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September 25, 2013 at 10:07 AM

Five questions, five answers: Houston Texans

Time for our weekly look at the opponent, which Sunday is the Houston Texans.
Our guest for our ”Five Question, Five Answers” blog entry is Brian T. Smith, who covers the Texans for the Houston Chronicle.
You can follow him on Twitter at @ChronBrianSmith.

Q1: Houston has some impressive statistical numbers but has struggled to turn that into points, it appears. What have been some of the major issues?

A: It’s been a mixture of issues. But, mainly, the offense has been inconsistent, while the defense hasn’t forced turnovers and has been prone to big plays.

The Texans’ offense was off target for two quarters against San Diego, nearly the entire game against Tennessee and the second half against Baltimore. As a result, the overall numbers are inflated by late comebacks in Weeks 1 and 2.

The run game has been average. Quarterback Matt Schaub (above in an Associated Press photo) has eroded decent stats with four interceptions, including two pick-sixes. The receiving corps has been strong but was left out of red-zone trips during a Week 3 road loss to Ravens.

The Texans have the talent and experience to be a Super Bowl contender. They should be one. They haven’t come close thus far.

Q2: How has Matt Schaub played so far?

A: Eh. Strong for two quarters, average for the rest. If Schaub’s good, that’s all the Texans need to advance to the AFC championship — that’s how strong they are in skill offensive areas and defense. But Schaub hasn’t accomplished what he’s needed to through three weeks, and he and the Texans (and their fans) know it. Big picture, I’m pro-Schaub. But he’s not getting any younger and this has been a recurring issue for years. If he can’t do it this year, the Texans are in trouble. And they won’t be in a Super Bowl anytime soon.

Q3: Have opponents attempted anything new this season to try to contain J.J. Watt?

A: Yes. But nothing that hasn’t been done before. Chip blocks, double teams, stacked offensive lines, etc. The Texans have responded by moving Watt around, at times lining him up next to defensive end Antonio Smith, and blending Watt in with blitz packages. He has three sacks and the Texans’ defense has mostly been as advertised. Watt hasn’t shown a drop off thus far and it’s going to take a great blocking offense to contain him. And that will likely last one week.

Q4: How would it impact the offense if Andre Johnson couldn’t play?

A: He’ll play. Johnson suffered a shin bruise and postgame X-rays were negative. His Week 2 concussion was more of a concern and Johnson long ago became accustomed to playing through injuries. If for some reason he can’t go, rookie DeAndre Hopkins — who’s been impressive — will take the No. 1 spot. The Texans have two talented tight ends (Owen Daniels, Garrett Graham), two decent No. 3 wide receivers and two running backs. One game without Johnson would be big, but they have the depth to survive.

Q5: Is there a lot of pressure on this team this season to make a deeper playoff run than a year ago?

A: Undoubtedly. It’s to the point the regular season doesn’t matter. As long as the Texans make the playoffs and are healthy, a 9-7 record would be traded for an AFC championship berth. The Texans have been one-win-and-done in the last two postseasons. The team’s talked Super Bowl two consecutive years. If they don’t make a strong run, something went wrong and major change could follow.



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