Well, here we are – the fourth quarter. We are no longer evaluating backups at this point, but the backups to the backups. Almost everyone who is getting action this late into the game is fighting for a roster spot. You either make a play or you get put on the chopping block. Let’s see how everyone did in the final quarter of Texans-49ers.
1. The more that I watch Aaron Adams and Kendall Lamm in this game at right and left tackle, respectively, the more I think that neither of them will make the final 53 man roster. I know that expecting Adams to line up and effortlessly block a first round pick like Arik Armstead is a bit unrealistic, but is it too much to ask to at least not get embarrassed? Armstead just plowed through him like tissue paper. Ugh.
2. Kenny Hilliard has been up and down in pass protection, but he picked up a fantastic block on Tom Savage’s deep shot to Chandler Worthy (that was out of bounds). Hilliard has a thick, powerful frame that really shows up when taking on contact from linebackers one-on-one. I still want to see Hilliard "eat more grass" and challenge blitzers at the front of the pocket rather than waiting for them all the way back in the quarterback’s lap, but the physical tools are there for him to be a stout protector in the future.
3. Travis Labhart just made a really nice catch off of a deflection from an undercutting defensive back, but those acrobatics (and luck) would not have been necessary if Tom Savage got the ball out on time. Labhart was running an out route against an inside leveraged defender and was able to get separation for a split second as he flattened his route down towards the sideline. Savage, however, waited until after Labhart’s break to throw it and damn near tossed a pick-six. If a quarterback sees inside leverage from a defender in man coverage and has confidence in his receiver winning the route, that ball needs to come out before the receiver’s break is even finished, and it needs to be placed low. Savage did neither of those things. If that ball was thrown against Chris Harris, Brandon Boykin, or some other elite slot corner, there’s a good chance that the defense would have been gift-wrapped a free touchdown.
4. Hilliard looks much, much quicker to the naked eye than his horrendous Combine times would suggest. I didn’t expect him to be able to survive in a "one cut and go" system, but he sure looks the part.
5. Tom Savage just dropped one right in the bucket on a go route for Jace Davis, but Davis couldn’t bring it in. The fact that Savage threw that ball so well while also taking a big hit (thanks again, Kendall Lamm) is super impressive to me. I say again, he is a completely different quarterback from a year ago. DeAndre Hopkins would have caught that ball, by the way.
6. Just after I wrote that last note, Savage pulled an Eli Manning and somehow scrambled out of multiple sacks on 3rd and long, took off running out of the pocket, and barely missed converting a first down while diving into multiple defenders. On the very next snap, Aaron Adams ruined Savage’s effort by drawing a penalty for failing to report as an eligible receiver…because of course that would happen.
7. Kourtnei Brown just single-handedly stopped Mike Davis from breaking off another huge run for the Niners. That crack block against box safeties has been ruthlessly effective for them today for some reason. If Brown had not been able to absorb the lead block from the fullback and then work back inside to take down Davis by his legs, I’m not so sure that anybody would have caught him. Clutch play right there.
8. Corey Moore made an awesome third down stop on an underneath pass to 49ers tight end Asante Cleveland. Moore was already making the tackle before Cleveland could even turn up field, and he never had a shot at getting close to the first down marker. Great route recognition, great closing speed, and of course a great form tackle.
9. Joseph Treadwell just had the best pull and second level engagement of all Texans offensive linemen throughout the entire night. He paved the way for a 7 yard gain from Hilliard as Houston tried to chew clock towards the end of the game. Shout out to tackle Matt Feiler for going toe to toe with Arik Armstead and winning this rep as well. No matter how hard Armstead tried to shed him and make the tackle, Feiler was never going to relinquish control of his chest.
10. Oooooooh baby, Greg Mancz at center just threw down one of the most textbook reach blocks you’ll see this year. His quickness to not only get himself into position on the nose tackle’s play side hip right off the snap, but then also to crank his own hips around and put his body between his man and the ball carrier was really impressive. Inside zone runs are extremely dependent on having a good center at the pivot, so it’s nice to see someone besides Ben Jones that is capable of executing this play.
Check out Greg Mancz at center with the BEAUTIFUL reach block. It's a shame that Hilliard tripped on this w... https://t.co/e4bxQi8u0P— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) August 20, 2015
11. Chris Polk, at least in my opinion, is the most explosive running back on the roster not named Arian Foster. His ability to put his foot in the ground and get up field immediately is such a perfect fit for the Texans’ zone run game. Alfred Blue might be the starter for now, but I don’t think that he can hit that cut back lane as sharply as Polk can, or even as sharply as Jonathan Grimes if I’m being completely honest. If Blue’s production slips at all early in the season as the starter, we might start to see Polk syphon off more and more carries as a "higher upside" back.
12. Tom Savage has been fearless in the pocket today. He’s taken shot after shot due to the offensive line being made up of porous backups, and yet he’s stood tall every single time while throwing darts all over the field. I know it will never happen, but I’m really curious how Savage would do if given a series with the starters.
13. Kurtis Drummond’s game-sealing interception was nice, but what really concerned me about that play was just how open the intended receiver was over the middle. Justin Tuggle got nowhere near enough depth in his zone drop and left a giant hole in the center of the field. If a non-third-string quarterback was making that throw, it would likely be a 20 yard gain or more. That kind of coverage lapse is the exact reason why an injury to Brian Cushing or Mike Mohamed would be devastating beyond measure for this defense.
What were your own impressions of the "roster bubble" guys? Did any third string offensive linemen stick out in a good way? Who is going to make the team as the sixth wide receiver? And how about that Tom Savage, eh? Sound off in the comments below.
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