Wednesday, July 06, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Houston Texans

The Houston Texans eh. Funny old team. I say it all the time but they basically are the 2008 New Orleans Saints; a great offense coupled with a shitty defense.

And they really do have a great offense. Think about it logically for a second. Quarterback Matt Schaub is one of the leading passers in the NFL right now. He doesn't get the credit and recognition he deserves, but then that's just how the NFL covering media works; unless you're riding the hot ticket to the playoffs then nobody cares about you.

Once you've become successful then all of a sudden everyone will jump on the bandwagon (again, see the Saints in '08 compared to '09) but until that point Schaub will just have to make do with quietly being one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Yes, I just said that. Matt Schaub.

Of course one of the reasons he's done so well is because of wide receiver Andre Johnson, who is arguably one of the best at his position in the NFL right now. In fact, all the Texans offense really needs now is say, a tight end who is considered to be under rated, like Owen Daniels for example, and then a running back who posted the most rushing yards of any back in the NFL in 2010, like Arian Foster for example.

So yeah, the Texans offense is unquestionably (to a sane and rational person) one of the best in the league right now. Unfortunately that defense is... terrible. Shocking. Awful. Miserable. And a whole bunch of other words that describe something being really bad.

This year then it was expected that the Texans might go heavy on defense. No, it was practically demanded that they should. With the benefit of hindsight, I think they might have taken the consensus opinion a little literally.

It all started in round one with J.J. Watt, defensive end, Wisconsin.

Now Watt is an odd one for the Texans, due to his career in college primarily consisting of being a 4-3 defensive end whereas the Texans, under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, are likely to switch to a 3-4 defense.

That begs the question then as to where Watt will fit in? He played some snaps standing up so he could play as a pass rushing outside linebacker, but he's a little thick for that. I should just point out that I mean size wise, not that he's dumb. Of course he could be, I've never met the guy. And now I'm just rambling.

The alternative is for him to play as a 3-4 DE, which is more akin to being a 3 technique tackle in a 4-3 defense. If I'm hedging my bets then I suspect this is where he will be played and where he'll fit in best. Of course I could be wrong so we'll try and look at it from both perspectives.

As an outside rushing backer my concern is that while Watt is plenty strong enough, he'll be a little slow and a little dumpy. He can always lose weight, I accept that, but it's not ideal. That said he was a pretty good rusher. Technique was good, he had a variety of moves up his sleeve, and he pursues well.

But I still stand by my thought that he would be better off as a Defensive End. He's got strength and his technique would be well suited to playing against the guards who would often be forced to slide over to take him, providing there is a pass rusher outside of him.

Either way, I think the Texans did well with their first pick. They got somebody who will achieve a reasonable degree of success whatever they ultimately decide to do with him.

Not content with that though, the Texans came back again in the second round and took Brooks Reed, defensive end, Arizona.

Now if the future is a little uncertain for Watt, then it's crystal clear for Reed. Outside linebacker. In fact, I'm a little amazed this guy was playing defensive end in a 4-3, because really he didn't seem to have the size. Speed however Reed definitely has in abundance.

On the few occasions that he played from a standing start you could see that Reed clearly has the drive and the physical tools to be a pass rusher. He may not be the greatest in the world and yeah, his strength is a little lacking so the run game might give him some issues, but speed wise Reed is well set. Keep and eye out for this kid in Houston this year.

Next up was Brandon Harris, corner, Miami, also taken in the second round and who marked the beginning of a Houston run over the next three picks on defensive backs, their weakest position by far.

Former Texans GM Charley Casserly, who I can't stand, thinks Harris will be nothing more than a fourth string corner so that instantly makes me want to root for him to do well. Having watched him play, I think he will.

To start with the downsides, Harris is a little short and sometimes he makes some dubious choices, but that never hurt Asante Samuel so never mind. On the plus side, he accelerates quickly, is smooth in most of his movements, balanced, and plays the ball well in the air.

I should temper that last statement by saying that I don't mean picks. Harris clearly ended up as a corner because his hands are rubbish, but to me that's not a huge issue. Given the choice of seeing a corner try to get a pick and risk giving up a touchdown, or having him simply bat the ball down, I'd rather he took the opportunity to bat it down.

And hey, let's put it this way; Harris is an upgrade on the current group of corners they have so Texans fans can't moan.

On to the fourth round and its Rashad Carmichael, corner, Virginia Tech.

Oh boy. At least now I have my Halloween night planned out this year. It'll start with a one hour special of watching tape of Mike Person trying to block, followed by a one hour special of watching Carmichael trying to tackle. It is honestly cringe worthy viewing.

That for me is an issue. I can live with players who are solid but not spectacular, but Carmichael has way too many weaknesses to exploit. He absolutely cannot tackle unless he happens to be chasing someone from behind (it has to be seen to be believed). On top of that, his coverage is far too loose. He's so concerned with avoiding being beaten deep that he gives receivers way too much of a cushion.

Frankly, I give Carmichael a big thumbs down.

On to the fifth round and Shiloh Keo, safety, Idaho.

Keo had a great combine in terms of the on field drills, but I didn't get the opportunity pre draft to get a look at him in a game. Uhm. That's still the case. I got Idaho offense, just not defense. So. Shit.

Still in round five the Texans came up with QB Taylor Yates, quarterback, North Carolina.

Hmm. I think if I was gonna take a quarterback and say "this is someone who we have no intention of playing for a few years, he's a project" then Yates would be a good fit. He has a lot of the basic skills down pat. His footwork is good, he scans the field well, he throws pretty well. Doesn't have the biggest arm in the world and doesn't do as much down field throwing as some, but still has plenty of scope for development.

I think Yates has really fallen on his feet in Houston. They have a legitimate quality starter, a back up with a few seasons of practice and some game time under his belt, and that just leaves Yates to concentrate on being the young, upcoming kid. The offense is good and there is plenty of talent around him so maybe in a few years we'll be talking about Yates the same way we currently talk about Kevin Kolb?

Round seven now and two picks. The first was offensive tackle Derek Newton, Arkansas State. If you know anything about him send me a letter, because I don't. Damn Arkansas State.

That just leaves Cheta Ozougwu (yes, I had to copy and paste that), defensive end, Rice. Ozougwu also has the dubious honor that must fall to someone each year of being the last pick in the draft, and therefore Mr. Irrelevant 2011.

I know Mike Mayock of NFL Network believes he could be a situational pass rusher, but that's about all I do know. No film, no idea.

So I slightly flat end to this one. Overall though I think the Texans did some good work. They've put a plan in place for the future of their quarterback position. They've added some depth and talent to their pass rush. They believe, even I don't fully agree, that they addressed that major concern in the defensive backfield.

I think this a good draft. It's not great, but it is good. If their new pass rushers and secondary guys can even just nudge this team along a little then with an offense as good as they have they could potentially make the playoffs this year. Of course, everyone's been saying that about the Texans for the last two years now, but maybe this time it'll actually bear fruit.

Next up is the Indianapolis Colts. If you want to e-mail me, probably to complain about something, the address is;

Don't forget to hit that facebook button below and share with your friends, and I will see you all sometime this weekend with that Colts roundup.

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