NFL Replay is a great program. I watched most of the game live on Sunday, and then I watched it again that night (DVR is a beautiful thing), but seeing the big plays with NFL Films replays and player analysis from post-game conferences is amazing. Tim did an outstanding job reviewing the overall performance of the Texans against the Titans in Week Two, so I'll just write some thoughts about what I saw. This might come off as more of rant about random players, but again, after bfd and Tim, I don't think we need another intricately detailed wrap-up.
- Matt Schaub is amazing when he has time. He made big throw after big throw which is as much of a tribute to the pass blocking as it is to #8. In the first half alone, not only did he throw the three TD passes, but every single catch by the TEs was for a first down. That's a sign of him using all of the weapons at his disposal.
- Steve Slaton has had problems, but they can get better. Every time he got the ball with a little bit of room to run (i.e., screen pass), he ran with conviction. I don't know what the secret is to make him run that way on regular hand-offs, but the coaching staff needs to figure it out for this team to be able to take advantage of the opposing team's pass rush effectively.
- Andre Johnson is the best WR in the NFL. The tip to himself was an All-Pro catch. The wide open TD may have seen like just a blown coverage due to play action, but as Lance Zierlein pointed out, it was also because of Johnson selling the route by starting off at medium speed and then accelerating at the perfect time. Johnson also made a couple of tough catches in the second half, including the one when he went up for a ball even though he knew a hit by two defenders was coming.
- Jacoby Jones is too inconsistent to be a starter on this team. He shows flashes, like the TD catch, but he constantly regresses with drops both on punts and passes. It is frustrating, but I just don't think Jacoby will ever be a regular contributor the Texans can count on.
- You already know this, but this team has an abundance of talented tight ends. Owen Daniels is making a case that he is irreplaceable by making clutch "hands" catches, and Joel Dreessen might be a starter on several other teams, considering the key catches he makes (i.e., the fourth down conversion). Between the two of them and the up-and-comer James Casey (who is proving his worth on special teams), this is a great problem to have.
- The offensive line was feast or famine this week. Although they showed great ability to keep Schaub upright, they didn't do a good job at opening holes for Slaton or Chris Brown. Schaub did make the Titans pay for selling out against the run, but when we play defenses like the Jets who can defend both the pass and the run at the same time, that won't cut it. I did relish the clip of Eric Winston telling Kyle Vanden Bosch exactly what he thought of him though.
- As much as I love Connor Barwin, he has a little bit to go until he can be an every-down player. On the first long TD run by Chris Johnson, the Titans exploited Barwin's straight up the field rush by simply pushing him out of the way. He also committed a couple of costly offside penalties during the field goal drive to end the second half. I think Barwin will eventually be a great player; he just needs some seasoning.
- Mario Williams is a beast but he needs more help on the defensive line. He was getting a regular bull rush to get into the backfield. Amobi Okoye had a pretty good game penetrating, but until the Texans get better play out of the other DT, the D line will be susceptible to up-the-middle runs. Mario WIlliams' ability against the run is what makes him an elite DE, as opposed to players like Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who got shredded by the run last night.
- The linebacker corps is as good at is have ever been in franchise history. One of the big reasons why is because of Brian Cushing. I have to admit that I very well may have been wrong about #56 (I can eat crow, too; Rip, kudos). I had two concerns about Cushing when he was drafted--(1) tackling ability and (2) durability. Only time staying healthy will tell about the second concern, but he certainly has shown big time ability at stopping the run. He did make some mistakes in coverage, but for just his second game of his pro career (including the preseason), he is playing much better than I expected. I am very glad to be wrong so far. Keep it up Cush.
- Eugene Wilson makes our secondary better. He is definitely not a great tackler, but he is the best Texans safety in coverage by FAR. The interception was a bad throw by Collins and Wilson was in the right place at the right time, but he made other good plays in coverage throughout the game, including the fourth down play when he forced Justin Gage toward the sideline to make the catch out of bounds.
- The Texans CBs are the liability of the defense. Fred Bennett has been abused in coverage, but at least he made some good open field tackles. Dunta Robinson not only whiffed on a couple of key tackles, but he made a blatant late hit that wasn't called in the first quarter. Brice McCain may be okay in coverage (when he gets the assignment right), but Kenny Britt easily took him out of the play on the first long Chris Johnson TD. The rookies can improve, but I am very worried about Bennett and Robinson.
- Both Texans kickers are playing amazingly. Kris Brown is Mister Automatic which is to be expected, but Matt Turk is giving the defense great help by pinning the opposing teams as deep as possible on almost every play. Both are underrated and huge weapons for this team.
Offense: Despite the problems running the ball, it is hard to criticize the offense from this game. I would give Matt Schaub the offensive game ball because he remained poised despite the incredible physicality that both teams played with. It's been said several times already, but battling back from an early 21-7 deficit takes a lot of grit. You have to give a lot of that credit to Schaub, who is undoubtedly the most criticized offensive Texans player.
Defense: They tried their best to induce as many massive coronaries as possible in Houston by giving up those huge plays to Chris Johnson, but you can see the signs of improvement otherwise. We all expected an immediate change with the ousting of Richard Smith, but whole units don't change overnight. I'm not saying that they are the Steel Curtain reborn, but giving up only 7 second half points is an undeniable show of improvement. Defensive game ball goes to Cushing in my opinion. I know Mario played out of his mind, but Cushing played with a fire that was contagious. If he can find a way to stay on the field both on third downs and without injury, he could be special.
Bonus Thought: Cortland Finnegan has now made my list of "People I'd Pay To See Hit By a Mack Truck". Not only does he play cheap, but he gets abused by good receivers (see Santonio Holmes and Andre Johnson). Without the dominant pass rush from last year, he's in for a long season. Another insight that NFL Replay gave, however, was that the source of the sideline brawl was Andre Johnson and Finnegan getting into it. It takes a lot to get Andre heated, which makes me feel that my hate for Finnegan is that much more justified.