SB: What's this? We start off the Q and A talking seriously about football? No trash talk? No "Manning sucks?" No "It's DeMeco Ryans you schmuck, not DeMarco." I'm almost speechless. So, yeah... what was the question again? Oh yes, Tony Ugoh.
In all seriousness, Ugoh has played very well, in my opinion. Stampede Blue readers seem to think he has trouble adjusting to d-lineman who use the bull rush. Comparing him to Tarik, Tony is quicker, leaner, and is a better run blocker. He does a tremendous job getting into the next level and blowing up linebackers. He's actually exceeded my expectations in pass protection. I don't think his starting is really affected the offense too much. Last week against the Titans, the Colts had trouble punching it into the endzone. New o-line schemes might have contributed to that. Still, despite starting a rookie LT and losing one of the best in the game, it's gone extremely well.
2. Through the first two weeks of the season, our respective franchises each boast one (1) AFC Defensive Player of the Week; I'm sure you already knew that, though. Last week, it seemed like Bob Sanders was almost acting as a pseudo-linebacker, often in the box and crushing the ballcarrier, instead of playing a more traditional safety. Should the Texans expect to see more of that this week? Or do you think Sanders will be dropping back into coverage more?
SB: No, I don't think the Texans will see the Bob Sanders Beatdown Defense (a term we use for when the Colts shift to Cover 3). Cover 3, which utilizes the SS in the box, works against the Titans because Vince Young can't throw the football accurately from the pocket. Matt Schaub can, and Schaub throw well on the run. Vince Young is also a greater running threat, and relies more on the run than throwing. The BSBD is ideal in containing him running, but for someone like Schaub, who is very accurate throwing on the run, it doesn't work. The Colts will likely use more standard Tampa 2, and work to stuff Houston's run.
3. Staying on defense...after the seemingly notable and numerous defections the Colts suffered this offseason, I was shocked (and terrified) to see the team speed Dungy & Co. unveiled against Eric Metcalf, Jr. (a/k/a Reginald Bush) and the Saints. It looked like there were five (5) Colts at the scene of every tackle. I never would have thought it at the beginning of the season, but it looks like the defense is worlds better than the one that won the Super Bowl last year. Is my observation correct? Regardless, would you still say that the defense is most vulnerable against the run? Or should the Texans be able to exploit the secondary (even in the absence of Andre Johnson)?
SB: Your observation is correct, and it's an observation I've trumpeted since training camp: The Colts defense is much better than last year's. You referred to a comment made by the Houston Texans blogger over at AOL Fanhouse where she stated that the Texans beat the Colts last year with Zoolander (David Carr) and Ron Dayne. Now, you have Schaub and Green. Therefore, logically, you should roll. The flaw there is this defense is not the crap fest the Texans faced last December. Bob Sanders is back, and the guys who really killed this defense last year (Gilbert Gardner and Cato June) are gone. Freddie Keiaho (or KO as we call him) has been terrific at the WILL and rookie Ed Johnson has been a stud at DT, replacing the injured Booger McFarland. The secondary is probably the defense's strength. Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden are better than Nick Harper and Jason David. Antoine Bethea has looked great, and the rookie Dante Hughes has played extremely well. So no, even if Andre Johnson were playing, the Texans will likely not exploit the Colts secondary.
4. Joseph Addai does not suck. The big question about him coming into the season was whether he was ready to be a full-time back with the departure of Dominic "One for the" Rhodes (take THAT, Chris Berman). I thought it was ludicrous then, and I think it's ludicrous now. Manning is clearly the most important player on your team. But is Addai Number Two? Or would it be Harrison, Wayne, Clark, etc.?
SB: Clark is the second most important. He is a difference maker that frustrates other teams. He too fast for a linebacker and too big for a corner. He drives defensive coordinators nuts. Manning always looks to him for mismatches. I'm a little worried that they are using Addai too much as a "featured" back. Addai's backup, Kenton Keith, is a pretty good player. He's a rookie, but he's spent the last few years in the CFL. He runs well, blocks great, and has soft hands. Addai should get about 15-20 touches a game and Keith 5-10. Right now, it's all Addai. That bothers me.
5. Take off your horseshoe for a minute and answer me this...what three (3) things must the Texans do to beat the Colts on Sunday?
SB: 1) Get an early lead, like the last game; 2) Run the football, converting on 3rd down; and 3) Score. Score. Score.
Playing "keep away" with the Colts just doesn't work anymore. Their defense is too good. Running the football always helps, but you must convert on third down. Then, once you get in the red zone, you must score touchdowns. Not field goals, but touchdowns. You also have to find some way to get Peyton Manning. Anyone can pressure a QB. With Manning, you've got to sack him. Back in 2005 in the playoffs, the Steelers sacked Manning 6 times and STILL almost lost the game. And if you blitz Manning, you especially better sack him, or he will kill your secondary.
I do my best to try and objectively answer the "step the Colts" question, but even when I do that, I always come back to this: The Colts rarely give up leads, and they can come back on anyone. Knowing that, how can you stop them?
I do think Houston is a much improved team. I thought that heading into this season. The AFC South is now a lot tougher, and that's a good thing for us football fans.
Thanks to BBS for playing along. You'll be able to find our answers to his queries over at Stampede Blue soon.