Our weekly ’5 Questions’ series continues with Rick Brokaw, Editor of Toro Times–the best Houston Texans-centered site on the web. On a side note, I’ll say that Rick’s answer are the most in-depth of any team that the Titans have faced this season. Enjoy it, it’s good!
1. If the Titans beat the Texans on Sunday, how hot is Gary Kubiak’s seat in Houston? What would it take for him to get fired? I’ve heard the owner is one of the more loyal owners in the NFL, but it has been a while.
If the Texans lose this game tomorrow then Coach Kubiak’s seat becomes a virtual camp fire (Editors Note: That’s hilarious!). While he won’t lose his job just because of this one loss it would not help the fact that the Texans must reach the playoffs this year in order for him to solidify his position as head coach for the coming years.
I honestly believe that if Coach Kubiak turns in another 8-8 or worse season then he will be finished in Houston. Team owner Bob McNair has given Coach Kubiak all of the tools necessary to make it to the playoffs and he expects nothing less. However, I could also see Kubiak losing his job if the Texans manage a winning record and still do not make the playoffs.
Bob McNair is an upstanding and fiercely loyal owner. His relationship with Bum Phillips is part of the reason that the Texans now have Wade leading our defense. However, when it comes to Coach Kubiak I think Mr. McNair’s loyalty has been stretched thin. Likewise, I believe that Texans fans have had enough of the losing and expect nothing less than the playoffs from this team. If Coach Kubiak cannot get this team their then I believe the fans will demand better.
2. After Ben Tate looked great early on, I have to wonder: Is it the offensive line that is so good or does Houston just have two really good backs?
That is a really tough question at this point in the season. The Texans have always had an outstanding O-line that has not only done a great job of protecting Schaub but also creating running lanes for whomever is at the running back position. That being said, I also believe that the Texans do in fact have two really good running backs.
Obviously Arian Foster is a great back. I do not know of many (if any) backs who can come into the NFL and play almost an entire season injured and still manage to accumulate more rushing yards than all other backs in the league. Ben Tate, much like Foster, came into this season after being injured early last season. Tate looked great in the preseason and has provided a great back-up for Foster during the regular season.
The difficult part about this question is rooted in the past few games that the Texans have played. Last week the running backs managed only 90 total yards against the Ravens and the week prior only 70 yards against the Raiders. While it was obvious that Foster was pushing too hard to return to the game – and was rather ineffective – I also noticed that the O-line did not look as sharp as they had. So, I have to say that the Texans have two good running backs who depend on a good O-line. You really cannot have one without the other.
3. Without Andre Johnson in the game, obviously the offense has to change. Do the Texans look to run the ball more or just plug the next man in at WR and hope for the best?
The Texans have always been a run-first style team but without star WR Andre Johnson that becomes even more obvious. Unfortunately, WR Jacoby Jones has not done enough to step up and fill in for Johnson. He has done well but not well enough. Then again, I do not know of any receiver (outside of Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald) who could even begin to play with the ability and athleticism of Andre.
Coach Kubiak has been playing a bit of Russian roulette with the wide receivers this season. Every few weeks a new receiver is signed and a player, or two, is waived. Unfortunately, this scenario has not worked out that well at all. The latest signing of Derrick Mason proves to be the most likely to produce positive results but the jury is still out on him as well.
For now the Texans will look to lean heavily upon the shoulders of Arian Foster but will also rotate wide receivers on-and-off the field in hopes of finding that “magical” combination that helps QB Matt Schaub win games.
4. With rush backer Mario WIlliams out for the season, intriguing opportunities have arisen for a couple of young players. Who seems to be the most effective, so far?
Funny enough, I predicted that Brooks Reed would be starting at one of the OLB positions before this season was over. Unfortunately, I did not see it happening this way. Reed has done an outstanding job of filling in for Williams, especially as a rookie. He, much like ILB Brian Cushing and DE J.J. Watt, has a high motor that keeps him driving forward through every play.
He brings tremendous pressure off the edge and has a quicker burst than Mario did. While he still needs to develop his hand work he has, by far, been the most effective in replacing Mario.
On the other side of the ball, though, OLB Connor Barwin has also been extremely effective. He has 11 tackles, two sacks, and has brought great pressure off the weak side. Altogether, at this point, I believe that Barwin has been the most effective young player for the Texans defense…but don’t count Brooks Reed out by any means.
5. Is there any player on the Texans squad that isn’t as well known that may be an up-and-comer?
Perhaps the best player that fits the description of up-and-comer is converted TE/FB James Casey. Casey had some huge shoes to fill when he took over the fullback job when Vonta Leach was replaced. Very few people expected him to be able to play like Leach, nobody expected him to be better.
Casey has done an amazing job making the switch to fullback and has proven to be more versatile than Leach ever was. He is intuitive enough to be effective against the pass-rush, strong enough to block for the running back, and athletic enough to make some huge catches.
A great example of his play-making ability was in the game against New Orleans where he motioned to the right of the wide-receivers (effectively becoming a fourth WR) then went 26 yards downfield and make a diving catch for a touchdown. Leach never did that!