It may only be pre-season, but 2-1 sure tastes sweet to a Texans team hungry for some respect. And as coaches made roster cuts yesterday, the players’ performance on the field was imperative in more than one way.
After finishing dead last in the league in 2005 and beginning their fifth season as an NFL franchise, this season could be considered the year the Texans either make or break their reputation for the years to come.
In their third appearance since ending a dismal 2-14 season, the Texans hit the road Sunday and used a reputable Denver team to prove that this year seems to be headed in a different direction from the last.
From the first few drives of the game, the Houston defense gave an outstanding performance, holding the Broncos scoreless until well into the second quarter. The left side of the line was nearly impossible to hold back as the Broncos’ QB Jake Plummer was forced to make several hasty throwing decisions in a row. They may not have made any sacks, but the pressure from the Texans defense was enough to hold the talented passer to just 45 yards and no touchdowns in the first quarter.
The strong presence of Dunta Robinson in the backfield was a welcome sight after the starting cornerback sustained an injury in the off-season that kept him out of training camp for several days. Though his size sometimes puts him at a disadvantage against larger receivers, Robinson showed his ability to compensate with nearly flawless coverage keeping him one step ahead of the opposing offense.
DeMeco Ryans, the Texans second-round draft pick out of Alabama and perhaps their most exciting new talent this season, worked the linebacker position like a veteran and erased any questions of his credibility in the NFL. His display of exceptional athleticism and quick reads of the rushing game made for a very unproductive Bronco offense in the first half. As a rookie in just his third game of the season, Ryans lead the defense in tackles and far outshined first-round choice Mario Williams.
Houston’s offense proved to be the weak spot of the team as a struggling David Carr and a still questionable offensive line led to just three points in the first half.
Carr favored the short route for the majority of the game and subsequently picked up only a few yards on most of the Texans drives. But after setting the record for most sacks four seasons in a row, Carr can hardly be blamed for choosing to let loose to the first receiver he sees rather than risk taking another hit.
The highlight of the Texans’ offensive game was a beautiful pass lofted by Carr to Eric Moulds. Moulds came up just short of the catch but the accuracy of the pass gave a glimpse of some still untapped talent.
As arguably one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the league, Carr’s potential hasn’t run out yet but certainly seems to be in need of a mental boost.
At running back, Wali Lundy seems to have the starting position all but wrapped up now that it looks like Domanick Davis could be out for the season. Yet Vernand Morency’s talented performance may call that position into question until the day the Texans open the season on Sept. 10.
Despite losing the game, the Texans showed significant improvements on both sides of the ball against a Denver team almost guaranteed a play-off bid this season. But with so many question marks yet to be decided, especially on offense, Kubiak certainly has his work cut out for him.