Know Thine Enemy: Texans have the D and a rookie QB
THE HOUSTON TEXANS
Record: 1-1 (Last week: 13-9 win at Cincinnati)
2016 Record: 9-7
Head Coach: Bill O’Brien
Offensive Coordinator: O’Brien
Defensive Coordinator: Romeo Crennel/Mike Vrabel
The search continues down there in Houston for a competent quarterback to combine with a top-tier defense. Anchored by future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt and fortified by outstanding talents like Whitney Mercilus, Bernardrick McKinney and Jadeveon Clowney, Houston is a great early-season test for the Patriots as they continue their offensive reinvention. It’s a complete turnabout from last week when they saw one of the better offenses and a barely-functional defense in New Orleans. Deshaun Watson will make his second start and – as long as the Patriots don’t let him go out on walkabout – it’s hard to envision Watson stringing together play after play and drive after drive at this juncture.
The Texans have allowed just seven third-down conversions in two games (25.9). They haven’t faced the iron – Blake Bortles and an inexplicably disastrous Andy Dalton – but still … . The completion percentage against is 55.4. They don’t just line up and go, they are – like the Patriots – multiple and will change weekly to suit the opponent. Bill Belichick freely discussed the similarities between Watt and Lawrence Taylor, viewed by many as the greatest defender in NFL history. Lamar Miller’s a solid back (though just 35 for 126 so far) and DeAndre Hopkins is the kind of receiver the Patriots imported Stephon Gilmore to deal with – a long, fast boundary threat. With Watson’s ability to extend plays, communication on the back end of the defense – a still-developing part of the Pats defense – will need to be on point.
The Texans allowed 13 sacks in the first two games. It was the Running of the Bulls every snap against Jacksonville. The offensive line is still trying to get things settled personnel-wise and veteran left tackle Duane Brown's holdout continues. Watson is going to be put on the spot to try and make plays and the Patriots would love to force him into some missed reads and mistakes. Watson has been fixated on Hopkins so far (Braxton Miller is the only other wideout to catch a pass from Watson) so the Patriots will focus on keeping him bottled up and Watson in the pocket. The Texans are dealing with issues in the secondary as noted earlier. Injuries to both starting corners are going to put their replacements and veteran Kareem Jackson in Brady’s crosshairs.
The Patriots are 8-1 against Houston since they came into the league in 2002. The lone loss was the Welker Game at Houston at the end of the 2009 season when Wes tore his ACL and the Patriots lost, 34-27. Houston played the Patriots tough for 30 minutes last January – it was 17-13 at halftime – but their offensive ineptitude doomed them and the Patriots won going away, 34-16. The Pats beat Houston 27-0 at Gillette in Week 3 last year with Jacoby Brissett starting.