Before You Jump

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Ok.  This place has been a sea of negativity for the last two days and understandably so.  The team that everyone has invested a great deal of time into completely laid an egg on Sunday.  This season is supposed to be the Texans coming out party and everyone involved in the debacle feels embarrassed, especially the fans.  Notice though that I used "is" instead of "was" in the previous sentence, because the Texans’ season is not over.

This isn’t going to be a ridiculously overdone blind faith post; I’m still seething from the loss.  I also don’t want to sound in any way that I am criticizing anyone who vented their frustrations because they more than deserved to in my book.  Having said that though, continuously dwelling on only the negatives won’t help anyone.  This is an attempt to put things into perspective and make an honest assessment of what happened Sunday, where the team is now and what needs to be done to improve, in my amateur opinion.

Let me get the one thing that is closest to an excuse off of my chest:  The Jets defense looks amazing.  In fact, I honestly believe that is the toughest defense we will play all year.  That’s a bold claim but who will be better, the Titans?  I agree with beef’s assessment that they were only able to produce pressure on a sub-par Steeler offensive line when they blitzed as opposed to last year when four rushers would do the trick.  Who else will be better out of the Jaguars, Colts, Raiders, 49ers, Bengals, Cardinals, Bills, Seahawks, Rams, Dolphins or Patriots?  I’m not saying they’re all pushovers, several of their defenses in fact looked decent to good this week, but none of them showed the absolute dominance that the Jets did.  Part of that dominant perception was the Texans doing, but before I get into that I needed to tip my hat to Rex Ryan and company.

Author’s Note:  I still need to go back and watch the recording of the game for a better evaluation, but not surprisingly I keep coming up with excuses not to.  I bring that up to emphasize that I am recalling all of this from a memory diluted by uncontrollable rage and liquid stress reliever.

- Matt Schaub is a good quarterback but does not react well to pressure defenses.  That pressure is sometimes the result of poor protection, but it is sometimes due to holding the ball too long.  This Sunday it didn’t help that Kris Jenkins was running through Chris Myers like a banner a high school football team tears through before a game.  Schaub's gimpy ankle didn't make things better either.  Despite that, there were a couple of plays including at least one sack that Matt simply needed to get rid of the football.  As much as I like Schaub, this is his third year as a starter and he is due to make about 10 million in a roster bonus after the season, so if he doesn’t get it this year I think he might be done.  I really think he already gets it and he simply took a step back with the rest of the team, but he’ll be judged by the entire season.

- Kyle Shanahan’s inexperience showed through this week, which was partly to blame for Schaub’s performance.  When the majority of your experience and formative years are spent with a team like the Broncos who seemed to always have outstanding offensive lines, you don’t account for constant pressure in your game plan.  He needs to learn how to roll with the punches and find ways to make teams pay for blitzing too much.  Others have already pointed this out, but I brought it up to say that Gary Kubiak needs to keep a more active role in the play calling.  I know he has stated a desire to give Shanahan more autonomy, but it needs to be a gradual process.

- The faster that Antoine Caldwell can get ready for a starting role, the better.  I have nothing against Chris Myers, but he can simply not stop bigger defensive tackles even though he added more weight this offseason for precisely that reason.  Until Caldwell is ready, Alex Gibbs needs to plan for almost constant double teams in the middle in his scheme.

- Everyone scoffed when I asked if Steve Slaton didn’t look good after the first game in the preseason, but he still isn’t playing up to the level of last year.  I don’t know if it’s the weight, or a head issue that’s keeping him from hitting the holes, but someone needs to fix the problem and fix it quick.  The offense enjoyed its success from last year because of play action.  No one will fear the run when you’re averaging below two yards a clip. 

- Everyone was worried about the run defense more than anything, including me.  Well, the front seven showed up to play in that department.  Granted, an average of 5.22 yards per carry for the Jets looks terrible, but after three quarters it was 3.83.  You can call me an idiot, but after a 38:46/21:14 time of possession split, I think it’s relevant to say that the defense got worn out.

- The front seven did a good job with combating the run, but it did not get sufficient pressure on a rookie quarterback.  I can’t remember the Jets third down numbers and if it’s alright with you I’d just as soon not look them up because it was embarrassing.  Frank Bush’s new scheme produced as many sacks as Anthony Weaver had all of last year; 0.  Have to do better.

- The secondary usually got a partial pass from Texans fans because of lack of pressure, but many of the completions were on Dunta Robinson and friends Sunday.  It has been reported that Jacques Reeves will return this week, and I never thought I’d be so happy to see him.  Glover Quin and Brice McCain were made to look like rookies during the game, especially the wide open touchdown pass to Chancey Stuckey.  It would be nice if they could learn from veterans, but Dunta is too worried about pissing everyone off to teach.  Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pro athlete in Houston pull a complete 180 as drastically as him in terms of fan support. 

This is a long list of problems that must be overcome, but I don’t think the Texans are as bad off as people are afraid of.  The Jets are a tough opponent and we played poorly.  Moreover, Texans fans are gun shy because of past seasons.  Am I giving a pass to the Texans?  Absolutely not.  By playing so poorly in Week One they upped the stake of an already difficult Week 2 road game against a division rival coming off a tough loss.  If the Texans lose that game as well it will seem like the beginning of every other Kubiak led season.  Don’t forget though, that they are capable of winning this game.  We did it last year with Albert Haynesworth in the lineup.  What I’m trying to say is hesitant skepticism is one thing, but let’s not give up on the season because of one game.

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