Monday, August 29, 2011

Texans Defense Could Be Something Special

The Houston Texans are now 3-0 in the preseason and it's only preseason but this defense could have a complete turn around  from how they played last season. This defense has talent but most important they now have a defensive coordinator who can get the most out of the talent. Wade Phillips has come in and added his 3-4 scheme and the players are definitely responding despite not having OTAs.

The Texans defense has already recorded 14 sacks this preseason in three games compared to 11 in four preseason games last year. The defense has forced six turnovers and the team has forced seven as the special teams has one.

Troy Nolan had a couple of picks and took one back 73-yards for a touchdown on Saturday night against the 49'ers. The secondary played a solid game but the niners are not a good passing team. The secondary could have more of those type plays this season if the front seven can continue to get pressure on the quarterback when the season begins. Wade will have some tough decisions to make with the secondary as most of them have played well including the reserves. Kareem Jackson has not been terrible but he hasn't looked like a starter either as Jason Allen and Brice McCain have looked better.

Outside linebacker Mario Williams continues to show progress as he was able to collapse the pocket on several occasions as teammates picked up the sacks. Some was still criticizing him for his play after this game when it was obvious that he is showing improvement from week-to-week.

Brooks Reed and J.J. Watt are two very impressive rookies and it will be hard to keep them off the field. Watt has already secured a starting spot and Brooks Reed may find himself starting at linebacker if he keeps making plays.

The final preseason game is Thursday against the Vikings and the starters will not see any action. Wade Phillips will get a chance to look at some players who will be trying to make the team. He has yet to blitz any DBs and I doubt we will see any exotic blitz packages until the season begins but you have to like what they have done so far and what they might be capable of this season.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

49'ers Will Test Defense

The Houston Texans are in San Francisco to take on the 49'ers in the third preseason game tonight and could get a better idea of what kind of team they will be as the starters will play into the third quarter. This will be the Texans first road game after winning the first two games at home over the Jets and Saints.

What to watch for :
Johnathan Joseph - After missing the first two prseason games with a groin injury he will get the start and is expected to play into the third quarter. The Texans big free agent acquisition could force more passes toward Kareem Jacksons side which will give fans a better look at him too. Jackson hasn't looked that good yet and unless he shows something better tonight he shouldn't start against the Colts.

Mario Williams - Has shown improvement from the first game to the second but is still adjusting to playing linebacker and needs to continue shows strides. Would love to see him get a sack and some pressure on the quarterback. There has been talk around Houston about moving him back to defensive end but you have to give him more time and two - three preseason games are not enough.

Kareem Jackson - Has been less than impressive early and has been out played by Jason Allen and Brice McCain in my opinion. Needs a strong game as his starting spot could be riding on this one. The 49'ers don't throw the ball well.

Rush Defense - The Texans run defense has been getting gashed for about five yards a pop right up the middle. The niners are one of the better running teams and should test the interior defensive line of the Texans. DT Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell will have focus more on them tonight. If this trend continues the Texans could be looking to pick up another DT in the next week and a half as teams begin making cuts. Rookie DE J.J. Watt has been very impressive and looks like a seasoned veteran. He could be the most impressive defensive rookie in the NFL preseason. LB Connor Barwin has been very aggressive so far but would like to see him with a sack or a big play in this one.

LB DeMeco Ryans has been out with an elbow injury and he will most likely be held out of tonights game.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Texans Defense Continues Solid Play

The Houston Texans defensive transformation under Wade Phillips continues as they held the New Orleans Saints high powered offense in check in preseason game number two. It all started on the first series as the Saints were on a long opening drive when Antonio Smith came through the line seemingly untouched for a sack and a forced fumble on Brees. Mario Williams recovered the loose ball and the Texans for the second week in a row had come up with a big defensive play on the opening drive of the game.

Tim Jamison played well in this game getting pressure and making plays finishing with a sack. Scooter Berry an undrafted free agent from West Virginia recovered a fumble after a Brooks Reed sack and scampered down the sideline before being tackled and setting the offense up in good field position. Brooks Reed was once again a big playmaker at linebacker with two sacks and a forced fumble.

