Houston Texans Friday Fades: Matt Schaub, should Ryan Harris start?

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Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub (8) stands on the sideline during action against the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth quarter at Candlestick Park. The 49ers defeated the Texans 34-3. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

This week’s Friday Fades focuses on the Houston Texans, with a look at Matt Schaub, the RBs, the RT position, and the injury impact of Owen Daniels. It’s probably our longest weekly analysis feature on NFL Spin Zone, so I hope you brought cookies shaped in Matt Schaub’s head and are prepared to gnash your teeth repeatedly for each succulent bite. Too much? We’ll get to Schaub later. First, Owen Daniels.

1. Owen Daniels Injury Impact

At first glance, it didn’t seem like Owen Daniels suffered a serious injury against the San Francisco 49ers, but major injury was added to major insult when we learned that Daniels would be placed on the short-term I.R. And that was after we all thought Daniels was only going to be out for like 4-6 weeks with a fractured fibula. Now, the Texans are going to lose him until at least Week 14.

So how big is this injury? Well, really big. It’s easy to say, “Next man up, don’t overreact”, but you have to admit that losing a tight end as solid as Owen Daniels is going to significantly hurt the Houston Texans offense. Listen, if Matt Schaub were playing well, then I would admittedly state that the blow wouldn’t be as bad. But since Schaub is struggling, the loss of his safety valve over the middle of the field is clearly an issue.

Then again, how safe has Daniels really been? Better yet, how safe is the TE as a safety valve? This stat jumped out at me on the Pro Football Focus. Matt Schaub has thrown nine interceptions this year, and four of them have been to Owen Daniels. That’s 44.4%, which isn’t exactly safe. Obviously you can’t pin that on Daniels, but the fact of the matter is that we’re looking at this purely from Schaub’s perspective. We know that Daniels is a solid player (if you don’t think he is, then you just might be related to Garrett Graham), but I wonder if Schaub pulls a Josh-Freeman-with-Kellen-Winslow-Jr. thing by forcing the ball to Daniels over the middle of the field when he shouldn’t.

Losing Daniels definitely does hurt, especially in this critical part of the schedule. We always talk about how contenders need to have key players health for the “stretch run”, but every win counts in the regular season. It’s just that games at the end of the season have more of a chance at being the “last chance” for a team, because there are less chances to make up for a loss. At 2-3, the Texans are in a critical period in the middle of the season. They do have a few easy teams on their schedule like the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders during that time, but missing Daniels could be the difference in games against the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs.

This is where you miss James Casey, right? At least Garrett Graham should do a decent job in the interim, and the Texans should be able to survive this injury. The way I see it, you can’t use Daniels’s injury as a reason for the Texans losing a game, because he’s just a solid, starting TE. The Texans are worse for wear without him, but this injury is honestly more about whether or not it affects Schaub than how significantly it directly hurts the Houston Texans.

2. Hey, weren’t you once Matt Schaub? You know…a top ten quarterback? What the heck happened to you, man?

That’s what we’re all wondering. I’m like apologist No. 1 when it comes to defending quarterbacks, because I believe QBs receive disproportionate praise and blame. Unfortunately for Schaub, he deserves all the blame he’s getting. The guy has been horrendous through the first five games of the season, and it isn’t even accuracy or arm strength. He hasn’t suddenly seen his arm strength deteriorate, nor is he suddenly throwing a high number of wounded ducks (63.7% completion percentage). So what in the heck is it? You get the best receiver in this year’s draft class in DeAndre Hopkins, who gives you your first legit No. 2 receiver in Houston, and this is what you do?

It’s decision-making. It really is. And it’s not like Schaub is suddenly un-clutch, but he’s just making these wicked stupid throws. I mean, throws that you wouldn’t even dare to attempt in Madden. It’s worse than Eli Manning. It’s worse than Rex Grossman. It’s worse than Jay Cutler when he’s in “emo adolescence” mode. The scary thing is that Schaub has never been that kind of a quarterback, and yet he has turned into some sort of monster right in front of our very eyes.

He’s been terrible, but I’m here to tell you not to panic. He hasn’t suddenly turned into some bottom-feeder QB. He hasn’t suddenly turned into the QB version of Val Kilmer. If you look at the games against the San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, and Seattle Seahawks, then you’ll see that there’s more to the story. And sorry, Schaub, there is no way anybody will ever defend you for your incredibly bad display (words cannot describe it) against the San Francisco 49ers, and I’m not going to try to dupe anyone by saying you “out-clutched” the Tennessee Titans.

We can quickly skip the Chargers game, since it’s pretty obvious that he was great against them. But how about those Ravens? Schaub only threw one interception (what an improvement, right?), and he also completed 71.4% of his passes. He was also sacked six times.

Now for the Seattle Seahawks. Yes, he threw two interceptions. However, Schaub also averaged 7.2 yards per attempt and completed 63.3% of his passes. Schaub was also sacked four times and had three drops from his receivers. One of those drops actually turned into an interception, courtesy of the aforementioned Owen Daniels. And the Richard Sherman pick six? Schaub gets some of the blame for that for not taking the sack, but most of the blame has to go to some awful pass protection. By the way, Daniels could have done a better job of muscling up on Sherman, too.

I think Schaub will bounce back, because his track record is too good to doubt him at this point. He was a top ten QB not too long ago, and he didn’t suddenly become stupid, and he clearly isn’t suffering from a depreciation of physical tools. In all honesty, I blame this offensive line for some putrid pass protection. Not even Duane Brown has been good, though I’m betting most of that is due to injury. Some of the players on the line (*cough* Derek Newton *cough*) have been hideously bad, and it seems like All-Pro caliber center Chris Myers is the only one pulling his weight.

Schaub will turn it around, but there is no doubt that he has been completely abysmal so far this year. However, there is one positive indicator that I need you guys to take a gander at. The Pro Football Focus charts a statistic called “Accuracy Percentage”, which is essentially completion percentage but without the statistical noise provided by drops, throw-aways, and the like. Where does Schaub rank? He’s 14th. He has also faced the fourth-most pressure (based on percentage of drop-backs) of any QB this season. Remember this.

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