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Brett Kollmann's 2nd Quarter Notes From Texans-49ers: The Ups and Downs of Benardrick McKinney

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We got our first really good look at some of the Texans' depth at key positions this past weekend. Brett Kollmann goes over the good, the bad, and the very ugly for Houston's backup units from their performance in the preseason opener against the 49ers.

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The first quarter of the Texans' preseason opener was full of fun moments like Jay Prosch bulldozing through people, Brian Hoyer throwing fast balls to Cecil Shorts III, and of course DeAndre Hopkins proving once again that he is the human vice grip. The second quarter was no different, though watching the second and third teamers perform did get a bit "worrisome" at times. It's not that I am predicting doom and gloom because of the Texans’ (lack of) depth just yet.  Let’s just say that it became fairly obvious after a few snaps that Houston’s offensive line and linebacking corps cannot afford to sustain injuries to starters this season; that would get ugly pretty quickly. Anyway, here are my chronological notes from the second quarter after a thorough rewatch of every snap.

1. To me it looks like Benardrick McKinney’s blown coverage on a 3rd and 4 pass to Garrett Celek was more of a miscommunication or a mental error than anything else. Either way, McKinney didn’t even start moving to cover the drag route until Celek was already crossing his face. McKinney had no chance on that one. Side note: Jared Crick laid a good hit on Blaine Gabbert on this snap. He had really excellent hand usage on his rip through the right guard’s inside shoulder.

2. Lynden Trail then made a mental error of his own on the very next snap and got caught peeking on a rollout. These young linebackers still have a ways to go before they get comfortable with their assignments in a brand new defense.

3. Jarryd Hayne’s 53-yard run was the result of a breakdown in assignment by virtually everyone on the second/third team defense. Tevita Finau and Louis Nix both lost front side on reach blocks from offensive linemen, Benardrick McKinney got greedy and tried to back door it for a tackle for loss instead of just scraping laterally and tackling like he’s supposed to, Eddie Pleasant got cracked by a wide receiver on the second level, Kevin Johnson failed to then replace Pleasant on his assignment and was taken completely out of the play, and of course Carlos Thompson lost the edge yet again anyway so it is likely that Hayne could have broken off a big run no matter what just by running in a straight friggin’ line. Oh, and Rahim Moore got juked out of his shoes in the open field as well. Literally nothing went right on this snap…nothing.

4. McKinney rebounded well on the next snap, however. I liked that he didn’t get caught peeking on another rollout and effortlessly picked up the tight end on a drag to the flat. Gabbert had nowhere to throw it to and just ran for a minimal gain.

5. One snap later and we’re back to another bad play from McKinney. He was a half-step late on opening his hips and running with Vance McDonald’s shallow cross in man coverage, which I could have forgiven if he didn’t also miss the tackle in space and allow McDonald to get the TD. His highs can be very high, but boy those lows can be low too. Side note: Kevin Johnson’s coverage on this snap was perfect. He’s going to be a really sticky corner.

6. Alan Bonner just elected to run straight into a 49ers special teamer on a kickoff return rather than bouncing and following an army of blockers down the far sideline. He might have house’d that one if he ran literally anywhere else.

7. Damaris Johnson had a really nice open field juke to get free and convert a long first down after a Cody White holding call set the offense back. I hope to see him do that more often in real games for once this season. It was a great ball from Ryan Mallett too, for what it’s worth.

8. Quinton Dial is a starting defensive end for the Niners. Kendall Lamm is a Texans offensive tackle who might not even make the team. Watching them go against each other was a good way to see just how far Lamm has yet to go before he makes this roster. Yikes.

9. Jonathan Grimes converting a 3rd and 9 just by sheer force of will was awesome. It was kind of a shaky bet that he was going to make the roster before Arian Foster’s injury, but if he keeps making those kinds of plays I think he can be a good contributor for this team in 2015 as a 3rd down back.

10. Man, for being such a prototypical big-armed quarterback, Ryan Mallett really loves throwing underneath to slot receivers over and over again when he thinks they have an easy matchup. I like that about him.

11. I’m not sure who made the decision to try a quarterback sneak on 3rd and 4, but that was…uh…interesting.

12. McKinney stonewalling pulling guards while Mike Mohamed comes from the back side for cleanup duty is how I expect this combo to work in the future. McKinney certainly has the beef to set ‘em up, while Mohamed has the speed to knock ‘em down. Speaking of Mo, why the hell is he still in the game? I consider him a starter, and a good one at that. If he gets hurt, we’d be in a load of trouble at the inside linebacker position (yes, I’m just as surprised by that statement as all of you are, but it’s true).

13. Brandon Deaderick getting blown off the line and obstructing pursuit angles for linebackers is starting to get a wee bit annoying. McKinney and Mohamed can’t do their jobs if the line doesn’t do theirs.

14. Lynden Trail isn’t the most fluid guy out there, but he can sure set an edge. He made it really easy for Andre Hal and company to aggressively fill run lanes inside of him. If Trail consistently impacts the run game like that, he’ll make the team.

15. Boy, Darryl Morris is fluid. He lost on a quick hitch from Simpson on 3rd and long because he didn’t have great hand positioning, but he recovered damn near instantly and made the tackle before the first down marker, forcing a field goal. I’m not sure why the Niners ever let him go, but I’m glad he is ours. It is unfortunate for him that he’s behind such a big log jam at corner on this team.

16. Chandler Worthy might be a difference-maker on special teams as a return man. He has speed, sure, but he’s got patience as well. Those subtle little hesitations while lanes get sealed make all the difference, and he uses that to his advantage in a huge way when setting up his creases. I get excited every time he’s got the ball.

17. Finau’s sack was almost entirely because of great coverage on the back end. Blaine Gabbert had nowhere to throw the ball with Andre Hal waiting to jump his primary read over the middle.  Gabbert panicked, and then scrambled right into Finau’s waiting embrace. This secondary is seriously deep.

18. I feel bad for Brian Hoyer. If his pass protection with the second string offensive line is as bad this coming week as it was for Ryan Mallett in the Niners game, Hoyer might not survive the day. I say again…yikes.

That’s all I’ve got for today, BRB. Check in tomorrow when I offer up some more notes from the third quarter.

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