The Rundown: Texans vs. Cardinals

The Houston Texans dropped their preseason opener 32-0 to the Arizona Cardinals. Here the rundown of some particulars of the game.

The Good

Jadeveon Clowney looked like he belonged on the field and his raw ability was impressive to watch. When he gets an inside lane to the backfield, he is going to take it, and he made a tackle for a 5 yard loss on Stepfan Taylor early in the second quarter. He got a small taste of what the NFL life will be like, but it was a strong start for the rookie.

J.J. Watt is still making plays and registered a sack on Carson Palmer, where he overwhelmed the guard in his pass rush. It was a short night for the defensive end, but Watt and Clowney working next to each other could give offenses fits.

The offensive line (minus Alex Kupper) looked solid in their debut for the Texans. They cleared some running lanes for running backs to work and had solid pass protection to keep Ryan Fitzpatrick clean in the pocket. The Texans have to find a replacement for Kupper, but as a whole the 1st team group looked better than expected. Also, Fitzpatrick did not take a sack or any unnecessary hits. This is a big change from an offensive line who left their quarterback in some bad situations last season with avoidable hits.

Jonathan Grimes was the lead running back and he ended the game with 10 carries for 39 yards and ran hard when he had the chance. He is looking to take a spot on the depth chart, and he started his campaign on a good note. Throw in rookie Alfred Blue and his burst when he runs the football, Blue could add another capable back for the Texans when the season arrives.

Mike Thomas led all receivers with 6 targets and 4 receptions for 40 yards. Thomas, when given the chance, read defenses well and settled into his zone to give Fitzpatrick a sure target. Thomas is working to be the slot wide receiver that makes this offense go.

Jerrell Powe looked like the nose tackle the Texans need to make the base defense run. He held up against the run and pushed the pocket (even though against the 2s/3s) to get a quarterback sack on Logan Thomas. He created piles at the line of scrimmage for linebackers to roam and make plays, which showed he understands his position.

Elbert Mack and Marcus Williams were solid in their run defense from the cornerback position. Both were not afraid of contact and triggered quickly. The Texans put value on defenders that are physical in the run game, and the two showed it last night.

Jason Ankrah had a strong showing at outside linebacker and it came with some good run defense and a pass break up in coverage. He provided some heat off the edge to force the quarterback into the oncoming rush, which is a positive start.

The Bad

D.J. Swearinger is still playing out of control and struggling in man to man coverage. He did look good in the box playing the run and coming downhill to makes plays, and also had a good hit on special teams. Romeo Crennel is going to have to figure out how to use him where he will not hurt the defense.

Whitney Mercilus looked like he was lost on what was expected from him, and he was working against the 2s and 3s of the Cardinals. He looked like he was still trying to get comfortable with what the new defense is asking from him, especially becoming a better player at setting the edge. His play on the field looked slow and with zero explosion and those are things that he did not show when coming out of college. Call it thinking too much, but Mercilus appears to be his own worst enemy at this time.

Alfred Blue had two dropped passes, one which would have been a first down to extend a drive. If Blue wants to be depended on offensively, he has to come through on small situations like these to stay on the field.

Rookie linebackers Max Bullough, Jadeveon Clowney and Jason Ankrah found out that coverage changes at the NFL level. Bullough lost his man late in the game, which resulted in a touchdown. Clowney had a touchdown thrown on him but it was called off for a penalty against the Cardinals. Ankrah, from time to time, just forgot he was supposed to be in coverage in the flats. It will be a process for the rookies to expand their game, and understanding coverage is one of them.

Tight End C.J. Fiedorowicz had his ups and downs in his first game with the Texans. He showed he can block at a high level on the edge, but had some mental lapses letting defenders inside of him to get into the back field. He will be called upon to be an important part of the offense, whether he is ready or not.

Kareem Jackson is a work in progress at the slot cornerback position. He is still trying to get used to the new scenery in the middle of the field and understanding where help is coming from in zone and man coverage. He will need to pick up this position in order to improve on last season.

The Ugly

Ryan Fitzpatrick and the passing game was not a good look. He was making some poor reads and not seeing defenders dropping into coverage. He had a quick trigger trying to get the ball out in a hurry, but he was locking onto his receivers early. He will have to do some cleaning up on his game before the next preseason game next weekend.

Third down defensive play was abysmal to open up the game for the Texans, and giving up two key third and longs did not help. It was a collective effort to play this bad on third down, whether it was cornerbacks, safeties or linebackers who struggled with their assignments.

The Texans 1st Team Defense 3rd downs

3rd-16 (25 yd. gain)

3rd-10 (10 yd. gain)

3rd-9 (24 yd. gain.)

3rd-1 (2 yd. gain)

3rd-5 (TD)

Penalties did not help the Texans (13 for 126 yards) to open the 2014 preseason.

Josh Victorian lacked awareness in coverage and gave up 7 completions on 7 targets at him. Everything was completed on him and it showed he lacks, at the moment, what is needed to stay on the field.

Matt Feiler, rookie left tackle, was part of the only two sacks of the evening against the Texans. He was completely run over in a pass rush, and had a miscommunication with Dennis Johnson to give up a sack on the safety.

Brandon Harris’ struggles continued on Saturday night, capped off with a 39 yard pass interference call where he was in trail mode of the receiver he was covering. In order for Harris to make a difference for the Texans, he has to become better in coverage. That, itself, is a tough task because he has shown little consistency that he can do it. It is going to be tough for him to hold off A.J. Bouye for the third cornerback position.

Offensive guard Alex Kupper had his opportunity to make his mark to stay on the offensive line, but he was the weak link on Saturday night. He was pushed around by the Cardinals’ defensive front and ended plays before they even got started. His busts came in bad spots, and his inability to get the job done made his first real appearance a disappointing one.

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