Chargers and Smith will be exactly what the defense needs to get back the defensive line rotation. Jared Crick filled in efficiently but he is a step down on what Smith can bring on an every down basis.
The Titans are going to try and run the football with their new look offensive line but look for Mays to be up to the challenge. He was a pleasure to watch when the Chargers tried to run the football. Mays took on the lead blocker, pulling guards and making tackles on ball carriers with a purpose. He is very quick and has the knack to slip blocks to make plays. He will have plenty of opportunities to be an impact player against a team that wants to run the football. Look for Mays early and often to put his mark on this game for the Texans.
There has been much talk about many defensive players for the Texans but Reed has been one overlooked in the discussion. Where has the rookie version of Reed gone where he was a good run defender and pass rusher? He can set the edge and play run defense with the best of them, but his pass rush leaves something to be desired going into his third season. If Whitney Mercilus can create the pass rush from the outside opposite of him, then he can get away with being a run defender. It would still be good to see Reed create some type of pressure against the quarterback because at this point of his career he is a one dimensional player.
His preseason and week one pass protection issues are reason for concern. Brown is a better player than he has shown in the early part of the 2013 season, but his weight loss could be something he is still getting adjusted too. He is having trouble with the bull rush, but last week was a case of an opponent that has all the physical tools to beat Brown consistently. He is considered one of the best left tackles in the game for a reason and he should be able to get back on track this week. He is supposed to be Matt Schaub’s protection for his blind side and Brown knows he struggled. How he responds will be fun to watch and knowing how competitive he is should be a good result for the home team on Sunday.
He took the team on his shoulders last week and made big plays down the stretch. Word is that Schaub has shed some weight which made him a little quicker and mobile, and that was evident with him creating when the pocket broke down. His velocity on the football looks better and he actually looked more limber than past years. There will be question marks about how good Schaub can really be. With the best set of offensive weapons surrounding him since he arrived in Houston, the excuses are no longer. He passed the week one test and led the game winning drive for a field goal to beat the Chargers. He will throw it around the yard and he should with the amount of play makers he has on the field.
A down season in 2012, Manning came out with one of the strongest games of the team on Monday night. Manning struggled in coverage last year but he looked much more technically sound one on one against Antonio Gates on a deep ball. He also played strong in the box and made a nice quarterback sack when he was 10 yards deep in coverage and used his speed to finish the play. On Sunday, Manning will be relied on again to play the roaming safety with Shiloh Keo playing the deep middle, and expect Manning to be active in run support for the defense. With two inexperienced safeties in D.J. Swearinger and Keo, there is plenty of pressure on Manning to step up and take the lead until Ed Reed returns from his hip issue. Seeing him produce was a good site to see and him playing at a high level for two weeks in a row will be a good start for him in the early part of the season.
The Two Headed Monster
Arian Foster and Ben Tate will be sharing carries early in the season until Foster gets back into playing shape. The early sharing should help with what the Texans want to do later in the season in keeping fresh when the games really start counting. Foster had 26 touches Monday night and they were the quietest touches he has had in a long time. As for Tate, he is taking advantage of his playing time and making it hard for Kubiak to put him on the bench, and this was after a disappointing 2012 season for Tate. As long as Tate produces he will see the field, but Foster is still the bell cow for the offense and going back to the 2011 season should be the indication on what they want to do with both running backs. Having them both getting touches with the offense will make this team better and the Titans could be getting a heavy dose of the two if they can get the running game rolling.
You can follow Patrick on Twitter. He is the Editor of State of the Texans.