So last week's post about Mario Williams bull-rushing Trent Williams wasn't totally a bust. I have a nice, small pile of credibility chips to play with right now. Eventually, I'm due for a miss, but I'm enjoying this run while I can. If that doesn't sound like a real Texans fan, then I don't know what does. Anyway, it's time to turn the page to Week Three and see what we can rummage up for that little game on Sunday.
This week, the Houston Texans will welcome the Dallas Cowboys back for their second 2010 visit to what should be an electric Reliant Stadium. Watching the Cowboys in the first two weeks, there are a lot of ways I could take this match-up. After giving it some thought, I've decided that this week I would like to see the league's worst secondary (Houston) step up against the league's second-best pass offense (Dallas).
Jump to see what, if anything, the fledgling secondary can try do to stop the bleeding of 400+ yard passing games
aside from getting a competent free safety with range.
First things first, Frank Bush needs to have these guys practice against a play-action pass. Safeties, let the front seven worry about the run because your cornerbacks need help on the pass first. If defending against the play-action pass is an issue this week, I'm going to put my foot through the TV. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has a mediocre play-action fake, compared to Matt Schaub, as he keeps both hands on the ball and barely sticks it out. Since I mentioned him, everyone knows Romo will make mistakes if the Houston pass rush gets after him, as they have been doing with five sacks through the first two weeks. Pass rush aside, the cornerbacks are the focus here, and they have a large test ahead of them.
Dallas receivers Miles Austin, Roy Williams, and Dez Bryant make up a very talented trio of receivers. Okay, Roy Williams doesn't scare me, but that's because he's Roy Friggin' Williams. At this point, it would be easy, and probably correct, to say that Frank Bush will play the Dallas offense exactly how he played Peyton Manning - take away the run and force Romo to win the game with passes while trying to keep everything in front of the defense. However, for the sake of this post, I'm going to offer a somewhat creative solution to the secondary's woes.
Yes, I said creative, Frank. It really is on you to help the secondary as opposed to hoping it corrects itself. Running the same old gameplan won't work, and new talent won't be walking through the doors of Reliant Stadium. Frank, I know you don't do this either, but I think the smart move would be to match the cornerbacks to a receiver based on their abilities.
With good speed and improved route-running, Miles Austin is the best receiving threat in Dallas and leads the league with 20 receptions and 288 yards. In watching Dallas games, Austin usually makes double-moves to get open deep. Even though he's not experienced, Brice McCain is the team's best pure cover corner, in my eyes, and has the best speed out of any defensive back. McCain would get juked on a double-move, but that speed should also help him recover better than any other cornerback. Regardless of who it is, I would like to see whoever covers Austin get most of Eugene Wilson's "help" since Austin is the deep-threat. Forcing Romo to go to one of the lesser targets is not a bad idea.
Lesser target? That's another way to say Roy Williams. A flop in Dallas, Roy is the possession receiver who runs across the middle because of his 6'3'', 215 pound frame. A bright area for Roy is the red zone, as he becomes a target due to his size and vertical leap. Physical and preventing touchdowns are Glover Quin's calling card. Glover is physical at the line, a good tackler which will limit yards after the catch, and lockdown in the red zone. Frank, stick Quin one-on-one with Williams and don't worry about him.
Dez Bryant has shown flashes of why he was a first-round pick. A combination of good size, speed, and hands, experience is the only thing preventing him from being a starter. You know who else needs experience? Fellow rookie Kareem Jackson. One year ago, Jackson would've manned up on Bryant if they met on the college field and Dez had not been suspended by the NCAA. While the rookie WR has an easier transition than a CB, Jackson is best suited to cover Bryant. One of the early favorite plays for Dez is the quick screen. In two games, I've seen Dallas go to this play about five or six times, and they'll probably run this play to slow the Houston front four on Sunday. Jackson's tackling abilities could help snuff this play out quickly. I also hope to see Frank play to Kareem's strengths and let him jam Bryant, or whoever he's lined up against, at the line. Letting these receivers off the line without a fight is hindering this secondary. Let the cornerbacks get physical and beat up on receivers, Frank.
Speaking of physical, the secondary (I'm looking at you Bernard Pollard) needs to bring the lumber on Sunday as the Chicago Bears did in their 27-20 victory over the Cowboys. At times, Pollard's a bit of a liability in coverage, but he's never a problem when it comes to protecting his turf. Make these receivers scared to come across the middle and force this offense to change what they want to do.
At this point in the post, I usually give a target number which I think will lead to a Texans victory. The target number is tricky this week with the secondary. The Texans have won despite giving up 433 and 426 total passing yards in the first two weeks. The key has been forcing teams to become one-dimensional (the Texans are allowing only 31 rushing yards per game) and get teams into long 3rd down situations (3rd down conversion rate against is 27% which is 5th best in the NFL).
However, if you're giving up 425+ passing yards, it will eventually bite you in the rear end. On the other hand, Tony Romo throwing 45+ times in a game, as he has done in the first two weeks, does not scare me, nor should it scare you. If Romo throws the ball 45+ times, the Texans will win this game. I still need an actual target number for the secondary, who I desperately want to see improve. If you told me that Dallas threw for under 360 net passing yards, which would sadly be a significant improvement, then I'd say it's a lock that the Texans will hoist the coveted Governor's Cup.
This Sunday, I'd like to see Frank Bush put some thought into the secondary's problems and come up with a solution to help limit Dallas' passing attack - be it this one or another one. The questions I ask you are: What can the Texans' brain trust do to solve the secondary woes? How would you cover the Dallas receivers? What would you consider a good performance for the secondary? Anyone itching for that Governor's Cup?