August, a scant two-and-a-half weeks from being realized, starts NFL training camp. It also starts NFL team preview season, and as these bad boys start hitting the streets, I'm going to compile them and feed you relevant quotes from them that may draw your applause, scorn, or quizzical looks. Yes, that's right, previews of previews. Don't say I didn't warn you. To keep these somewhat short, I'll run two at a time.
Our first contestant, the New York Times Fifth Down Blog! Come on down, NY Times...and might I say, it was a fine gimmick to pretend this was a play until you half-assed it and eventually wound up adding a second preview towards the end of it.
Site: NY Times Blog (Andy Benoit)
Predicted Finish: "Anything less than a wild card birth will be an underacheivement."
A greater commitment to the run should make this zone-blocking line more effective in 2010. The Texans are not willing to bank their entire rushing attack on Steve Slaton. The agile third-year pro must prove he can rebound from neck surgery and regain the decisive one-cut running style that made him a 1,282-yard back in 2008. If he can't, he'll ride the bench, and 220-pound rookie Ben Tate will share carries with undrafted Arian Foster. Both are downhill players built for this scheme.
The writer has correctly determined that Ben Tate is a threat to Arian Foster and Steve Slaton going forward, and that both players fit the zone-blocking one-cut scheme well. That deserves a golf clap.
Father: Son, this is all good and well, but star linebackers aren't going to be difference-makers against the pass. And, I believe your defense ranked 18th in that department last year. And that was with standout corner Dunta Robinson.
Houston: Look, Robinson wanted too much money. I drafted his replacement, Kareem Jackson, in the first round, plus I have a slew of other quality young defensive backs on the rise (Brice McCain, Glover Quin, maybe even fifth-round pick Sherrick McManis).
Father: (Shaking his head.)
Mother: (Staring incredulously.)
Nothing is a greater determining factor for me in deciding whether these guys have actually watched a Texans game in the past two years than the continued lauding of Dunta Robinson, standout corner. He's got swagger! Well, presumably. The Falcons Madden ratings haven't come out yet, and they are the ones who we should trust most on the subject.
Matt Schaub is a good quarterback who will have to overcome a weak arm if he wants to be great. He's injury prone and, from afar, seems to have the demeanor not of a natural leader, but of a man who's been told to lead.
As someone who has watched every game Schaub has played as a Texan, I can tell you that he overthrows balls way more than he underthrows them. Then you throw on this weird justification of how he doesn't have leadership because you've seen him talk on TV once and he didn't tell you that his team came here to win. Awkward.
Overall: Two-and-a-half stars. Some weird conclusions, but most of the segments read like they'd actually been researched. This preview could contend for a wildcard spot if everything breaks right.
Contestant number two...It's Athlon Sports! One of those companies that have been making season preview magazines for sports since the George H.W. Bush administration specifically so that disinterested grocery store shoppers can forget that they are shopping for groceries. What do you have to say, Athlon?
Site: Athlon Sports
Predicted Finish: 2nd, AFC South, AFC Wild Card
This area could be the key to Houston's season, at least offensively. The play the Texans get from their guards will probably define the success of the line. Left guard Chester Pitts started the first 114 games for Houston before suffering a torn right MCL in the second game last year, elevating Kasey Studdard to starter, a job he figures to resume this season (especially with Pitts no longer around). Right guard Mike Brisiel also went down, eventually moving rookie Antoine Caldwell into the starting job. With Brisiel battling his way back and free agent addition Wade Smith around, there will be plenty of competition at guard this fall. Smith also can play center or even tackle, if needed. Center Chris Myers is merely an OK player who needs good people around him.
A decent offensive line breakdown, but more importantly, the observation that the guard performance will make or break this line is a keen one.
The secondary is still an area of concern, especially with star cornerback Dunta Robinson signing with Atlanta,
That makes two writers who didn't watch the Texans last year.
The Texans definitely need to upgrade beyond Pollard at safety, where the team has been playing musical chairs for too many years. Eugene Wilson, who can play either safety, was one of only three players on the Texans with more than one interception last year. John Busing enters camp listed No. 1 at free safety almost by default.
Not only is John Busing not a starting safety ANYWHERE by default, he's not even signed with an NFL team as of me writing this sentence. Fact checkers, try employing some.
Overall: One-and-a-half stars. Not only was this full of scouting cliche, and weird John Busing projections, but it also kept talking about receivers needing to step up and take the heat off of Andre Johnson. Guys, Andre Johnson has led the NFL in receiving yards in each of the last two years. The last player to do that was Jerry Rice. I've got a feeling that the heat isn't bothering him much. Looks like another rebuilding season for Athlon.