What a difference a year makes.
Or does it?
Depends on who you ask.
One year ago, your Houston Texans were limping into Week 8 following another one of those Houston Moral Victories, losing to the then-undefeated Chiefs 17-16. Case Keenum started the game, showed poise at times during an otherwise catastrophic start to the season, but in the end as was the case all last year, the offensive line collapsed at the worst time, Brian Cushing took a Jamal Charles Helmet to the knee and everyone wondered how in the hell could this Texan team really be 2-5.
Of course now this team limps into Week 8 following another one of those Houston Moral Victories – (shoutout to Lamont for that reference) Again. Granted this team isn’t 2-5 nor were the expectations heading into this season as astronomical as they were last year, but the theme for this team remains the same – Embarrassing.
Even more disheartening – this team might be worse than last year’s team.
Offensively, this team is a train wreck. While I liked the hiring of Bill O’Brien and the work he’d done with the small sample size of quarterbacks not named Tom Brady, I figured the Ryan Fitzpatrick signing in the offseason would be used to tutor a Rookie quarterback in the draft.
Fitzpatrick is what we thought he was – Mediocre.
He has a career winning percentage as a starting QB of 36 percent. Texans are 3-4 which is good for a 42 percent winning clip. His career TD to INT ratio is 1.14 (114/100). He’s currently sitting at 1.14. (8/7). His career yards per game average is 200 – he’s sitting at 218 as of now.
Go ahead and cue the Denny Green.
What’s even more troubling, as bad as Matt Schaub was last year, combined with Case Keenum through the first seven games – the Texans offense still generated 253 passing yards a game last year – 35 more than this season.
But Arian Foster is healthy this year and the running game is better, that’s why the passing numbers are down.
Through seven games last year the Texans averaged 128 yards per game on the ground, or 894 total rushing yards. This year, with a healthy Arian Foster? The team has gained 903 yards for a 129 yard per game clip.
Somewhere on a street corner in West Baltimore, Gary Kubiak is doing his best Marlo Stanfield impression, “Do you know who I am? People putting my offense out there in the streets like that?”
And while Kubiak is as responsible for his own demise as Matt Schaub was, his teams usually started fast and faded, whereas this year’s team looks faded but hits a big play now and then or lucks out and JJ Watt scores.
Speaking of ‘ol JJ Watt, the undisputed leader of the defense, he may want to take some of that fat contract and see if he can entice an inside linebacker or three to help him out, because his General Manager certainly hasn’t.
Texans have played a 3-4 defense since 2011, and in that time, have drafted Zero inside linebackers. In fact, since drafting Brian Cushing with their first pick in 2009, Rick Smith has drafted one inside backer, Daryl Sharpton, who by the way, was notoriously undersized and couldn’t stay healthy.
I’ll save the linebackers and defensive ends Mr. Smith’s drafted for another post.
As for the defensive numbers, while JJ Watt is certainly the MVP in nearly everyone’s heart and soul in H-Town, don’t be surprised if he says on the podium when accepting his trophy –
That’s right, Vance Joseph, the former secondary coach and part-time defensive coordinator is missed. Badly. The Texans are giving up 269 yards passing versus only 146 yards at this time last year and the play of the secondary looks worse each week. Jonathan Joseph looks like the Brian Cushing of the secondary minus the fact his knees haven’t been blown out in successive years. I’m not sure what’s happened to Kareem Jackson and DJ Swearinger played lights out Week One and has been spotty since.
It doesn’t help there isn’t much of a pass rush either, with the defense producing only 13 sacks compared to 22 last year at this point.
So how in the world is this team 3-4 and not worse? Well, it helps that EJ Manuel (pains me to write that) and Derek Carr were on the schedule and the Redskins, well, are the Redskins.
Maybe another reason is the Texans are playing better situational football this year, you know, converting on third downs and getting their defense off the field on third downs.
Eerily, the Texans are converting 38 percent of their 3rd downs this year and last, while opponents are converting 38 percent of their third downs this year and last. Penalties maybe? I’d be lying if I said they haven’t been somewhat of a factor, as the Texans have produced 10 fewer penalties to date this year 40 – for 88 fewer yards. That doesn’t hurt. But that’s not it.
The real difference? No Wade Phillips.
Okay, I’m kidding. Sort of. But turnovers are the reason why the 2014 Texans are 3-4 after seven weeks and the 2013 Texans were 2-5. Sure, Schaub will go down in history was for his streak of Pick-Sixes. Ironically however, he had eight at this point last year while the Bearded One, and I don’t mean James Harden, already has seven. Meanwhile the Romeo Crennel-led defense has already generated 15 turnovers while Wade’s Group could only muster Five at this time a year ago. Couple that with three fewer offensive turnovers this season (16-13) – and you’ve got yourself with a +2 turnover differential this year opposed to a staggering -11 TO differential last year.
I don’t care who you are, but a 13 turnover differential improvement is going to help win you some games in the National Football League.
The way this team is playing though, that positive turnover number doesn’t appear like it’ll hold out for much longer. Although I’m not suggesting this year’s Texans are going to lose the rest of their games, Bill Bombs Over Baghdad O’Brien better get his offensive mind right or Turnover Differential will be the least of this team’s problems.