Ahead of tomorrow’s matchup with the Houston Texans, I talked with Rick Brokaw of Toro Times about the Texans (or should I say Dolphins) chances tomorrow.
The Texans are coming off an impressive drubbing of the Peyton Manning-less Colts last week. The offense looked like they usually do, but it was the defense, ranked 29th in the league in 2010, stepping up and only allowing seven points. Much like the Dolphins, the Texans have looked good on paper the last few years, but that has not translated to success on the field.
The Dolphins need to do everything they can do avoid going 0-2 to start the season. They cannot afford to lose the fans this early and I expect a strong showing this week.
Here are five questions I asked Rick about the game:
*And check out my answers to his five questions here.
1. Obviously a big win for the Texans over the Peyton Manning-less Colts last week. For years now, I hear the Texans as a sleeper pick, but they never seem to deliver. Is this the year they finally break through and become a playoff team? What has changed?
Indeed, last week’s win over the Colts was a great win, although it was bittersweet since we were not able to defeat the great #18. However, this year’s team is a new team with a new attitude. Wade Phillips’ new hybrid 3-4 defense has made our defense more dynamic in the way that we attack the QB on every down. With Mario Williams and Connor Barwin coming for the QB on most downs there is a ton of pressure that must be handled by opposing offensive lines. What this does is turn many teams into a run-dominant team or forces the QB to throw the short, quick passes in order to avoid a sack.
I believe that this is the year that the Texans reach the playoffs for two main reasons. First off, of course, is the Peyton Manning injury. Without him the Colts appear to be very crippled. Their dominance in the AFC South appears to be over. Second is the combination of our new defensive scheme combined with our high-powered offense. We have always had a top 10 offense and now we have the defense to match, a playoff team in the making if you will.
2. Ben Tate performed admirably in Arian Foster’s absence last week. Are you excited about Tate this year, and what do you think his role could be in a fully healthy backfield?
I was ecstatic to see how well that Tate performed against the Colts. Granted, the Colts do not have a very good run defense but to rack up over 110 yards against any team is quite a feat. I am excited for Tate but I am also worried for him…let me explain. I am happy that he finally got his opportunity to prove that he was worth a second-round draft pick but I am worried that his performance could cause some issues. The Texans currently have four RBs: Arian Foster, Derrick Ward, Ben Tate, and Steve Slaton.
Assuming that Foster does return fully recovered then there is almost an overload at that position. I am not quite sure why we kept Slaton, as I do not see the value in retaining him when we could use depth at other positions, but the fact remains that he is there. Having a full RB corps means that Tate will most likely not see too many snaps unless we build up a comfortable lead against another team (i.e. 34-0 at the half). However, if Kubiak were to use Tate and Foster in a rotation I think that would be stellar as both backs have different running styles and could be a major disruption for game planning against us.
3. Speaking of Foster, what’s up with the hammy? I’ve heard that Kubiak is thinking about starting Tate over Foster this week. Does that mean he is not fully healthy or are the Texans just being extra cautious with him?
According to Foster, Kubiak, and Foster’s doctors, he has been cleared to play this week. I would expect that Tate will start the game and Foster will rotate with him after a few possessions. However, if Foster feels good and looks like he is ready during the pre-game warm-ups then Kubiak could start him.
I believe that the Texans are being cautious with Foster. He was the league-leading rusher last year and has the potential to repeat that type of performance this year. Protecting your primary runner is of utmost importance, plus you never want to rush a hamstring injury.
4. How improved is the defense this year? Did the 3-4 change make a big difference? Can Mario Williams become as scary as Cameron Wake or even DeMarcus Ware on the outside?
The defense has improved dramatically so far this year. Last season we were ranked in the bottom of the league (29th) for defense. This year we are currently in the top 5 defenses in the league – depending on who you believe. The 3-4 has made a major chance for the defense for a couple of reasons. First off, as I mentioned earlier, is the constant pressure on the QB. Secondly, the way that Phillips runs the 3-4 is very unique and often creates mismatches for the offense. This can cause serious problems for the QB and often leads teams to being one-dimensional.
As far as Mario is concerned, I believe that he has the potential to be a monster when coming from the LB position. His acceleration from a 3-point stance has always been great but his speed from the 2-point stance is not bad either. Add to that his size and hand technique and you have a nightmare to defend. While I’m not ready to compare him to DeMarcus Ware quite yet he has already silenced many critics with his performance in week one.
5. The Dolphin offense looked a lot more dynamic last week than it has in years past. What should the Texans be focusing on in practice this week? Stopping Chad Henne, containing Reggie Bush, or something else?
I feel that the greatest area that the Texans must address is stopping Chad Henne. While I respect the play-making ability of Reggie Bush he is too often found trying to run up the middle of the field and that just will not cut it. Add to that the fact that Daniel Thomas is returning this week and I do not believe that Bush should be our main area of concern.
Focusing on Henne is a must for the Texans. Last year they were last in the league for pass defense. Last week we allowed the Colts to throw for 172 yards (9th best in the league) but Henne is much better than Collins and has the offensive support to be a serious weapon. The Texans will have to work hard not to get beat by the long pass but also alert enough to back off of the play-action pass. My biggest concern is how Kareem Jackson will match up with Brandon Marshall or Davone Bess. He can not turn his back on either player or Jason Allen will be taking over in a hurry.
Topics: Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Brandon Marshall, Cameron Wake, Chad Henne, Connor Barwin, Davone Bess, DeMarcus Ware, Derrick Ward, Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jason Allen, Mario Williams, Matt Schaub, Miami Dolphins, Peyton Manning, Reggie Bush, Steve Slaton, Wade Phillips