Q: What does the Houston Texans' run defense have in common with the author of this post?
A: They're both woefully soft in the middle.
There's a whole lot to be agitated about after Saturday night's egg. Yes, it's only preseason, so we shouldn't be marching to Reliant with torches and pitchforks. Yet. But if what we saw out of the first-team defense is any indication of what we have to look forward to once the games start to count, 2009 could be another long season for all of us. Yes, I understand that the Saints boast one of the best offenses in the league, Reggie Bush's dubious status as a franchise running back be damned. That's no excuse for getting gashed the way the Texans did two nights ago.
Let's put things into perspective: When I find myself wondering whether Travis Freaking Johnson is the best DT on the roster, it's enough to make me want to lay down in the middle of the far left lane of I-10 during rush hour. I know I'm not the only one thinking that (the Travis-Johnson-as-best-DT-on-the-roster thing; your willingness to become roadkill over a football team may vary). Amobi Okoye and Frank Okam were so unbelievably unimpressive for the vast majority of the game (e.g., Amobi got to Drew Brees once, which was nice) that you would've thought that the Texans were playing 9-on-11. My frustration with Amobi will be more fully fleshed out in a separate post (spoiler alert!), so I'm going to save my concerns about the individual players for another time. Instead, let's focus on the Texans' run defense as a unit. A unit that could be well on its way to earning a nickname analogizing it to a donut.
Your Houston Texans finished 23rd in the league last season in rushing yards yielded per game, giving up an average of 122.6 yards each week on the ground. What, if anything, has the organization done in the offseason to shore up its run defense, especially at defensive tackle? DeMeco is a golden god and all, but his ability to wreak havoc upon the opponent's running game is severely compromised when the DTs in front of him are easily contained by a single blocker. As much as I'd love to say that Richard Smith's scheme was responsible for the team's poor run defense last year, I haven't seen anything to make me think that Frank Bush has a magic elixir to cure what ails it. Granted, it's preseason, so maybe Bush is just waiting to wow all of us until the Jets come to town in a few weeks. The more likely outcome, I'm afraid, is that the Texans' starting defensive tackles are so bad that they're going to have treadmarks on their chests all season long. Couple that with what can be perhaps most kindly be described as a beleaguered secondary, and we could be in real trouble.
Could the 2009 Houston Texans be the NFL's version of MLB's Texas Rangers of the late nineties and early aughts? A fatally flawed team that features a breathaking offense and horrendous defense (pitching, in the Rangers' case)? Or am I overreacting for no good reason? Speak out in the Comments below.