In less than 18 hours, the Denver Broncos will square off with the Houston Texans, a team on it’s way to the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The Broncos are playing for the No.1 seed in this year’s playoffs and would love to help Houston in it’s opportunity to select the nation’s best college prospect in New York City on May 8th, 2014.
Two-thirds of the Texans 26 Touchdowns, as well as 1st Downs this season have come through the air. The imbalance is due to the loss of RB Arian Foster, which speaks volumes for Houston’s lack of success in 2013. They are 73/205 (35.6%) on 3rd Downs, 6/17 (35.3%) on 4th Down Conversions and have a -15 Turnover Ratio.
The Texans have had a carousel at the Quarterback position, which makes winning games difficult due to instability. They lost confidence in Matt Schaub (179/287, 1905 yds, a 62.4% Comp. Rate, 9 TDs, 10 INT and a 77.6 Rating) after 6 starts. Week 7 saw rookie Case Keenum out of Houston get the nod. While the results have been mixed (137/253 for 1760 yds, a 54.2% Comp. Rate, 9 TDs, 6 INTs, a 78.2 Rating and 72 yds, 1 TD rushing), the Texans are 0-8 since the switch. 3rd year Quarterback T.J. Yates (15/22 for 113 yds, a 68.2% Comp. Rate, 0 TDs, 2 INTs and a 42.4 Rating) has seen some spot duty, but it seems like the Texans mailed in the season months ago. It has been announced that Schaub will start against the Broncos this week.
The Texans will roll with Dennis Johnson as the starting tailback for the final two games of a lost season. It’s been a tough row to hoe with the loss of Arian Foster (542 yds rushing, 1 TD and 22 rec., 183 yds, 1 TD) and now losing Ben Tate (181 car., 771 yds, 4 TD and 34 catches, 140 yds) this week. Johnson, a 5′ 7″, 193 rookie out of Arkansas (37 car., 154 yds, a 4.2 avg. and and 6 rec, 45 yds), has appeared in 7 games this season and this will be his first career start. 6th year man Deji Karim (4 carries, 21 yds) will be the backup. Greg Jones is the Fullback.
The starting Wide Receiver tandem for Houston are Andre Johnson (99 rec., 1295 yds, a 13.1 avg. and 5 TDs) and Clemson rookie DeAndre Hopkins (47 rec., 759 yds, a 16.1 avg. and 2 TDs). Keshawn Martin (17 rec., 216 yds, a 12.7 avg. and 1 TD) is the slot Receiver when they use one and with Tight End Owen Daniels (24 rec., 252 yds, 3 TDs) lost in Week 5 to a broken leg, Garrett Graham (49 rec., 545 yds, an 11.1 avg. and 5 TDs) has picked up the slack. Connecticut Rookie Ryan Griffin (11 rec., 129 yds, 1 TD) is the backup Tight End. Rookie Wide Receivers Alan Bonner (Jacksonville St.) and Alec Lemon (Syracuse) were both lost to Injured Reserve, leaving DeVier Posey (15 rec., 155 yds) and Lestar Jean (4 rec., 35 yds) as the backups.
The starting five from left to right are LT Duane Brown (6 Penalties, 2 False Start, 2 Holding, 4.5 Sacks Allowed), LG Wade Smith (5 SA), C Chris Myers (2 FS, 3 SA), RG Brandon Brooks (6 Pen. 5 FS, 2.5 SA) and RT Derek Newton (4 FS, 2 HLD, 6.5 SA). The backups are former Broncos Ryan Harris (2 Pen, 1 FS, 1 SA) and Ben Jones (1 FS, 1 HLD). This unit has surrendered 38 Sacks (13th ranked) and the 2nd-most Hits to their Quarterback (106) this year. No wonder they have needed all 3 QBs.
Houston’s Defensive Line employs a 3-4 Base look, which is a Wade Phillips specialty. They are led by All-World DE J.J. Watt (69 TKL, 11 TFL, 9.5 SK, 32 QB Hits, 32 Hurries, 6 Batted Passes, 3 FF, 2 FR and 2 Blocked Kicks) who harasses Quarterbacks and disrupts Offenses from the left side. The middleman at the Nose is Earl Mitchell (44 TKL, 1 TFL, 1.5 SK, 2 QB Hits, 9 Hurr.) and the right side is manned by Antonio Smith (29 TKL, 5 TFL, 5 SK, 6 QBH, 28 Hurr, 1 FF). Jared Crick (17 TKL, 1 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 QBH, 6 Hurr.) and Terrell McClain (4 TKL, 3 QBH, 1 FR) are the reserves.
