November 18, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson (80) scores a touchdown in overtime to give the Texans a 43-37 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Texans 2-14
Last Season’s Rankings: #11 Overall Offense (347.3 total yards per game) #15 Passing Offense (238.3 passing yards per game) #20 Rushing Offense (108.9 rushing yards per game)
At 2-14, the Texans offense was about as effective as a 2-14 offense can get. With Matt Schaub’s atrocious 14 interceptions (many of them taken back to the house), and the injury of franchise RB Arian Foster, the Texans barely struggled to put up 17.3 points per game in 2013. Last season they ranked 20th in fumbles (five), third in interceptions (22) and 23rd in completion percentage (58.6%). Last season looked great until Schaub started throwing picks and then Foster got injured for the season. Andre Johnson was a bright spot, however other than that the Texans offense didn’t really have any bright spots. Rookie DeAndre Hopkins caught for just over 800 yards and Ben Tate rushed for 771 yards in Foster’s absence. In reality, 2013 was almost like Foster’s home for imaginary friends. The only problem being that Foster didn’t really have any friends to help him out.
For four seasons, Arian Foster has been the Texans’ premiere back. Ever since he earned the starting job in 2010, Foster has averaged 1,201.5 yards, 10.5 touchdowns, 4.475 yards per carry and 405.25 receiving yards per season. During his 2010 season, Foster had arguably one of the best seasons in Texans’ history, rushing for 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns. Last season however, Foster was sidelined most of the time with an unfortunate hamstring inury (an injury which has plagued him multiple times throughout his career). In eight games Foster rushed for 542 yards and just two touchdowns. In his place, the Texans put in the equally prepared Ben Tate and Dennis Johnson. Since he was drafted by the Texans, Tate has been a yards per carry machine. In 2011, even without the starting job, Tate rushed for a very healthy 942 yards on just 175 carries (5.4 yards per carry). Last season, Tate was effective, however not as effective as the Texans rush offense would have liked. In 14 games played, Tate rushed for 771 yards and four touchdowns on 181 carries (4.3 yards per carry). In the end, the Texans ranked 20th in the NFL in total rushing yards (108.9 rushing yards per game), 31st in points (17.3 points per game) and 28th in rushing touchdowns with just seven. I think that due to the passing game’s troubles and the lack of Arian Foster, the Texans overall offense suffered. I think in 2014 with Foster back healthy, the Texans should see massive improvement.
They’ve added blocking Iowa TE C.J. Fiedorowicz and OG Xavier S’ua-Filo out of UCLA to help assure the running game. As one of the top guards in the draft, the Texans snagged a winner in Su’a-Filo. With this pick the Texans weren’t necessarily filling a need as much as they were looking towards the future. Going into the second day of the draft, many speculated that the Texans were going to select Derek Carr or perhaps another QB to fill their QB need, but instead went with an offensive guard at #33 overall. Regardless though, with Su’a-Filo the Texans are getting one of the best offensive guards in the nation. At 6’4 and 1/8 and 307 pounds, Su’a-Filo is not as large as some other offensive linemen, however he is very good at schematic movements and body placement. For instance, during his time at UCLA, he was able to adequately protect UCLA QBs, while still helping the running game. And although he may not be as strong and physically fit as others, in the long run his general ability to execute blocking schemes (pull, trap and combo blocks) will help him go far in the NFL and with the Texans. Ben Tate is now in Cleveland, and rightfully so. I think that the Tate-Foster combination was one of the deadliest in the league when it was good. However, I think that eventually Tate got sick of always playing the role of underrated Robin while Arian Foster got all of the glory as Batman. Now he is with the Browns and Foster has the offense all to himself. Of course he still has former New York Giant RB Andre Brown and rookie Alfred Blue to look over, but they should not hinder the running game at all.
As a tailback at LSU, Blue was only able to rush for 1,253 yards in his entire college career with only 209 carries under his belt. Although Blue’s yards per carry and size are something to be admired, there is still much more work to be done. Regardless, the pick up of Blue will help the Texans out with some fresh legs in case Foster has lingering hamstring issues during the season or towards the end of a game. Not to mention, along with Blue the Texans did pick up a strong FB Jay Prosch out of Auburn University. A virtual unknown, Prosch is exactly what one would expect from a 6th-round pick. Although he won’t be turning heads anytime soon with his speed or agility or strength, Prosch adds some depth to the FB position of the Texans and can definitely help out Arian Foster and the Texans totally revamped 2014 blocking scheme. He played fullback at Auburn for four years and was an intricate part of the national championship run. His particular strength is blocking on stretch plays or run plays to the outside. With his size and strength he was able to easily move defenders and seal the edge for either Tre Mason or Nick Marshall. Look for him to play a decent role in the Texans’ running game next season.
Their 2013 starting QB Matt “Pick Six” Schaub, was unable to lead the Texans, throwing 14 interceptions, 214.8 yards per game and a 73.0 passing rating in 2013 (worst passer rating for Schaub since his days as a backup in Atlanta. Schaub was eventually benched in place of Houston University alumni Case Keenum after throwing multiple pick sixes to opposing team’s secondaries. Keenum didn’t throw as many interceptions as Schaub did, however he wasn’t as productive as we would have liked, throwing for only a 54.2% completion, 220 yards per game and a 78.2 passer rating in 2013.
