NFL Nation: Three things: Jets-Texans 2011

Three things: Jets-Texans

August, 15, 2011
8/15/11
11:20
AM ET
Three things to watch for in Houston’s preseason opener against the visiting New York Jets on Monday night. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on ESPN.

The new 3-4 front will be on display in a game situation for the first time. Coach Gary Kubiak said starters will only go 10 to 12 plays, but it should be enough to give us a sense of how things are different in the Wade Phillips-coordinated defense. Mario Williams will stand up as a “linebacker” for the first time, but he’s still going to be at or near the line of scrimmage. Look for him to regularly find his way to the weak side and to go heavy with the bull rush from the start against D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Wayne Hunter.

Matt Leinart was labeled a “special” in the last week by Kubiak. Matt Schaub’s backup will play a lot against the Jets. Leinart looks great in practice, with solid command and a nice ball. But critics who’ve watched him regularly from close range believe he’s just a beat off in game situations. The Jets intend to play starters for the entire first quarter, so while Leinart will work with mostly second-stringers, he will get some good work against some top defensive personnel.

Meet Chris Ogbonnaya. With Arian Foster, Steve Slaton and Ben Tate all dealing with hamstring injuries, expect Derrick Ward to get the carries with the first team and Ogbonnaya to be the running back who gets the most work on the night. The team really likes him, but the four guys in front of him all have loftier pedigrees, so it will be very difficult for him to make the team.

Three things: Jets at Texans

August, 15, 2011
8/15/11
10:50
AM ET
Three things to watch for when the New York Jets face the Houston Texans in the preseason opener for both teams (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).

1. The Jets’ passing game: The Texans were historically poor defending the pass last season, but they are attempting an overhaul in that department with Wade Phillips implementing his attacking 3-4 scheme in 2011. Houston certainly looks improved on paper, but there will surely be growing pains as the Texans attempt to integrate new faces into a new scheme, and then translate it all to the field very quickly. Can Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and his group of pass-catchers take advantage of the miscues likely to present themselves?

2. Decipher the Blitz: Given the changes in Houston, I’m interested to see how well Sanchez reads the Texans’ blitz package prior to the snap, and how well he adjusts to what he sees. Even though Houston’s 3-4 is in its infancy, Phillips will still bring pressure from all over. Making the proper calls to pick up extra rushers will be crucial. Specifically, accounting for Mario Williams, who will be playing his first game at outside linebacker, should be the top priority in terms of keeping Sanchez protected.

3. Strength vs. Strength: The Texans’ offensive line is rarely mentioned as one of the best in the NFL, but Houston is superb up front. There is not one particular lineman who stands out, but it is a cohesive unit that is especially strong in the running game. With the exception of fullback Vonta Leach, who is now in Baltimore, Houston’s run blocking returns intact from last season. The Jets led by Sione Pouha, Mike DeVito and their exceptional inside linebackers, are a very difficult team to run on. It will be interesting to see how this matchup plays out.

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