The Texans secondary had a few breakdowns in coverage but also made some plays as they were playing once again without CB Johnathan Joseph. Danieal Manning was the victim of a 56 yard touchdown pass to Joseph Morgan.

The Texans defense has seemed more capable of making big plays, forcing turnovers and getting to the quarterback than they did at any point last season. If this type of defensive play continues into the regular season it could mean the Texans are finally on the verge of their first playoff appearance.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ben Tate Shines Against Saints

The Houston Texans drafted Ben Tate in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft out of Auburn only to see him get hurt in his first preseason game against the Cardinals. The injury would force him to miss all of the 2010 season.

Ben Tate was unable to play on MNF against the Jets because of a hamstring injury and was anxious to show coaches what he could do with the football. On Saturday night against the Saints in the second preseason game he was able to show them and Houston why he was taken in the second round. Tate carried the ball nine times for 95 yards and a touchdown including a long of 43 yards. He also had one reception for 13 yards. Tate also showed great speed in the open field and good cut back ability. The Texans appear to be deep at the running back position once everyone is healthy.

Arian Foster missed the first game against the Jets because of a hamstring injury as well and was making his preseason debut against the Saints. Foster looked every bit as good in his brief action against the Saints as he did in 2010. Arian had 5 carries, 47 yards and two touchdowns to go with one catch for six yards.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Saints @ Texans Preview

The Houston Texans play host to the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night from Reliant Stadium and the starters are expected to play about two quarters. The Texans have been dealing with their share of injuries but are expecting to get some players back this week. The running back position has been hit the hardest with injuries to Arian Foster, Steve Slaton and Ben Tate.

Arian Foster and Ben Tate didn't play Monday night against the Jets but are both ready to go against the Saints. Ben Tate missed all of last season after breaking his ankle in the first preseason game against the Cardinals and after being selected in the second round of the 2010 Draft coaches are anxious to see him get on the field.

Lestar Jean made a strong impression in the game against the Jets and coach Kubiak says he has pulled even with second year receiver Dorin Dickerson for the fourth receiver spot. Jean was an undrafted free agent but has been impressive in practice and in his first game.

Brian Cushing has said he is ready for his first game action of the preseason and will play but it's not sure how much as the team has been bringing him back slowly after knee surgery in the off season.

DeMeco Ryans status for the game is unclear after he injured his elbow in the game against the Jets while cornerback Johnathan Joseph groin injury has him at a 50-50 chance of playing this week. Joseph also missed the Jets game because of the injury.

The Texans are expecting the Saints to bring pressure against them this week the same way they did last week against the 49'ers. Most teams don't call many blitzes in preseason but the Saints did just that last week and are generally regarded as an aggressive defense.

Bryan Braman will have all eyes on him this week to see if he can play as well as he did against the Jets. Braman is a rookie outside linebacker who had 1 1/2 sacks last week against the Jets. Braman is from Spokane, Washington and was signed as an undrafted free agent from West Texas A&M.

What to watch for:
The Texans defense looked better on Monday than at any point in last season and needs to continue to show progress. They need to play the run a little better than they did on Monday.

Kareem Jackson didn't give up the big play last week against the Jets but he still didn't look like he should be starting. He will get a good test against Drew Brees and the Saints high powered offense.

Mario Williams is still adjusting to playing linebacker and will look to improve on a so-so performance against the Jets.

Ben Tate has to show something and prove he can get on the field and contribute after being a second round pick. Lestar Jean is the real deal and will get a chance to show what he can do with more opportunities against the Saints.

The Texans offensive line against the Saints defensive line and the Texans defensive line against the Saints offensive line. The Texans suffered some injuries to the offensive line against the Jets and are thin as a result.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Reserves Have a Chance to Showcase Talents

The Texans will not play the starters much in tomorrow nights opener against the Jets and with injuries at a couple of positions  on offense some young guys will get a chance to impress the coaches. The running back position has been the most affected by injuries with Slaton, Foster and Tate having hamstring issues Chris Ogbonnaya should get plenty of carries behind Derrick Ward.

Chris Ogbonnaya was selected in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams. The Texans signed him to the practice squad in 2010 and he has been getting most of the reps in practice leading up to the opener because of injuries.

