John Crist: Some pundits criticized the Texans for backing up the money truck for Matt Schaub even though he hadn't played much for the Falcons. Schaub certainly looks like he can play, but he's also been hurt a lot. Would the team make that deal again?
Charlie Bernstein: That's a great question. If you asked this question in October, the answer would have been a resounding no. But Schaub has bounced back from a tough start to play some very good football, and the team is confident with him in the huddle.
He's a leader and has all the skills to be a successful quarterback. Right now, his main issue has been injuries. But if he can stay on the field, his talent is not a question.
JC: What exactly do coaches look for in a running back when operating a zone-blocking scheme, like Houston does? More importantly, why has Steve Slaton been such a good fit in that system? The rookie has been simply terrific down the stretch.
CB: Coaches in a zone-blocking scheme look for running backs who can make one quick cut and go, and Slaton is a perfect back for that particular system.
One of the big knocks on Slaton entering the NFL was his toughness and his ability to run inside and break tackles. Slaton is able to run inside and outside, and he is a very tough runner. He reminds me quite a bit of Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew.
JC: There are a lot of experts that believe Andre Johnson is now the best receiver in football. He's over 100 catches for the second time in three years, but it seems like Kevin Walter is scoring most of the TDs. Does Johnson have red-zone troubles?
CB: Johnson had a little problem with drops about midway through the season, but he's since corrected that as evidenced by his amazing stats.
Johnson draws so much attention in the red zone that it allows guys like Walter, who is a fine receiver in his own right, and tight end Owen Daniels opportunities to succeed.
JC: The Texans appear to have hit a home run with D-end Mario Williams, but another first-round pick, D-tackle Amobi Okoye, has struggled his second season. While he's still just 21 years old, do you see Okoye developing into a Pro Bowler?
CB: Okoye has talent that would make any defensive coordinator drool at the defensive tackle position. That said, a lot of DTs struggle early on in their careers, and Okoye has been solid but unspectacular.
But his arrow is still pointing straight up, and I would be shocked if he didn't make multiple Pro Bowl appearances in the next few years.
JC: Houston hasn't stopped many teams in 2008, as the defense sits near the bottom of the standings in points allowed, rushing yards allowed, and total years allowed. But there looks to be some talent on that unit. What needs to change on D?
CB: The main issues with the Texans defense have been a lack of a pass rusher to play opposite Williams and an underachieving secondary. Williams routinely commands double teams, and Anthony Weaver has not been able to defeat one-on-one matchups. Cornerback Dunta Robinson missed a good portion of the season, and free-agent acquisition Jacques Reeves is a marginal NFL starter at best. Fred Bennett is physical but a poor cover corner, and the safeties are among the worst in the league.
If Houston can shore up the secondary in the offseason, they could very well find themselves at the top of the division next year.
To read Part II of this three-part series, where John answers five questions from Charlie, Click Here.
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