In Week 2, our Indianapolis Colts will travel to take on the Houston Texans. Knowing the party was hitting the road this weekend I sat down with Scott Barzilla aka VBallRetired of Battle Red Blog. You can find him on Twitter @SBarzilla. We swapped questions about the Colts and Texans and what follows is what I learned about this week’s enemy.
You can find my answers (mostly, I got wordy and they edited them down) to his questions here.
Chris Shepherd: The Texans spent the second overall pick on Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud. Through one week what are some of the positives you’ve seen? What are the areas of concern? Has the team done enough to support their young passer?
Scott Barzilla: As you well know, there are two ways to grade rookie quarterbacks. You can compare them with the rest of the league or you can grade them on a curve. You could claim that Stroud was the best rookie quarterback in week one. I’m sure Colts fans would say Richardson was, but that means they were both better than Bryce Young. That’s very encouraging. What I like about Stroud is that he learns quickly. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice and he has shown growth every time he has gone on the field.
Stroud is more a traditional quarterback than Richardson or Young. He prefers to stay in the pocket, so I am worried that the lack of blocking up front will eventually get him killed. He needs to learn to get rid of the ball faster, but I think that will happen. The game will slow down and he will do more on schedule than either Young or Richardson. The main thing is keeping him healthy enough and without developing bad habits so that when they actually get talent around him he can flourish.
CS: Despite it only being week two the Texans are down several players. By my count three starters (maybe four if you count Scott Quessenberry) on the offensive line are currently on IR. Starting safety Jimmie Ward missed week one with a hip injury. Receiver John Metchie and linebacker Blake Cashman both missed with hamstring injuries. Then young star safety Jalen Pitre had to leave the Ravens game and was hospitalized with a bruised lung, Tackle George Fant suffered a shoulder stinger and defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway left the game with a calf injury. My question is, how is the team, more specifically the offensive line and the secondary dealing with so many good players being injured? Did it have a noticeable impact on the field and is there anything the Texans can do to work around these injuries if these players can’t play in week 2?
Scott: Obviously, the most challenging part of a rebuild is developing quality depth. It is the difference between a team like the Eagles or 49ers and teams like the Texans and Colts. Defensively they are still in good shape. Ward should be back this week and Pitre might be back. I don’t think they missed Cashman at all. However, the offensive line is completely different. I think if they move Deiter to guard and Jones to tackle they can hopefully limp through this game. I don’t think either offense will move the ball that much, so we are just hoping for another clean game from Stroud.
Note: After exchanging questions and answers with Scott on Friday afternoon the Texans announced that neither Pitre nor Ward will play. Starting left tackle Larmey Tunsil is now also listed as questionable after not participating in practice on Friday with a knee injury and C.J. Stroud was limited in practice and is listed as questionable as well.
CS: After watching the Texans vs. Ravens game, it became clear to me that the Texans defensive line is going to be a problem for their opponents all year long. If you were an offensive coordinator in charge of creating a game plan to go against that Texans front, what’s your plan? What are you putting in to try to have some success? Are you just asking your GM to trade for better players before Sunday? Calling in sick won’t work so what’s the strategy here?
Scott: Honestly I double team Will Anderson and force someone else to beat you. Jonathan Greenard had a really good game, but he has never been a consistent force. Jerry Hughes might be past his due date. I like Sheldon Rankin and Maliek Collins, but they aren’t elite defenders. I think Anderson is one right now and he will only get better. I think Anthony Richardson is a good cheat code in this department. Lamar Jackson eluded the rush and made things happen through sheer athleticism. If the Texans face a more stationary quarterback this year they could rack up six or seven sacks very easily. Richardson will force them to rush in lanes and not sell out to go directly to him. That should buy him an extra second or two. It’s why you draft those superior athletes in the first place.
CS: Given everything you know about the strengths and weaknesses of the Houston Texans and everything you believe about the Indianapolis Colts, gun to your head, how do you think this game will break down by quarter? What’s the final score?
Scott: The Colts front seven worries me a lot. I looked up PFF scores for a different article this week and three different Colts scored 90 or higher. That’s elite Pro Bowl performance. I always chronicle the top five overall performances of the previous week. All five guys from the Colts are in their front seven and that doesn’t include Shaq Leonard. I see them shutting our running game down and forcing Stroud to throw. Trevor Lawrence showed you can still win that way, but Stroud isn’t in that neighborhood yet. I see both defenses controlling the game for the most part. I’d go under in nearly every corner. When you have rookies facing off, the game will come down to turnovers. Who takes better care of the ball? On paper you would think that would be Stroud, but it’s a crapshoot. I’m leaning 17-14 Texans as a final, but I wouldn’t put any money on it.
CS: DraftKings Sportsbooks at the time of this writing has the Colts as 1.5 point favorites on the road. Is that line fair? Are there any other bets for this week’s game you have your eye on?
Scott: We are both company men and the company wants us to talk up DraftKings. I fully respect that. However, I can’t in good conscience persuade anyone to take either team this week. They are both young teams with young quarterbacks and while I am excited to watch it, I couldn’t begin to have a guess as to who is going to win this game. They always say you can throw out records in the division. The Texans were 3-2-1 in the division last season and 0-11 out of the division. Both teams will be frisky in this one.
I think I would take the over on rushing yards for Richardson. The Texans generally did a good job in the traditional running game, but occasionally broke contain on Jackson. Like you, I think the under is a good bet this week. The defenses are clearly better than the offenses, so it only goes high scoring if we see some defensive scores. That’s always possible, but betting on that is a fool’s errand. Maybe just get yourself a beer and save the DraftKings budget for another game. It’s going to be a very entertaining game, but it is very difficult to handicap.
The line on this game has gone back and forth between the Colts and Texans all week. This one could go either way but ultimately I believe the Colts defensive front will just be too much for the Texans injured offensive line to handle. Win, lose or draw, though, the outcome of this one isn’t as important as the continued growth of Anthony Richardson and the Colts offense. I believe the offense will grow week by week and we should see growth this weekend. With that said, don’t be discouraged if the offense seems like it takes a back. Progress almost never goes in a straight line, so while it would be amazing to go into Houston and get a win, even if it doesn’t happen, the sky still isn’t falling on the Colts.
I’d like to thank Scott Barzilla of Battle Red Blog for taking the time to talk Colts vs. Texans, I’m glad he was willing to put up with the 3,000 word dissertation I originally sent him. But to be fair, he asked about the Jonathan Taylor situation and there are no quick or easy answers there.
As always, go Colts.