AFC South: Rod Harper
HOUSTON -- The Texans hope it was "preseason form" that was responsible for an ugly 38-14 loss to New Orleans Saturday night.
I hope they weren't in midseason form in terms of explaining it, because it seemed like a lot of guys had just gotten a crash course from Crash Davis.
There was a lot about how they'd have to see it on film to figure out what went wrong (Crutch. When it's that bad and you play only about a half, you should be able to answer for it a bit better than that.)
There was a lot about how it's was better for it to happen now than later. (How about neither, isn't that an option?)
There were even some mentions about how perhaps the most upsetting element of the loss, the very poor first-half run defense that allowed 8.6 yards a carry, wasn't "Texans' defense." (Really? A cynic might suggest, looking at last year's 23rd ranked run defense and average of 4.5 yards per carry surrendered and say it seemed sort of familiar.)
OK, OK. Hardly the end of the world. After a good share of the week spent around a team I expect to be improved, though, I was disappointed it wasn't better. That means the Texans are shifting some expectations, right? That's at least one a good thing.
Locker room highlights that did go beyond the cliché, at least those of the most routine variety:
Weakside linebacker Xavier Adibi: "We got the ball rammed down our throats."
Right tackle Eric Winston: "We let some simple things and some little twists and tweaks that they did to their defense effect us and we weren't running that ball as effectively as we should have after that first drive.
Defensive coordinator Frank Bush: "We want our players to perform and we just didn't feel like they performed like we were quite expecting them to tonight."
Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans: "We let the ball cut back way too many times and get outside. Everybody wasn't in their gaps and we were playing sound defense. When you don't play sound or you pop out of your gap or don't perform your technique the right way, that's what happens. You get gashed."
A couple other things I wanted to touch on:
The failed fourth-and-goal play from the New Orleans 2-yard line in the third quarter. It could have pulled Houston to within 24-21. Instead it wound up a 16-yard sack of Dan Orlovsky, who lost a fumble to the guy who rode him so far back, linebacker Anthony Waters.
It seemed well designed, as everything flowed right, and James Casey leaked out wide open left as Orlovsky rolled the same direction.
"I saw him coming at the line and I need to do a better job of making my fake and really just pulling up and just trying to get a lob ball over him," said Orlovsky, who wound up rolling left with one man to evade or pass over. "I probably just came too flat out of my fake and he met me right there."
Right tackle Duane Brown, viewed by many, including me, as an up-and-comer and a candidate for a breakout kind of year, drew two penalties, a false start and an offensive holding in the first half.
"The first one, I got real antsy," he said. "The second one, I really don't feel like I did anything, I went out [in the open field] to cut the guy and they said after I cut him, I hooked him with my arm. Everyone on the sideline agreed with me that it wasn't legit, but it happens."
And three things I'd like to see more of:
- More punts like the 60-yard beauty Matt Turk hit in the fourth quarter that looked like it was going to be a touchback, then took a sharp right and kicked out of bounds just before the pylon, pinning the Saints at the 1-yard line. (Too bad they drove 99 yards from there to a TD.)
- More James Casey sooner in the game. The rookie tight end made a nice catch down the middle for a 21-yard gain that made a lot of people want to see him get some chances with the first string.
- More guys who got their hands on New Orleans returner Rod Harper on his 79-yard actually slow him up. The scout beside me said he counted five missed tackles and as we leaned back to watched the replay together, we confirmed the number.
And, along with a big reduction in rushing yards allowed, a significant cut in clichés.
|AP Photo/Dave Einsel|
|The final joint practice held by the Texans and Saints got chippy Friday with several fights breaking out, including one between Jeremy Shockey and DeMeco Ryans.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
HOUSTON -- Wherever I wasn't, there was a fight at Thursday morning's Texans-Saints practice. When I was watching the Texans' offense, the fights were on defense. When I changed up, so did they.
John McClain says the fight total was six and that the highlights were a Jeremy Shockey versus DeMeco Ryans bout and a Vonta Leach-Rod Coleman battle. Another observer told me that Shockey threw at least one punch and that another of the fights was Ryan Moats against Saints fullback Troy Evans. (Here's McClain's story.)
The crowd erupted in response to each fight, and the teams swarmed to defend their guys, with order restored relatively quickly.
Leach said afterward that "we are not going to get pushed around, we are not going to get bullied" and Gary Kubiak said he liked the way guys stood up for teammates, but he likes composure even more.
It made for a more entertaining show for a large crowd that included the football teams from both Houston and Rice.
On to some notes about the football I saw:
- Tried to get a read on the rookie defensive backs, but one-on-ones were kind of sloppy and Drew Brees, who rejoined the team after attending to family matters in the wake of his mother's death, seemed rusty, at least early.
Glover Quin lost Lance Moore as the receiver cut hard across the middle on one play. In red zone work he covered Marques Colston well but the throw wasn't anything Colston had a chance to go get. Quin had a very nice pass breakup in the back left corner of the end zone on a throw from Mark Brunell aimed for Rod Harper. Quin also got a nice jam on Devery Henderson and stayed tight on him, but Henderson maintained focus and managed to make the catch despite the coverage. That was all in one-on-ones. Later, in a team period, Brees fit a nice mid-range pass between Quin and Dominique Barber to Colston.
- Brice McCain either didn't work a lot in the one-on-one period or I had a hard time finding him in the crowd. I saw one play where he didn't stay particularly close to his receiver. Deltha O'Neal, the veteran who was brought in when injuries mounted, didn't look great to me.
- Special-teams periods in the heat can be excruciating, but I noticed one play of note: New Orleans' Adrian Arrington was lined up as a gunner and Quin and Eugene Wilson absolutely handled him, getting their hands on him repeatedly as they prevented him from having any chance to influence the return.
- Dan Orlovsky had some uncomfortable moments. I don't think he's Chevy Chase impersonating Gerald Ford, but he might have a degree of clumsiness to him. He fell down back out from under center on one play. On another, backpedalling furiously with two defenders bearing down, he threw an ill-advised dump off over the middle that hit an O-lineman and had no chance at success.
- Steve Slaton had some very nice moments. The best one I saw was he pulled in a short pass, and spun off the first defender to gain some extra yards. Will Smith likely would have had a sack on the play, however. Chris Brown looks very good and can be just the sort of complement to Slaton that the team is looking for. Insert your obligatory line about his issues staying healthy here.
- Matt Schaub was crisp but had a few bad moments. He threw a bad pick in the red zone intended for David Anderson on the left side that Tracy Porter jumped and would have taken back for a touchdown in a game setting. And for the second day in a row a pump or a pull down turned into a lost ball for an incompletion. There are far worse ways to end a play, but is he having some sort of grip issue?
- Kubiak said linebacker Cato June suffered a broken forearm.
- The practice started at 8:30 and was short, breaking up at 9:53 by my cell phone clock.