The starting 4 Linebackers for the Texans are from left to right, Brooks Reed (47 TKL, 4 TFL, 4 QB Hit, 27 Hurr, 3 SK, 1 PBU), leading tackler Darryl Sharpton (73 TKL, 5 TFL, 4 QB Hits, 4 Hurr, 2 PBU, 1 FF), former Bronco Joe Mays (64 TKL, 6 TFL, 1 SK, 2 QB Hits, 2 PBU) and Whitney Mercilus (44 TKL, 2 TFL, 8 QB Hits, 30 Hurr, 6 SK). Jeff Tarpinian (15 TKL, 1 TFL, 0.5 SK, 1 PBU) is the only reserve that has taken any Defensive snaps, while the rest, Bryan Braman, former Bronco draft pick Mike Mohamed (2 TKL), Ricky Sapp and rookie Justin Tuggle (Kansas St) have been relegated to Special Teams. the Texans lost ILB Brian Cushing (48 TKL, 1.5 SK, 1 FF, 1 INT, 1 TD) to a torn left ACL at the end of October and while they miss another one of their leaders, Darryl Sharpton has done a terrific job filling in.
The starting Cornerbacks for Houston are, LCB Kareem Jackson (47 TKL, 6 PBU, 1 FR, 4 TDs against) RCB Johnathan Joseph (47 TKL, 1 TFL, 1 QB Hit, 15 PBU, 3 INT, 5 TDs against) and Slot CB Brice McCain (23 TKL, 3 PBU, 5 TDs against). Joseph is definitely their best cover Corner. Brandon Harris (16 TKL, 1 Hurr, 4 PBU) and Elbert Mack (6 ST Tackles) are the reserves.
The Starting Safeties are FS Shiloh Keo (55 TKL, 3 PBU, 1 INT) and SS D.J. Swearinger (55 TKL, 4 TFL, 1 QB Hit, 4 Hurr, 4 PBU, 1 INT), their 2nd round pick out of South Carolina. Eddie Pleasant (16 TKL, 2 PBU) backs up Swearinger and rookie (USC) Jawanza Starling is Keo’s backup. Swearinger got the starting gig when Danieal Manning (24 TKL, 1 SK) went on Injured Reserve in mid-October.
Randy Bullock handles the Kicking chores for the Texans. He is 23 for 32 (71.9%) on Field Goal Attempts with all his misses coming outside the 40 yard range. Bullock has had 1 Blocked, has a Long of 51 yards and is a perfect 24 for 24 on Extra Points. Randy has kicked off 60 times. 28 have gone for Touchbacks (46.6%) and 32 have been returned an average of 25.9 yards. Bullock’s kickoffs land around the 3 yard line.
Shane Lechler does the Punting and holds for Bullock on Field Goals. Shane has punted 75 times in 2013, with a 48.0 yard Gross average and a 39.6 Net. His longest has gone 65 yards and 7 have been Touchbacks. Lechler has placed 29 punts Inside the 20 and has caused 18 Fair Catches. 17 of Lechler’s punts have been returned for a 13.3 average.
Jon Weeks, a 4th year Pro, is Houston’s Long Snapping Specialist. He signed with the Texans during the 2010 offseason, made the roster out of Training Camp and has been their Long Snapper ever since. Weeks has played in 48 career games and has 9 Special Teams stops, with 4 coming this season.
The primary return man for the Texans is Keshawn Martin, who has fielded 34 Punts for an 8.1 average and one Touchdown. Martin has returned 33 Kickoffs for a 26.2 yard average.
In coverage, the leading Tacklers on Special Teams for the Texans are: Justin Tuggle (10 TKL, 1 MT), Bryan Braman (8 TKL, 6 MT), Elbert Mack (6 TKL), Eddie Pleasant (6 TKL, 1 MT), D.J. Swearinger (5 TKL, 1 MT), Ryan Griffin (4 TKL, 1 MT), Brice McCain (3 TKL), Brandon Harris (3 TKL, 1 MT), Shiloh Keo (3 TKL, 1 MT) and Josh Victorian (3 TKL, 1 MT).
The Texans woes extend beyond Gary Kubiak, who ended up taking the fall. In his defense, the Texans have suffered from shoddy play out of their Quarterbacks. However, the biggest factor has been injuries to key personnel. Starting Running Back Arian Foster, who makes up about 40% of the Texan’s Offense and starting Tight End Owen Daniels have both been huge losses. Starting Strong Safety Danieal Manning, starting Linebacker Brian Cushing, 2nd string Running Back Ben Tate are all on Injured Reserve.
Not only that, but outside their first two Draft picks in 2013 (WR DeAndre Hopkins and SS D.J. Swearinger), the Texan’s haven’t got a return on their investment. 3rd round pick, DE Sam Montgomery was cut because he would rather party than play football. 3rd round pick OT Brennan Williams, 4th round pick DE Trevardo Williams, 6th round pick OT David Quessenberry 6th round pick WR Alan Bonner and CFA WR Alec Lemon are all on Injured Reserve. NFL Teams need more than 20% of their Draft’s to contribute in some way each season. To top all that off, current starters QB Case Keenum and TE Garrett Graham won’t be playing against the Broncos this week. As I said in another post, every NFL team deals with injuries each year, and while they won’t use it as an excuse, this one wasn’t on the head coach.
The Broncos should win this game by at least 2 Touchdowns, but the Texans Defensive Line will have something to say about it.
– Kaptain Kirk