The Texans are a team in transition, or a team in turmoil, depending on how full your glass is. We know we're still rebuilding a roster devoid of talent in certain positions, our depth is substandard, and injuries have ravaged the quality depth we do possess.
We know we have a huge question mark at the quarterback position. The Brian Hoyer Era ended before the end of Week One, and the Ryan Mallett Era dawned in a failed comeback attempt against the Chiefs. Mallett got his first start of the season against the Panthers--and promptly fell on his face. According to PFF's metrics, Mallett ended up with a -8.2 grade for the game. While Cole Schulz over at PFF notes that the fact that our receivers suddenly developed hands like feet, with six total drops, Mallett "simply missed on too many of his throws." We love Mallett's deep ball threat, but he only completed five of 20 passes that traveled over ten yards in the air. We know that our patchwork offensive line (and the loss of Arian Foster, who is not given enough credit for his blocking) was going to be an issue for someone still developing, and much of Mallett's negative grade (-6.2) came when he was pressured, when he completed zero (yes, zero) of 16 passes.
In other disheartening news, of all quarterbacks who have played at least half of their team's snaps, Mallett is ranked 30th at -6.4, ahead of only Matthew Stafford and Peyton Manning, though both of those players are considered to be franchise quarterbacks.
PFF also took a close inspection of Derek Newton and it was equally ugly. Newton rightly earned the nickname "Hologram" for his skills early in his career, but he finally developed in 2014 (shortly before his rookie contract was up). Rick Smith responded to his development by signing him to a five-year deal, making him our RT for the foreseeable future. It's early in the 2015 season, and the offensive line as a whole is questionable right now, but Newton hasn't covered himself in glory at this point. PFF notes that Newton is a natural right tackle and was shifted to left guard as OB shuffled the
deckchairs on the Titanic offensive line to account for Duane Brown's absence, but Newton's -4.5 grade against Carolina was his second negative grade in a row. So far the Texans have faced two staunch defenses in the Chiefs and Panthers, but Newton's 10 pressures surrendered in two weeks is still an issue, especially since Carolina was missing Luke Kuechly and Star Lotulelei last week.
The offensive line as a whole is currently ranked 16th in pass-blocking efficiency, having allowed four sacks and 29 pressures on 112 passing plays. That equates to a 79.7% efficiency.
On a more positive note, Jadeveon Clowney earned a positive grade when he went back home to play in front of friends and family. While Clowney hasn't made the generational impact that was predicted before his selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, he's improving and gaining valuable experience. In his second game since returning from a disastrous rookie season, he produced a +3.5 grade, the highest of his young career, with three hurries and a strong showing in sealing the edge. Clowney is currently leading the team with a 3.9 run defense rating and is second behind the face of the franchise J.J. Watt with a 3.2 overall rating (Watt boasts a 97.9 pass rusher rating, best in the NFL among all defenders).
Unfortunately, the defense was supposed to be the strength of the team. Vince Wilfork was brought in to finally give Watt a NT capable of eating up blockers, and Whitney Mercilus was signed long-term because of his development. Houston's defense is currently rated 15th overall in the league with a +1.3 rating (+5.6 run defense, -3.5 pass coverage). Not awful, but not what we thought it could be this year.
This was a substandard game for the Texans all around. Our five highest grades were received by:
- OLB Jadeveon Clowney (+3.5)
- RG Brandon Brooks (+2.6)
- S Rahim Moore (+2.2)
- ILB Brian Cushing (+1.4)
- OLB Whitney Mercilus (+1.4)