We successfully navigated the dog days of August and arrived at the autumn ones that bring the gridiron back. Congratulations guys, we've made it another year!
So, if you were in a comatose state for the last month or so, refusing to even bother with preseason games or training camp, don't worry, because I'll catch you up on the last month or so that you didn't want teasing you. With it's football-but-not-really-totally-football premise. Or if you're a season ticket holder, but just donated the preseason ones to friends knowing that they weren't really all that important. Here is what you missed:
The closest thing the team had to an actual position battle was kicker. Yawn, wake me up when it's over. Kris Brown came down with plantar fascitis, and missed a 56-yard field goal in the preseason finale that effectively ended his career with the Texans. As a gesture of good will, the Texans IR'ed him and prepared an injury settlement offer, which I'm pretty sure is the closest thing to emotional damages that you'll ever find in the NFL. Neil Rackers will be your opening day kicker.
The other close battle for a starting job came at the interior guard spot, where the focus shifted all camp. Coming into training camp, it was thought that Kasey Studdard and Antoine Caldwell had the inside track on the two starting guard jobs, with the center position perhaps up for grabs. Around the second week of preseason, we started hearing about how Wade Smith was going to start in New Orleans, and in the last week of the preseason, Caldwell and Mike Brisiel shared snaps at right guard while every other position was basically settled. So your winner here is coachspeak one, gullible writers (yours truly!) zero. The starting interior line will be Wade Smith, Chris Myers, and the Caldwell/Brisiel battle could spill over into the regular season. On merit alone, those last two should probably both be playing while Smith counts his dollars on the bench, but that isn't how the NFL works, is it?
Arian Foster laid waste to the running back battle that was supposed to develop. The Texans came into camp thinking that Foster, Slaton, or rookie Ben Tate could tote the rock, and Jeremiah Johnson and Chris Henry would battle over the last spot on the roster. Instead, Tate's ankle wrecked his season, Johnson hurt himself against Tampa and will probably land on the practice squad, Henry was released, and Slaton looked just as bad as he did last season before catching a preseason-ending case of turf toe. Derrick Ward was signed at the end of the preseason, but don't mind him, he's just there to get three carries a game. This is Arian Foster's show.
There was never a cornerback battle. Kareem Jackson seized it from day one, and played extremely well in the preseason. He can still be exploited inside, but for a rookie cornerback, that's not all bad. Glover Quin will join him and be pushed inside when the Texans run the nickel by Brice McCain, who had a nice preseason in coverage but is a liability in the run game. Both veterans that you may have heard of in this battle: Jacques Reeves and Fred Bennett, were unceremoniously dumped. Bennett fairly, Reeves perhaps not. The Texans will be relying on the injury-prone Antwaun Molden and rookie Sherrick McManis to backup the cornerback slots. Jamar Wall, claimed off waivers from Dallas Sunday afternoon, is the sixth corner.
I'd like to say there was a battle for the linebacker spot vacated by Brian Cushing during his suspension, but it wound up being more like a pillow fight. A pillow being one of the millions of objects in the world that, once it strikes Xavier Adibi, sends him down for three weeks. Adibi, who Gary Kubiak admitted was the one the Texans were pulling for after Week 4, played just the one game against the Buccaneers reserves and looked rusty. Danny Clark, the veteran brought in to push Adibi, snagged an interception against the Saints but dealt with his own injury problems for the rest of camp and was eventually cut Sunday. Darryl Sharpton, the rookie fourth-rounder, was a solid tackler but showed that he wasn't ready to play zone coverage quite yet. The startling number of injuries at the position forced the Texans to let Isiah Greenhouse get extensive experience at linebacker, and he responded by showing us some of the worst coverage skills any linebacker has had in the Kubiak era before he was mercilessly cut on Saturday. Look for Adibi to get the first crack against Indianapolis, while the Texans coaching staff praises their lucky stars that they drew the one team in the NFL that they will predominantly play nickel against first.
- Dan Orlovsky embarrassed himself on Thursday night, capping off the second quarter with two terrible interceptions, one into triple coverage. For bonus style points, he had one of them returned for a touchdown as he attempted what could only be called a "zombie tackle" (think of the hand outstretched and say "braiiiiins!") on Tampa Bay defensive back Corey Lynch. Fortunately for him, he apparently showed Gary Kubiak a lot during practices. Or maybe he didn't and Kubiak is lying. Either way, the Texans are pot committed with Orlovsky, so if Matt Schaub hits the deck, the season is over. Not that it probably wouldn't be anyway, but with Orlovsky, it's definitely over.
- Amobi Okoye looked overmatched by the Saints guards, while he dominated the poor guards of the Cardinals and Cowboys. In other words, nothing has changed. Earl Mitchell may have came out of camp a wee bit overhyped, as he struggled to generate much against second stringers until his final game. You may want to push the OTA back on his first sack a bit.
- The most impressive skill group as a whole were the tight ends. Dreessen played very well, James Casey was leading the second unit most of the time and showed that he'd worked on his blocking in the offseason, and Garrett Graham could probably be a goal line threat right now for some teams. Owen Daniels will probably be worked back slowly, and with good reason, since the rest of these guys (colloquially known as "his successors") shouldn't provide too much of an overall downgrade considering his poor blocking.
- Eugene Wilson managed to stay healthy for four weeks. If you keep flipping a coin over and over again, it will eventually hit tails. Ergo, watch for Dominique Barber to get some playing time this year. Rookie Troy Nolan, who missed his actual rookie year due to injury, showed good instincts in the preseason as well and will probably be next in line.
- Stop me if you've heard this one before, but defensive overpursuit was a huge issue again during the preseason. I wonder what this could possibly foreshadow?