With the Indianapolis Colts facing the Houston Texans this Sunday, Stampede Blue's Josh Wilson talked with Battle Red Blog's Brett Kollmann about the Texans and this Sunday's matchup. The questions are in bold and then Brett's responses follow.
1. How much do you expect the Texans' offense to be different with T.J. Yates expected to start this Sunday? Is there a big dropoff from Brian Hoyer to Yates?
There is certainly a drop off, but not that much of a drop off, which I suppose is more of an indictment on Brian Hoyer than anything else. Neither one of them are particularly physically gifted, nor are they masters of deception at the line of scrimmage. Hell, I wouldn't even call either one of them terrible, but rather just frustratingly below average. Yates understands the core concept of the Texans offense - that being to throw it to DeAndre Hopkins as many times as humanely possible - so you should still expect some shots to him throughout the game. Hopkins had a field day against a banged up Colts secondary last time around, so we'll see how much Yates decides to throw it up to him in round two.
2. The Texans started the season 1-4 but have since one 5-3 - and that includes a two-game losing streak entering this Sunday's game. What have they done differently/better that has led to them being back in the AFC South race?
The defense finally started playing well, for one. Jadeveon Clowney has come on as of late, as has the secondary now that Rahim Moore has been benched in favor of Andre Hal. Safety is still a cause for concern on this roster, but that position group is nowhere near as awful as it was in the beginning of the season. When you throw in J.J. Watt being J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus turning offensive linemen into blocking sleds, and the remarkable contributions from rookies Kevin Johnson and Benardrick McKinney, you have yourself a recipe for drastic defensive improvement. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski still lit this group up last week on the stat sheet, but a lot of that had to do with the offense not being able to stay on the field more than it did the defense not being able to get stops.
3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Texans' defense?
The strength, at least in my opinion, is their trio of cornerbacks in Johnathan Joseph, Kevin Johnson, and Kareem Jackson. Johnson in particular has been spectacular as far as rookie corners go despite giving up a few ill-timed touchdowns now and then. He is still learning to dial back his aggressiveness in times where he needs to play more conservatively (i.e. the red zone), but man can this kid play. His footwork, burst, and play making ability in the open field are truly exciting. I'm positively giddy that we get to see him suit up for Houston for the next four or five years at minimum.
As for the weakness, this team cannot generate any interior pressure in passing situations at all unless Romeo Crennel calls for a blitz. They have even resorted to having Whitney Mercilus and J.J. Watt rush over the center at times just to try to getanything going up the middle. To compound that issue even more, the Texans do not have a single inside linebacker on their roster who can be consistently relied upon in man coverage. Pass catching backs and quicker tight ends tend to shred them in space, which puts even more pressure on Houston's defensive backs to come up and make a clutch open field tackle. It's a dangerous formula that has burned this team for several huge plays this season, but as of now they really don't have any personnel on the roster that can fix that problem.
4. How are Texans fans feeling coming into this huge divisional matchup against the Colts, particularly considering the Texans have never won in Indianapolis?
We are looking at a T.J. Yates vs Matt Hasselbeck matchup here, which to be honest probably will not excite anyone in the country who is not a fan of these two teams. You could tell me that either one of these backup quarterbacks would completely implode and cost their team the game and I would believe it. That being said, a lot of Texans fans feel that Houston has a good enough defense and a good enough head coach to turn the balance in their favor. After all, the Texans did have the Colts on the ropes in Indianapolis last season before not one, but TWO Houston quarterbacks were injured in that game under questionable circumstances. If Ryan Fitzpatrick did not break his leg in that game, I believe with every fiber of my being that Houston would have won it. Let's hope they can redeem that loss this year in what will surely be a disastrous display of offensive football on both sides.
5. Knowing what you do of the Texans, how would you attack them if you were the Colts' offensive and defensive coordinator?
Try to get Coby Fleener matched up one on one with Benardrick McKinney and see if he can make a play. McKinney is stiff as a board in man coverage, so he is naturally going to be the weak link if Indy can isolate him. As for where to attack the Houston offense, just stop DeAndre Hopkins. Seriously...that's all you have to do. It's difficult, sure, but it's been done before.
Thanks again to Brett for taking the time to answer these questions, and be sure to check out Battle Red Blog for complete coverage from the Texans side of things!