Re-Focused – Texans @ Dolphins, Week 2

| September 21, 2011

The Texans won this without their offense really getting out of third gear; they seemed like a group with plenty of self-assurance and a little to spare in the tank as well. That’s more than can be said for the “new” defense which creaked around the edges and despite never really breaking, looked average. However, average is a step on from last year and you can’t see them writing too many checks that the offense won’t be at least able to make a decent fist of cashing.

Miami, mostly due to Chad Henne, looked a tad underdone as they just about kept in the game, but somehow, always looked out of it. Obviously leaving two field goals of 34 and 22 yards unmade and having Daniel Thomas’ fumble come just as the offensive line was beginning to open some holes, was unhelpful but blaming these things alone would be wrong. For example, while the defense has now played two of the premier offenses in the league you have to expect more of this talented group. With two weeks gone only Randy Starks and Cameron Wake have played anything approaching well and even they have struggled in certain facets of play.

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Houston Texans – Three Things of Note

1)   From worst to first

Once again the offensive line did a good job and while it was one of those days for Wade Smith, when he struggled with his run blocking, everyone else at least held their own. Special mention though should be saved for Duane Brown. I was reminded watching this game of his first start for the Texans against the Steelers in 2008 (the first game I analyzed for PFF that year) when he was destroyed by James Harrison. Now, three years on, he looks a different player; a sure pass protector – he was perfect here – and not a bad run blocker to boot. He did struggle a little with Starks at the point of attack but made up for that with some athletic work at the 2nd level, particularly against Kevin Burnett.

2)   Tate to the fore as Foster sits

Arian Foster ran the ball 10 times at a ho-hum 3.3 yards per clip before disappearing to the sideline to be replaced by Ben Tate. He didn’t seem to have his usual spark, but maybe his look on the sideline, as the first year player piled up yards in relief, suggests he’ll find it quickly. Tate did nothing wrong (and a lot right) in picking up 103 yards at a much more respectable 4.5 yards per attempt but I’m still to be won over completely. As one trick ponies go, if indeed that’s what he is, his one trick is very good indeed as he gets between the tackles (15 of 23 runs being either “A” or “B” gap), makes his one cut and powers into the hole, gaining a lot of yards after contact (70 here). On this showing he didn’t look anywhere near as elusive as Foster but, with this line, will that be a real factor and do they need him to be? Any team failing to pay due attention to the run, even with Foster roaming the sidelines, will be made to suffer.

3)   Marshall schools Allen

Antonio Smith apart, (one sack, two hits and two hurries) this really wasn’t a tour de force for the defense. They gave Henne far too much time on occasions and got pushed around a little by the Dolphins line. No one was awful but perhaps the biggest weakness was ex-Dolphin Jason Allen. His pure numbers don’t look too bad, three receptions on seven targets for 33 yards and a TD, but when you look in more detail things get worse. One of those incompletions was a drop in the end zone by Brandon Marshall with Allen beaten and on the actual touchdown Marshall simply caught a short hitch and pushed Allen backwards into the end zone. For good measure he also missed a tackle on Marshall in the 3rd quarter.

 

Miami Dolphins – Three Things of Note

1)   Henne we go again

After playing incredibly well last week, Henne reverted to old ways and struggled to maintain any momentum for the offense. He made some good throws (possibly his best was the drop by Marshall in the end zone) but interspersed them with a lot of minor errors; not disastrous passes but the type that lead to drives ending in punts or field goals rather than touchdowns. He put a couple of throws out of bounds, missed another two behind a receiver, another in front and tried to force one more into a gap that wasn’t there. This combined with four drops, three batted passes and being hit as he threw on the interception led to him completing a woeful 40% of passes.

2)   Pouncey redux

Last year, OC Maurkice Pouncey somehow managed to get a Pro Bowl berth on the back of a below average season. Being a rookie starter on a Super Bowl team seemed to put the media into a hype frenzy that any amount of logic couldn’t overcome. What are the odds that this year, despite playing at the requisite level, his brother, Mike Pouncey, gets nowhere close to Hawaii because the Dolphins are poor?

Obviously it’s a far too early for that sort of talk but the initial signs for the new Miami center are good. Sure, he gave up a sack to Antonio Smith by not getting himself in the right position to pick up a stunt, but otherwise he played at a very high level. He won more battles at the point of attack than he lost and also looked good when getting downfield on both runs and screens. Combine this with a decent showing last week against Albert Haynesworth and Vince Wilfork and who knows, the Pouncey family may have the full set of both over and under rated siblings.

3)   Will the real Kendall Langford please stand up?

Kendall Langford was a very good left end for Miami in both 2009 and 2010, but in this game he was the worst performing player on the defense by some margin. If anyone knows if he’s carrying an injury, please make a comment below because this is not the same player we’ve got excited about for the past few of seasons. In 24 attempts to get to the QB he mustered a single hurry and badly lost his battle with Mike Brisiel in the running game. It wasn’t even as if Brisiel was on his metal as when faced by Ryan Baker or Paul Soliai he didn’t do anywhere near as well.

Perhaps most indicative of Langford’s regression came on a 4th quarter play (11:28 left) when Joel Dreessen, an average blocker playing tight end on the right side, with poor initial position, got inside him and opened the hole for Tate’s longest run of the game.

 

Game Notes

● In a something of an oddity for a non-blowout, not a single LB or CB of the 16 starters on either team played 100% of the defensive snaps. Rare? Maybe not – but I can’t recall seeing it too often.

● Henne’s overall passer rating was 56.3. On the 12 occasions the Texans blitzed 113.8. Gee, you think he knew they were coming?

● Daniel Thomas had more rushes in this one game than “every down back” Reggie Bush has in the first two.

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PFF Game Ball:

Duane Brown, OT, Houston Texans

It’s not that I’m on a mission to redress the balance of press given to them and give every one of these to members of the offensive line but Duane Brown is becoming a force at left tackle.
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  • shula13

    Good analysis. I thought Miami’s pass rush was fairly good, and Matt Schaub was clearly uncomfortable throughout the game.

    Kendall Langford has indeed been subpar; but guys like Paul Soliai (with a franchise tag) and Koa Misi have been invisible on defense.