I don't know about you guys, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Texans shooting down the Jets last night. It was as exciting a game as I've ever seen in preseason...really, I mean it. Actually, winning was the icing on a cake that would've tasted pretty good without it. Well, most of it tasted pretty good. The defense had 7 sacks and pressured the Jets QBs all night, and the second and third team offenses won the game. But there were some stale parts and some burnt parts. Take the jump and I'll lay out all the parts of the cake: the good, the bad and the ugly. Because who doesn't love them some ugly cake?
- Bryan "Berserker" Braman: Wow. When I read about this kid a few weeks ago, I had a feeling he was something special. I'm not sure if it was the dreadlocks or the mushrooms, but I I figured Wade must've seen something he liked to persuade McNair et al to sign a guy who had just plead guilty to "manufacturing psilocybin". According to the reliable Lance Zierlein over at his Chron blog; Wade trusted the opinion of ex-Cowboy coach Bobby King, who coached Braman at West Texas A&M. Braman finished the night with 3 solo tackles, 1 assist and 1.5 sacks (and he barely missed adding another sack on the Jets last drive as he let McElroy slip away). By the way, if I remember correctly, the Vikings (the actual Norsemen from history, not Brett Favre's former team) used to trade reindeer for Fly-Agaric mushrooms to feed to their berserkers. Apparently, the berserkers would spend a day or two confined to their quarters tripping before becoming killing machines on the battlefield. Braman the Berserker...yea, I like it and I like the way this kid plays football.
- Lestar "Superstar" Jean: Only one of those rookie WRs emerged from Round 1 of the WR Battledome with any distinction: Lestar Jean. Actually, he was the only WR that caught a pass for more than 9 yards or had multiple receptions. He had 2 receptions for 53 yards. One was a 27 yarder that was initially ruled a touchdown late in the 4th quarter, but replay officials ruled Jean was down at the half-yard line. RB Chris Ogbannaya rushed for the game-winning TD on the next play. Jeff Maehl was the only other rookie WR to catch a pass (5 yards).
- Chris "Say My Name" Ogbannaya: Speaking of that running back we've been looking for... oh wait, that was last season. This kid Obywunaba, err, Ogbananay...oh hell, let's just call him Oingo Boingo like BricAm suggested. Anyways, he was forced into playing almost the entire game after Derrick Ward left the game in the first half with a head injury. (Apparently, Ward tweeted this morning that he's fine and would be at practice today.) Although Oingo Boingo had only 37 yards rushing, he was one of the reasons the WRs went hungry last night. He had 6 receptions for 67 yds and a TD (and another one rushing). And his blocking was better than Ward's, but I'll get back to that later.
- T.J. "Hooker" Yates: Texans fans got to see all three QBs on the roster: the Pro Bowl veteran who made it possible for many of us to leave of our Carr-induced fetal postions the last few seasons; the former 1st round pick, Heisman-winning, BCS National Champion, Rose Bowl MVP-turned-backup; and the unheralded 5th round pick from North Carolina who is slated to be the 3rd stringer. Their ratings were 52.1, 67 and 77.4 respectively. No, I didn't get that backwards. The rookie, T.J. Yates, posted the best rating with 6 completions on 12 attempts and 97 passing yards total. While he was sacked twice, he only lost five yards total and he drove the team late in the 4th quarter for the game-winning score. Sure, he was playing against 2nd and 3rd teamers, but he looked pretty comfortable for a rookie running the Texans offense in his first NFL game. I see good things in the future for this young QB.
- Jesse "Welcome to the NFL, McElroy" Nading: While Mario Williams may (or may not*) have looked lost in his debut as Wade's featured rusher, Jesse Nading flourished in the WOLB spot when the 2nd teamers were on the field. He pressured McElroy constantly and nailed him once for one of the night's most convincing sacks. Sure, Nading faced lesser competition and had more time on the field, but it was reassuring to see that some players have improved under Wade's system (even though it's early in the implementation and learning process.)
- Xavier "Evil Twin" Adibi: Speaking of thriving under Wade's system...hopefully, you didn't listen to the foolish blogger who told you to watch Xavier Adibi at your own risk. What I should have said was, "Xavier Adibi is going to blow your mind!" But I had no idea Xavier was going to blow up like he did last night. Adibi had 3 solo tackles and 2 sacks last night. Yea, that's pretty mind blowing from a guy who had zero sacks in the last three seasons. I'm always glad to be wrong when I dis a player, but I'm particularly happy to eat crow in this case. The Texans really need someone to step up at ILB with our lack of depth and concerns about starters, DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing. Xavier Adibi stepped up last night.