James Casey has been a versatile tight end who in his first two season has caught 14 passes for 162 yards. Last season he caught eight passes for 98 yards and led the team in special team tackles. This year he will get an opportunity to play some fullback since Leach left via free-agency. The Texans also have Lawrence Vickers who is more of a true FB. Casey could be a great weapon out of the back field but he will have show he is capable of being a lead blocker.

Lestar Jean and Terrence Toliver are two undrafted free agent receivers who have size and speed. They both could be in competition with Dorin Dickerson for one of the final WR positions. With David Anderson signing with Denver it may allow one of the undrafted players to make the team.

Texans Unveil New Defense Against Jets

The Houston Texans unveils Wade Phillips and their new defense in prime time on Monday Night Football against the New York Jets. This is the first preseason game for the Texans so the starters will not see much action but it will be a chance for the fans to get a look at the new 3-4 defense of Wade Phillips and how things could be much different on that side of the ball from what we all saw last year.

Mario Williams - Moving from defensive end to OLB seems like it will give him more opportunities to get to the quarterback. He will not have to drop in coverage but will be standing up more and will have to adjust to running backs trying to block him at his knees.

J.J. Watt - Drafted with the eleventh pick in the first round and has a motor that never stops. Has a knack for getting his hands up and knocking down passes.

Kareem Jackson - Was burned by most receivers he went up against last season. Shown average speed and was unable to flip his hips when receivers got by him and would slip and fall at times. Needs to show improvement or he will lose the starting spot. Wade Phillips says the best players will play and he will get strong competition.

Connor Barwin - He was injured in week one against the Colts and missed the entire season after having 4.5 sacks as a rookie. Was always thought to be a perfect 3-4 type SLB and will get a chance to rush the QB. May put up double digit sacks this season.

Glover Quin - Moving to strong safety and could play some free safety after playing corner. Wade Phillips and Vance Joseph believes he will be a pro bowl safety.

Brooks Reed - See J.J. Watt, this is another high motor guy who the Texans drafted in the second round 42nd overall out of Arizona. He is expected to back-up Connor Barwin.

Johnathan Joseph - The Texans big free agent acquisition and at 27-years old he may already be the best corner the Texans have ever had on their roster, even better than Dunta Robinson and Aaron Glenn were. Physical corner who can cover any number one receiver the Texans go up against.

It will be the first game for both teams so don't expect them to show too much but the Jets should see a Texans defense that looks nothing like the one they faced last season.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Texans Hit With Injuries

The Houston Texans are being victimized by injuries early in camp after another player goes down with a hamstring injury. Steve Slaton suffered a hamstring injury today leaving the Texans with two healthy running backs in Derrick Ward and Chris Ogbonnaya. Arian Foster and Ben Tate have missed the last few days with the same injury. The injuries aren't expected to keep any players out for a long period of time.

The wide receivers have had some injury issues as well this week as Andre Johnson finger and Jacoby Jones foot injury have given a couple younger guys Terrence Toliver and Lestar Jean more reps in practice. Johnson has recently returned to practice while Jacoby Jones could miss a few more days with a bruise foot.

Brian Cushing is still coming back from knee surgery in the off season and Kubiak said he is behind the rest of the guys which is understandable.

The Texans signed wide receiver Devard Darling and running back Javarris Williams today to give the team more depth at those positions because of the injuries..

Clemens Making Bourn Trade Look Good

Paul Clemens was acquired by the Astros from the Atlanta Braves for Michael Bourn and is quickly making general manager Ed Wade look like he knew what he was doing when he acquired him.

Clemens was a 2008 seventh-round Draft pick and after his second start at Corpus Christi he has yet to give up an earned run in 12 2/3 innings while giving up six hits and striking out 13.

Clemens was acquired along with Brett Oberholtzer, Juan Abreu and Jordan Schafer on July 31 in a trade that sent Michael Bourn to the Braves.

The 23-year old right-hander did not give up a hit until the fourth inning and left after 100 pitches over 6 2/3 innings. Clemens gave up just four hits and struck out six and did not factor in the decision Wednesday as the Hooks fell 1-0 in 11 innings to the Arkansas Travelers.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Texans Look to Put Secondary Issues Behind Them

The Texans had their issues against the pass last season and made improving the secondary the top priority. They did so by trading up into the second round to draft CB Brandon Harris from the U, Rashad Carmichael from Virginia Tech in the fourth round and safety Shiloh Keo in the fifth round.

