The Texans’ first game of the preseason may be in the books, but the post-mortem is still in full swing. Let’s take a quick look at what everyone has been saying about the Texans’ performance in Carolina last night.
Let’s start with the tempo and speed of the Texans offense. Rotoworld’s Evan Silva noted this whilst watching Deshaun Watson:
On re-watch, concerning how long Deshaun Watson took to get rid of the ball & ball placement was recurring problem. Needs a lot more snaps.— Evan Silva (@evansilva) August 10, 2017
John Harris also noted when discussing Tom Savage that:
Savage noted after the game that he and the offense needed to get out of the gate much quicker. Once he got his sea legs under him, Savage made a couple of solid throws, including a laser to Jaelen Strong for a first down on the scoring drive. That, though, is the thing that Tom knows he must do better going forward - quicker, EVERYTHING, has to be quicker. When he does do that, this offense flows. When he doesn’t, those first two drives are a result.
This constant reference to tempo is important. The Texans have succeeded in small amounts when the offense has switched to a up-tempo style. The problem with this kind of offense is that it can often limit the types of passing plays that are available. As we saw last night, the longer the Texans QBs held the ball, the more pressure they were under, and the more uncomfortable they seemed to look. A lot of the sets that Deshaun Watson lined up in seemed to resemble those used in his Clemson days. They used 3-4 WRs in a spread system with a bunch of short routes that Watson could read quickly and then get the ball to.
Harris also noted the impressive play of D’Onta Foreman, who ended up with 76 yards on only nine carries.
Rookie third-rounder D’Onta Foreman showed exactly why he was this team’s third-round pick. There was only one disappointing play for the most part and it’s on the same type of run that I mentioned early in camp that he needed to avoid. He tried to bounce a run to the outside on third and short, instead of stopping, cutting back to the inside and bulling over some white-shirted defenders. That run aside, Foreman was a beast. He showed his speed. He showed power. He picked up a 4th-and-1. He caught the ball twice, which was only five less than his entire last year at Texas. He had a 41-yard run up the right sideline to get the Texans out of their own territory. That run got the attention of many watching across the country. He went flying by me on the sideline and I had to remind myself that’s a 235 lb. hammer sprinting away from defenders.
The running back battle is going to be another big one all through the preseason with Alfred Blue and D’Onta Foreman having strong performances along with Tyler Ervin and Akeem Hunt also showing out.
One of the biggest issues coming away from last night was the special teams struggles. Harris noted that:
The Texans punt cover unit struggled with missed tackles and penalties that really killed field position opportunities throughout the night. Damiere Byrd’s first return went for 13 yards after a missed tackle, which allowed Carolina to start at their own 29-yard line, instead of inside its own 20. The Panthers, then, drove 71 yards for a score. The Texans missed another tackle on Kaelin Clay on a punt return later in the second quarter, which resulted in a 20-yard gain. Eddie Pleasant ran into the returner on a return, giving the Panthers 15 additional yards, which put the ball at the 50-yard line. Quarterback Joe Webb threw a 50-yard bomb for a touchdown on the very next play. It’s only the first game, but I’d imagine that this unit will get some aggressive counseling in film session on Thursday.
The Eddie Pleasant play, in particular, was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen from this special teams unit, and that’s saying something. This unit has continually been bad over Bill O’Brien’s tenure to the point where one has to ask just what kind of curse they have been put under. The team has gone through two different special teams coordinators under O’Brien, both of whom have managed to keep the Texans special teams unit mired in awfulness.
Those are just some of the notes from last nights game. What do you think of how the Texans’ offense looked? Are you expecting to see a lot more of these spread quick-throw sets in the regular season? How do you think the Texans’ special teams will adjust for next week’s game against the Patriots?