As one of the draft’s late risers, many are still undecided about where they stand in regards to draft pick Tom Savage. On the one hand he has a cannon for an arm which can connect on throws deep down the field with relative accuracy and speed. On the other hand though, Savage has a pure gun-slinger mentality at it’s finest. According to his game tape he will often force throws into tight lanes and even make some poor decisions in terms of coverage and such. At Rutgers University Savage was able to throw for 2,211 yards, 14 touchdowns, with a 128.5 passer rating. After being injured and replaced as starter during his sophomore season, Savage ended up transferring to multiple schools and ended up at the University of Pittsburgh. In his first and only season as a Pitt Panther, Savage was able to throw for a modest 2,958 yards and 21 touchdowns while completing 61.2% of his throws. He has shown that he definitely has some NFL-worthy attributes. For example, although Savage may not make the best decisions with his arm, he does in fact have a very powerful arm and body. He has the ability to stay in the pocket and take a beating (not that he will with new offensive guard Su’a-Filo blocking for him) and could potentially last the entire season. The only question really is about his football IQ and decision making capabilities. For a starting NFL QB, you’re going to need to make hundreds of decisions on the fly throughout the game. Even though Savage does have somewhat of a grasp on the game, his decision making lacks in some areas. If Savage can work on his timing with his receivers, use of his eyes and head to lead corners away from intended targets, and deliver strikes right to the open receivers, he can potentially be successful in the NFL. Was Savage a steal as the #135 pick? Perhaps. If he does work out in the NFL, kudos to the Texans for being able to make that risk towards another NFL QB.
As for the current starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, I believe he has the ability to turn around this ball club. Matt Schaub signed with Oakland, leaving the Texans with Keenum and T.J. Yates at the QB position. Fast forward a couple of months and Fitzpatrick is proclaimed the starter and the Texans now have four QBs to work with. While many may want to give the outright nod to Fitz, there are some fans who believe that with a little bit of work either Keenum or Savage can be the savior. Where I believe Fitz can be successful in Houston is with his experience. While at Buffalo and Tennessee, Fitz was able to throw for an average of 217.5 yards per game and threw 94 touchdown passes. However at the same time though, Fitzpatrick has had some troubles with ball security and accuracy. From the 2009 season, Fitzpatrick has thrown 76 interceptions as compared to 94 touchdown passes. His completion percentage has stayed above 60% for the past years, however with 23 interceptions and five fumbles in 2011, some may question Fitzpatrick’s QB ability. Knowing that, I think that Savage and Keenum do have some chance to win the starting job, but knowing what has already been decided this off-season, they don’t have much. I think that this season could be another tough season for the Texans’ passing game. Their only two receivers are veteran Andre Johnson and sophomore DeAndre Hopkins. Other than those two receivers they have TE Garret Graham, but that is about it. In 2014 I see Fitzpatrick being the outright starter. I don’t think Keenum has yet shown he has the ability to complete passes accurately, nor win games. I also do not think Tom Savage is yet ready for NFL action. Savage does have a great arm, however his game still needs to be refined a bit more.
Thus this 2014 off-season we do not see a competition for the starting job, but rather for the back-up job. The week one starter is guaranteed to be Ryan Fitzpatrick. When predicting who will be the week 17 starter, we have to look at the other parts of this offense. I think that in order to be successful, Fitzpatrick needs to be able to manage all parts of this offense. Arian Foster will be back after a injury that left him on the sidelines for the majority of 2013. In 2014, Fitz keeps his job if he shows that he can combine the best the Texans have to offer in the running game with the best the Texans have to offer in the passing game. If he controls the amount of turnovers and completes over 60% of his passes, 2014 is Fitzpatrick’s season. The only true knock on this passing offense is their variety of weapons (or lack thereof).
Of course they have WR Andre “The Giant” Johnson, however beyond that there really isn’t that much receiving talent on the Texans’ roster. For the Texans, Johnson has averaged the bulk of the receiving. Since Johnson was drafted third overall in 2003, he has caught for more than 851 yards a total of nine times during his career as a Texan (seven 1,000-yard seasons). As well, Johnson has consistently hauled in receptions, averaging 84.2 receptions per season, with five 100-plus reception seasons. Johnson with his big body and hands make him the ultimate target for QBs, especially towards the sidelines and in one-on-one coverage. On the opposite side is the recent draft pick DeAndre Hopkins who had a pretty respectable rookie season, catching 52 passes for 802 yards and two touchdowns. Next on the list is returning TE Garret Graham who caught 49 passes for 545 yards and five touchdowns last season. I think that Hopkins does get over 1,000 yards next season and the Texans utilize the talents of WR Keshawn Martin much more than they did in 2013. Last season the Texans didn’t have a solid starting QB all season. I believe that with Fitzpatrick at the helm, this Texans team will improve, maybe not necessarily in the yardage department, but at least in the points per game department.
In The End
Most of this offense relies on the abilities of superstar power such as Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, however I think that this off-season the Texans have added some pieces which should make them even better. TE C.J. Fiedorowicz and OG Xavier S’ua-Filo should assure the running game and help out the recovering Arian Foster. One thing that you need to know about Fiedorowicz is that he is not a pass-catching, route running, 1,000 yards-per-season type of tight end. Don’t get me wrong though, Fiedorowicz can catch the football, especially in red zone situations (299 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2013 as a Hawkeye). However, his claim to fame is through his more than strong frame, hands and ability to control not only his body movement, but also the linebacker’s movement towards the ball carrier. In the long run, Fiedorowicz will most likely be used as a primarily blocking tight end for Arian Foster and Ryan Fitzpatrick, giving the Texans some appreciated offensive line help. At this point the Texans only have two great receivers on their roster: Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. I expect Ryan Fitzpatrick to resurrect this struggling ball club and use the passing game as a means to get there. Look for Martin and Hopkins to help relieve some of the pressure off of Johnson’s shoulders.