- J.J. "Killa" Watt: I don't think he was out there long, but "Killa" Watt looked good starting at LDE. He held the point at the 5-tech spot against the Jets' first teamers like a pro. He also looked like a pro when he played the DT spot in the 4-3 formation and even got some good penetration inside. He almost had a sack on Sanchez in the 1st quarter, but Earl Mitchell got the prize. Watt is the man.
- Earl "MFNT" Mitchell: I told you Earl could play the NT in this scheme, and he showed it last night. I'm really falling for this DL.
- Brooks "Goldilocks" Reed: Although he looked like a rookie playing his first NFL game at times, Reed showed flashes of pass rushing ability and even batted down a pass. He didn't look as polished as Watt, but he showed similar intensity and had some nice plays.
- Danieal "The Real" Manning: I had to ask my wife to pinch me after I saw Manning make that stop in the 1st quarter. For the short time he was out there, the secondary seemed so much more competent. A real safety at last!
- All those open routes underneath: Overall, I was pleased with the initial outing for Wade's new defense, but playing off receivers and allowing easy stuff underneath was a problem. The Jets' only TD was a perfect example. However, I should point out that it's early and I actually expected the secondary to get lit up more than it was last night. I would rather give up that short stuff than the long stuff we were giving away last year. Look for Wade and the boys to improve this by Saturday and expect better when JoJo is back.
- Speaking of that lone TD and poor coverage: CB Antwaun Molden looked impressive at times last night but his mistakes completely nullified any positives. In addition to being burned on that TD pass from McElroy to Patrick Turner, Molden got beat at the end of the game by undrafted free agent Michael Campbell. Luckily, Campbell dropped the ball, or the Texans would have lost. I should mention Molden had an interception earlier in the game, but he nullified that too with an "illegal use of the hands" chuck to the WR's head that was caught by the officials. I suspect the only reason he was on the field so much last night was to allow him one last chance to impress the coaches. I think he failed and will be cut soon.
- The Jets rushed for 100 yards: One of the more concerning things was the ease with which the Jets ran in between the tackles. I was worried about our ILBs and last night showed why. Without Ryans and Cushing returning to their top form, we are in big trouble in the middle. Wade's system needs studs in the middle to cover the gaps. Again, this was the first preseason game, so there's no need to panic...yet. Maybe Adibi's evil twin can call in more doppelgangers...
- Ward missing block on Schaub sack. The Jets' Josh Mauga cleaned Schaub's clock when he was allowed to rush him unblocked. I cringed and began wishing Kubiak would put in Leinart.
- Rookie tipping Leinart pass for INT. Poor Matt. Just when things were starting to look good...I kind of blame him for throwing so low in that lane, and I also blame the center for allowing rookie Kenrick Ellis the opportunity.
- Ankle injuries to offensive linemen Antoine Caldwell and Kasey Studdard: Caldwell's is a high sprain and Studdard's is still being evaluated. Kubiak characterized both injuries as "serious." Not good.
- Rusty Schaub? The national media and certain bi-polar fans who shall remain nameless freaked out because Schaub couldn't move the ball at will without some of the offense's biggest weapons. He was also playing against one of last year's better defenses (not the 2nd and 3rd teamers like Leinart and Yates.) I'm sure it's hard to get going with only a quarter to play in your first preseason game and it's not like the Texans were known for their quick starts last season.
- Lost Mario? The national media seems to be relishing telling everyone how lost Mario Williams looked at OLB last night. They are even showing footage of a running play that had nothing to do with him and trying to blame him for it. The truth is, Mario didn't look spectacular nor did he look lost. He looked like a player adjusting to a new position in his first preseason game after a short training camp. He didn't look as comfortable as Nading, but he was playing against the Jets' starters. He's definitely going to have to adjust to the cut blocks, but I'm sure he and Wade will get it worked out.
- QB2: Leinart looked good to me overall. He seem poised and confident and worked the bootleg to perfection. However, he did have the Texans' only turnover, which I already mentioned. I think he looks like an upgrade to Dan Orlovsky and will look even better in the next few preseason games.
- Allen vs. Jackson: I give this round to Jason Allen, but I hope both of them improve along with the secondary in general. On the bright side, I didn't see K-Jax fall down once. So there's that.
Let's hope Caldwell and Studdard heal up quickly and completely. I expect we'll see improvement in those bad/ugly spots as early as Saturday, but overall there was a lot more yummy cake than not last night. What do you think? Who was your favorite performer last night for the Texans?
edited 9:12pm PDT to add Daniel Manning to the Good list. I blame cut and paste fail and too much "good cake" for the glaring omission.