When the Houston Texans were sitting at 11-1 and looking ready to smash every expectation set for them before the season, I pictured that this season review would end up a lot differently than it will now. With the way the last six weeks of the 2012 campaign went, it was like a tale of two teams. But in being the same roster and the same team, Houston fizzled the last quarter of the season.
As the Ravens showed, every team has that lull sometime during the season. The key is to get over the slump before the postseason starts and Houston was unable to get out of their funk in a season that now stands as them spinning their wheels. Let’s take a look at their final grades now.
As a whole, it’s pretty difficult to not like what the Texans were able to do with the ball in 2012. An offense that finishes seventh in the league in yards and eighth in total points appears to be the thing a championship offense entails. And this is with key players having an otherwise down season.
Arian Foster, who still had a spectacular year by most standards, never really had those signature runs this season. Calling a 1,400 plus yard back who finds the end zone fifteen times off the mark is damn near blasphemous, but he did shoulder a heavier load this season than usual. Yes, he had more yards and touchdowns than in 2011, but he also carried the rock 73 more times and it wore him down.
The injury to Ben Tate and, especially, the changes in personnel on the offensive line are the culprits here. Due to being in salary cap hell, Houston lost forty percent of their stud offensive line from 2011 and it made a big difference. Filling in the gaps with green and rookie players wasn’t ideal, but it’s what winning teams must figure out how to do.
Finally, you have the play of quarterback Matt Schaub, who has fans in Houston ready to run him out of town. And it’s hard to disagree with based on his performances late in the season and on prime time games. The regression was blatant in his worst season in Houston since his first. His yards were down, his touchdowns and accuracy, too. Basically, teams figured out the formula to beat Houston late in the year.
What was that formula? Simple; focus on Arian Foster and let Schaub attempt to beat you. Let’s face it, Schaub isn’t that guy. He’s a system quarterback that doesn’t work if the system isn’t working. And with the inadequacies of the offensive line, the running game couldn’t dominate as it has the past few years. But as far as the season as a whole goes, this offense was nothing to laugh at.
As expected, Houston took a step back on defense this season. They finished on such a high last yea, not many thought they could repeat that. Wade Phillips is a defensive wizard, but with a year’s worth of film on this unit, teams were going to find some sort of weakness. However, the defense started right where they left off until the devastating injury to Brian Cushing. After that, they seemed like a different unit.
When a star player goes out like that, teams usually rally around him and other players step up big, just as Kareem Jackson did. To go from likely to be cut to one of the most solid corners in team history all within a year is pretty amazing, but Jackson had a pro bowl caliber season next to Johnathan Joseph. And I’m pretty sure I don’t even have to mention what J.J. Watt did this season.
In the end, entering the playoffs with two guys playing in the middle of the linebacker unit that had been cut at one time this season tells you all about what you needed to know about their playoff fate. The team had no real plan behind Cushing and the fact that they ended the season with the seventh ranked defense in the league is truly remarkable. They didn’t have numerous injuries; they had key injuries.
It’s easy to look at how the season ended and call the year a disappointment. Even I have gone on the record in saying that if you don’t get at least one step farther than the previous season, then it’s a disappointment. The regression of their starting quarterback, the seeming to get outcoached every time there is a big game and a defense that can’t stop an elite quarterback doesn’t appear to be a trend in the right direction.
Houston must address their offensive line problem. Matt Schaub is who they are married to for at least next year and possibly the next two years. So the best thing to do is to put guys around him that can hide his faults. We’ve seen in the past that Schaub can be a great pocket passer with the proper personnel. Than means finally get him a second threat at wide receiver and build the offensive line back up to the best it was in 2011. A solid draft and some strong free agency signings and this is still a scary team going forward.
Tagged with: AFC, AFC South, AFC South Report Cards, Arian Foster, Baltimore Ravens, Ben Tate, Brian Cushing, Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans, J.J. Watt, Johnathan Jospeh, Kareem Jackson, Matt Schaub, Report Card, Wade Phillips