1. A few of the talking heads in the league are thinking that the Texans will be leaning heavily on their running game on Sunday. They mentioned that RBs Arian Foster and Ben Tate may get a combined 40+ carries in the game tomorrow. Do you think this will be the case, or will they go with a different gameplan?
I believe that the game-plan this week will be a little more aggressive than it was last week. Last week the Texans had a fresh-out-of-retirement Jake Delhomme and a who-the-heck-is-this-guy Kellen Clemens. To say that Coach Kubiak was a little beleaguered about the quarterback conundrum would be an understatement. He knew that while he had to protect his rookie QB he also had to be able to spread the defense out as well.
This week, however, the Texans now have two veteran QBs to back up the rookie. Both of these QBs have tons of experience and both have been to the playoffs. Coach Kubiak will be much more confident in letting the rookie be more aggressive this week in the passing game.
But….and here it is….I still believe that Ben Tate and Arian Foster will have around 40 combined carries again this week. When you have two of the best rushers in the NFL on the same team – why not run the ball all day?
2. Head Coach Gary Kubiak has spoken very highly of your guys’ 5th rounder this year QB TJ Yates. Have you been impressed with what you’ve seen out of Yates and what do you expect out of him on Sunday?
T.J. Yates has impressed me greatly thus far. His poise, demeanor, and leadership on the field is uncommon for a rookie. He came into the first game, after Matt Leinart went down, and looked completely confident in his ability to lead the team. His arm strength is better than that of both Schaub and Leinart. In fact, Andre Johnson, Jacoby Jones, and others had to dial up the JUGGS machine by 10mph to match his throwing speed.
Likewise, he is not looking too shabby on paper either. Statistically, if he had kept up his current pace from last week (188 passing yards, 1 passing TD), he would be statistically better than both Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder who are also rookie QBs.
This Sunday I expect to see him spread the ball around more so than he did last week. He is becoming more familiar with the players, routes, and reads so his ability to get the ball to where it needs to be will improve this week. With the absence of Andre Johnson this week he will have to look for multiple receivers to make big plays. He will also be looking in the middle of the field for Owen Daniels and Joel Dreesen while using the screen with Arian Foster just for good measure.
3. Outside Linebacker Connor Barwin is a Cincinnati product, so quite a few Bengals fans know about this young pass-rusher. I’m curious why he’s on such a hot streak all the sudden, getting 4 sacks in one game two weeks ago. And, will he continue to tear it up against the Bengals?
Connor Barwin…wow, there is so much to say about this guy. He has been a tremendous asset to the Texans defense this year. I believe that his hot streak can be attributed to a few different factors.
Firstly, he plays with a non-stop motor and never gives up on a play. He may get locked up for a minute or knocked down but he is always in pursuit of the ball, no matter who has it. He pushes through every play as if it is the most important play of the game.
Also, I believe that he feels as if he has to make up for lost time. With his injury last year you could tell that he was chomping at the bit to get back out onto the field. His play this season is indicative of his passion to play football as well as his dedication to making the Texans a better team.
Lastly, his success is due largely to the great play of DE J.J. Watt and NT Shaun Cody. Cody and Watt really lock up an offensive line thus allowing Barwin to rush the edge. Without the play of these two players I know that Barwin would not have the stats that he does now. This is a great compliment to the success of the Texans front three this year.
4. There’s quite a few Texans-Bengals connections. Can you speak a bit about former Bengals WR Kevin Walter and CB Jonathan Joseph and what they’ve meant to your team so far? Joesph has been involved in “Free Agent Pickup Of The Year” discussions (unfortunately to Bengals fans…)
Kevin Walter is an interesting player because he is so quiet. He plays very effectively but you do not hear him talked about too much. Being deeper on the depth chart means that he sees fewer passes than most wide receivers but when he does have balls thrown his way he has great hands and goes after them. He is a dependable receiver who has always been great in those medium distance situations. I am sure that he will be with the Texans for the remainder of his career as he has done a great job of establishing himself here.
Johnathan Joseph has been the best pickup of the off-season (outside of Wade Phillips). He is having a stellar season with his 32 tackles, 4 INTs, and a forced fumble and his name has been mentioned by the “powers-to-be” involved with the Pro Bowl.
Funny enough, when the off-season came most Texans fans were screaming for us to go after Nnamdi Asomugha. I disagreed and said that we should go after Joseph. To say that I was chastised would be putting it lightly, look who is laughing now! He has been a great addition to this team because of his athleticism, tenacity, and leadership.
5. Prediction and Reason?
I am going to call this one in favor of the Texans 20-13 for a few reasons. First, the Bengals have lost three of their last four games. Their solo win during those four games was by three points against one of the worst teams in the league. The Bengals are in a slump and the Texans will want to capitalize on that.
Secondly, the Texans outmatch the Bengals in most statistical categories of this game. The passing offense of the Texans will struggle against the Bengals pass defense. However, the Texans run game will dominate the Bengals rush defense, the Texans pass defense will hold up against the Bengals pass offense, the Texans rush defense will dominate the Bengals rushing, the Texans special teams is on fire, and Coach Marvin Lewis is 0-2 against Coach Gary Kubiak.
Lastly, the Texans are hungry for the playoffs. This team has overcome more obstacles than any other team in the NFL this season and have continued to win games at the same time. They have been playing with a 1-0 mentality (meaning that they focus on each game, one at a time) and will look to clinch the AFC South with a win.