Every week, I hope to bring you a quick Q&A with someone who covers the
MV: Were you surprised by how the Texans played in Sunday night's loss to the
SS: I think most everyone was surprised.
There were some things that were issues in previous games that the Texans were able to get away with without losing: Poor field position. Untimely special teams penalties. Inconsistent offensive line play. Run defense that too often gives up easy yards, but maybe hasn't been challenged much playing with big leads. All those things finally caught up to them against the Packers.
Prior to that game, the Texans had been very solid on third down offense and defense, crushing opponents with time of possession, and that went away on Sunday.
Aaron Rodgers needs to be given a lot of credit. He escaped what looked to be almost certain sacks and made some throws that would have been impossible to defend. Even so, it is hard to know what this defense is going to look like without inside linebacker
MV: Texans defensive end
SS: J.J. Watt is one of those special players who has the combination of freakish size, strength and athletic ability combined with a desire to work hard and follow coaching. It's hard not to like driven players who don't just rely on their athleticism. He's in a system with Wade Phillips that allows him to use his strength against the run, but still get after the passer.
In an interview I did with him last February, he thought his game against the Ravens in the playoffs was his best one of last year.
I think the biggest difference between him this year and last is him having more confidence and understanding in what he was doing. With the lockout last year, this season is his first full camp. He has been very special to watch.
MV: Injuries were again an issue for Texans wide receiver
SS: Andre Johnson looks like Andre Johnson to me, and the reports of him dropping off are wildly exaggerated. His production this year has decreased for two basic reasons: 1. The Texans have had a lot of early leads in games, which has meant they've been able to focus on the run in the second half, and haven't been forced to take much risk in their offense; 2. The Texans are trying to reduce his number of total snaps during a game to help preserve him for the entire season, slowly get extra work for their rookie WRs, and hopefully by the playoffs have a healthy Andre Johnson and rookies that better know what they are doing.
The game against Denver was probably Johnson's most flashy of the regular season.
SS: I think Jacoby Jones' story is the one that a lot of
His special teams failures against Baltimore in the playoff game, ones that a player with years of experience should have known not to do, was the last straw for a lot of fans. Many fans weren't happy when he was re-signed prior to last year, but I believe that happened because the lockout made it difficult to learn up new receivers. They also used that draft to help their defense. So with draft picks available for new wide receivers to develop this year, Jones became expendable.
As for his reception, I'm not sure it will be much of anything unless Jones does one of his more flamboyant celebrations. If Baltimore fans have a chance to meet Jones, he's a very funny, engaging guy. Just needs fans to root for him that don't remember his many mistakes.
MV: The Texans have never beaten the Ravens, and it always stings when a team knocks you out of the playoffs. Do you get the sense that there is extra motivation there to finally beat the Ravens and maybe get a bit of revenge? Or was the loss to the Packers jarring enough to make sure their focus was on solving their problems? The latter seemed to be the case for the Ravens a few weeks ago heading into their game with the rival
SS: With this particular group of Texans, I'm never worried about their effort or motivation. I tend to be more concerned about different players pressing too much, trying to do things that they can't do. I'm certain they don't want to lose to the Ravens again, or go into the bye week after two bitter losses in a row after such a good start of the season. They very much want the playoffs, and they want home field in the playoffs, and they know that beating the Ravens is one part of that.
The bigger concern to me are not these motivational intangibles but more basic football tangibles: What will the Texans defense look like without Brian Cushing? Can the right side of the offensive line perform in a consistent manner? Will the Texans continue to struggle with special teams penalties and coverage, and continue to put the Texans offense in bad field position situations?