In Week 4, our second home game, we will host the Houston Texans in a game that I’m sure will be hyped by the media about Matt Schaub’s return to Atlanta.
Offense: The key to the Texans offense is their quarterback play. Schaub is untested, but by the fourth week of the season he should be relatively comfortable running the team. The Texans sole weapon is Andre Johnson, who is emerging as one of the league’s best receivers. Their other receiver Kevin Walter is essentially a poor man’s Brian Finneran. Ahman Green is a good runner, but no longer a threat to take the ball the distance. But he’s still a competent runner that is efficient, if not dangerous. Owen Daniels is an underrated pass catcher. He’s not the biggest or fastest guy around, but is solid as they come. But the weakness of the Texans offense is still their offensive line, assuming Schaub is up to par. They were better last year than they’ve been in past years, but they are still flawed at the left tackle position.
Defense: They have a very young defense and only a few playmakers. Okoye and Mario Williams could help change that. Williams should be better after a lackluster rookie year, but Okoye is a defensive tackle, and very few of them have real impact years right off the bat. Ryans is the only notable linebacker, as the rest is just below average to average starters. Robinson is the only one worth noting in the secondary. But besides those playmakers, the rest of the defense is lackluster, but it’s not incompetent. The Texans had one of the worst pass rushes in the league last year, and if Williams and Okoye can improve them in that area significantly, the rest of the defense will fall into place.
Off-season: Rather than making a big splash in the off-season via free agency, the Texans decided to hold back. They added Schaub and Green, their sole big splashes. Both should be upgrades over their predecessors, but how much remains to be seen.
Draft: Although Okoye should be a solid building block for the future, whether or not he really does much this year remains to be seen. Besides him, none of their other draft picks are notable except Fred Bennett and perhaps Jacoby Jones, everybody’s favorite WR sleeper. If Jones is the next Marques Colston, then that will be a huge boon, but since that’s doubtful, it’s more than likely they won’t get a ton of production from this group until two, three, or four years down the road.
Overall: The Texans are slightly improved from a year ago, and a lot of their success rests on Schaub’s shoulders. But still they lack a lot of talent to get over the hump. The newness of Schaub and an improved pass rush should make them more competitive, but how many more wins will it net them? Second place in the AFC South is not crazy, but considering that’s probably the weakest AFC division, it’s unlikely that is going to earn a wildcard spot. One thing is for sure, under Schaub they’ll have to be able to score 28 or more points in order to win a lot more games. That’s a mark they never achieved last season.
How They Match Up: On Hall’s best days, he could be a major thorn in the side of Johnson. But if we’re judging by how often Hall shows up vs. Johnson’s consistency, then the bet should be on Johnson to outclass him. The Texans have a zone-blocking offensive line, which gave our defense more troubles last year. But unlike many of the zone blocking teams we faced last year (Cowboys, Redskins, Saints), the Texans offensive line is far from quality. Whomever lines up at left tackle for Houston could have real problems with a healthy John Abraham, whether it’s Spencer or Ephraim Salaam. Mario Williams is a big physical pass rusher that could cause troubles for Gandy as well. A strong physical running game right up the gut could really hurt the Texans, who really don’t have the hogs there to really stuff the run. But Dunn and Norwood aren’t known for their abilities to pound it up the gut, so any advantage the Falcons could reap there might be negated.