Then when free-agency started they stayed aggressive by signing CB Johnathan Joseph and safety Danieal Manning to long-term contracts. Johnathan Joseph was the second ranked corner on the market and gives the Texans their best corner since Aaron Glenn while Manning was a top five ranked safety in pass coverage last season in Chicago. The Texans are moving Glover Quin to free safety where they believe he can become a pro bowl caliber safety. The Texans currently have Kareem Jackson first on the depth chart opposite Joseph at the other corner but he definitely needs to show improvement this pre-season to keep that spot after a terrible rookie season. Jason Allen has put some pressure on Jackson in practice and could replace him if he struggles again.

Other DBs to watch:
Sherrick McManis CB
Brice McCain CB
Jason Teague CB
Quintin Demps SS

The one thing that makes me think the defense will be much better this season is the new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Wade has a track record of turning defenses around and putting players in the best position to succeed and if they don't perform then he will find someone who will.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Astros Promote J.B. Shuck From Oklahoma

The Houston Astros continued their youth movement on Friday by promoting outfielder J.B. Shuck. Shuck was hitting .302 with 27 RBIs, 19 stolen bases at Triple-A Oklahoma City. 

J.B. Shuck is a left-handed-hitter who was a Pacific Coast League All-Star this year and is hitting .437 in 19 games since the break. Shuck had a very good Spring Training and was one of the final cuts by the Astros.

Shuck was selected by the Astros in the sixth round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. He will become the fourth player to make his Major League debut in the last two weeks, joining outfielder J.D. Martinez, second baseman Jose Altuve, and third baseman Jimmy Paredes. Other players to make their debut this season include pitchers Jordan Lyles, David Carpenter, Anuery Rodriguez and Jose Valdez. He is the third player selected by Houston in the 2008 draft to make the roster following Castro and Lyles.

In the Minors:
The Houston Astros farm system became better last week following the Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn trades. Jarred Cosart made his first start with Corpus Christie and's No. 36 prospect was very impressive going six innings with  four strikeouts. The 21-year old right-hander allowed just two base runners in the game and took a no decision. Cosart and Jonathan Singleton who came over in the Hunter Pence trade have become the top two prospects in the Astros organization. Cosart was born and raised in Texas and was excited to find out he was traded to Houston where he should have a faster track to the Majors.

Josh Zeid was another player the Astros got in the trade took the loss in his first appearance with the Hooks.

First Baseman Jonathan Singleton who came over in the Pence trade has seven hits in twenty at bats with 3 doubles, 1 HR in his first five games with Lancaster JetHawks.

Right-handed pitcher Henry Sosa who came to Houston in the Jeff Keppinger trade is 2-0 in three starts with a 2.89 ERA at Corpus Christie. 

Pitchers Paul Clemens and Brett Oberholtzer who came over in the Michael Bourn trade have yet to make an appearance with Corpus Christie.

Jarred Cosart, Henry Sosa, Paul Clemens and Brett Oberholtzer have instantly improved the pitching in the farm system and each could be making their Major League debut within the next year.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Texans Agree to a 2-Year Contract With FB Lawrence Vickers

The Houston Texans needed all of three days to find a replacement for FB Vonta Leach, who signed with the Ravens over the weekend, by signing FB Lawrence Vickers to a 2-year 3 million dollar contract with 500 thousand dollar signing bonus. Vickers has spent the last five years in Cleveland as their lead blocker and had a good year blocking for Peyton Hillis who rushed for over a thousand yards in 2010.

Lawrence Vickers is similar in age and size to Vonta Leach though not quite as good but better than what the Texans had after losing Vonta. If Arian Foster has another year like he did last year people will most certainly forget about Leach and talk about what a signing Vickers was to the offense for less money.

James Casey has been working with the first team offense at FB in the first couple of practices but this move should make the Texans much more comfortable and flexible with the position.

The Texans also had Ty Warren in for a visit on Monday but he hasn't yet made a decision. Warren visited the Chiefs on Tuesday after visiting Houston and Denver. Warren has said he would like to play closer to home for either the Cowboys or Texans.