The Arizona Cardinals are traveling to Houston to take on the Texans and SB Nation’s Battle Red Blog was nice enough to stop by and discuss the matchup with us.
Kenneth L took on five questions to get us a little better knowledge of the Texans.
1. The offense from Deshaun Watson to Tom Savage is night and day. Will the Texans rely on the run game more?
The Texans hover around 25-30 rushes a game from their running backs. With Deshaun Watson, he ran the ball about 6-8 times a game and completely changed the types of run plays we ran. The Texans have not relied on the run any more than before. Head Coach Bill O'Brien has pretty specific run-to-pass ratios that he would like to keep. That consistency lends itself to the fanbase being able to say "I think this play is going to be a run" with having pretty good accuracy. I would like to see more variety in our run plays. Lamar Miller was benched last week behind D'Onta Foreman but ended up getting the majority of the carries.
2. While the loss of Watson hurts, the cumulative losses on defense have to be the story of the season. How different is this D from Texans of the past?
You are breaking my heart with the Watson references... he is still the background on my phone and my future happiness rests on his knees. This defense lacks depth and speed right now. The secondary has gotten old and we made a mistake letting A.J. Bouye go in free agency. We fluctuate between a 3-4 and a nickel package. Andre Hal is our best performing secondary player, but that is not saying much. Our front seven is decimated. We are not running as many blitz packages, especially the 6-1-4 package which is my favorite defense we run. The defense has fallen apart in the third quarter in the past two games. Rookie Zach Cunningham is playing well and is paired with Benardrick McKinney who are our future stud LB core.
3. Who has stepped up the most on defense?
OLB Brennan Scarlett was the backup behind John Simon last year. With Whitney Mercilus out for the year, he has stepped in and played a role in the run game. His pass rush skills are not developed yet, but he did have two sacks in the game last week. We brought in Lamar Houston to help with all the injuries and provide leadership. He recovered a strip sack in the Colts game and took it in for a TD. Marcus William is a new CB who just gets burned a lot. He had one really good interception against the Seahawks but I do not trust him in our nickel sets.
4. Is this just a lost season for Texans at this point and how much does it hurt that there's not 1st round pick waiting at the end of it?
I actually wrote an article earlier this week called "Why You Shouldn't Quit on the Texans' Season". Remember, the Texans traded away Brock Osweiler to the Browns and gave them this year's second round pick as well. So no first and no second. However, in the AFC South, there is no such thing as a "lost season" since it basically takes 9 wins to secure the division. Now, the Jags are hot and will probably win 10 games this season, but I can never say that this season is a wash. There is a lot of growing for this roster to do if we want to be successful when all those players return. There are a lot of opportunities for bench players to get valuable reps and earn roster spots next season.
Consider as well that Tom Savage was supposed to be the starter all along and Watson was not supposed to play and start this season. What we saw from Watson, even though it was the ultimate tease to a franchise that has never seen excellent QB play, was unanticipated and a gift.
The Texans will most likely go into the draft with three 3rd-round picks and will probably parlay them into a late first or early second pick. I could also see the Texans cutting several veterans (specifically LB Brian Cushing) and bringing in a ton of free agents. If Watson turns out to be as good as he was even after the ACL surgery, it will more than make up for not having a 1st-round pick this next year.
5. Guess at the score of this potential Gabbert vs Savage game.
Cardinals 20, Texans 16.
This score is probably higher than what the actual score will be, but I wrote this in our site's predictions and I like to stand by my word. Our run defense is usually excellent in the first half of the game, but if the Cardinals stick with the run game I think Peterson will wear down our young and injured front-seven. As well, the Texans get beat deep easily and with the Cardinals game plan to go deep often y'all should pull off at least one long TD. Johnathan Joseph gave up a 94-yard TD to Robert Woods last week. I would like to see this game with both teams at full health, but that is a rare commodity in today's NFL.