ReFo: HOU @ MIN, Preseason Wk 1

Sam Monson breaks down a Week 1 preseason game between two 2012 playoff teams.

| 4 years ago

ReFo: HOU @ MIN, Preseason Wk 1

Hey, did you guys hear football is back? OK, so it’s only the preseason, but it’s close enough.

Some people can’t stand the preseason, maintaining that it means absolutely nothing, so let’s establish some ground rules up front and early: The team aspects of preseason mean nothing, but the individual aspects mean anything but.

I will be making no mention of the score, or how both teams looked out there, but instead we’ll look at individuals and what can be deciphered or gleaned there.

Texans — Three Performances of Note

Quarterbacks Impress

I imagine most people will talk up the performance of DeAndre Hopkins, and that catch for a touchdown was certainly a nice play, but in truth I thought he was fairly average aside from that and I was far more impressed by the outings of Matt Schaub’s  two backups: T.J. Yates (+3.5) and Case Keenum (+2.8). Both players executed the offense well and moved the ball efficiently against the Minnesota backups. They were obviously helped immeasurably by the backup Vikings linebackers being unable to diagnose the bootleg passes they were running without the help of a map and compass, but nonetheless they both made good decisions and didn’t put the ball in peril, which is pretty much the name of the game within that Houston offense.

Long Day at the Office for Ben Jones

While other starters for Houston got to sit down after half-dozen snaps, Ben Jones (-0.1) was out on the field working multiple positions for 51 snaps in total over the course of the game. He began his night working at left guard for the first 15 snaps but then moved over to center for the rest of his playing time. Jones looked a little lightweight at times, especially at center, where he was controlled on more than one occasion by players deep down the Minnesota depth chart. That’s not the kind of film a player fighting for starting spots wants to be putting out there, but the fact that Jones was left out for so long at multiple positions shows the Texans are trying to get him reps and get a look at him at more than one spot.

Terrell McClain Just Might Be Viable

The player that suited up for Carolina wasn’t. He was a pass-rushing defensive tackle who looked far too light to deal with NFL-caliber offensive linemen. When he was dumped by the Panthers such a short time after being a relatively high draft pick and being inserted straight into the starting lineup, I wasn’t shocked – that’s how out of his depth he looked.

Against the Vikings backups though, he looked a step above the competition. Now many of the players he beat up won’t see an NFL roster in the regular season, so the praise has its limits, but demonstrating he is comfortably better than those players is in and of itself an achievement and a statement to make from a guy who wouldn’t necessarily have looked it by the end of his Carolina time. He looks to have a place in the NFL after all.

Vikings — Three Performances of Note

Defensive Tackles Quick Off the Ball

I’ve said for a while that Vikings DT Fred Evans has one of the quickest first steps I can think of in the NFL, and he proved it again against Houston. That first step earned him a +3.2 grade in only seven snaps before he got to sit down and watch the rest of the game. In truth, I think he should be the Vikings’ starter over Guion at NT, but I don’t seem to be winning that argument with Vikings brass.

The good news for Minnesota fans is that the other DT in that picture, only a fraction behind Evans in engaging with their blockers before the defensive ends have even picked their hands up off the floor, is first-round pick Sharrif Floyd. The first-rounder had a similarly destructive impact, earning a +3.6 grade for his work. He was a force against the run, notched a hurry, and even batted a pass at the line before being nicked up and taken out of the game after 15 snaps.

Best Backups in Football?

During the Monday Night Football broadcast, the crew talked about Matt Cassel being one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL. They might want to watch this game and re-think that evaluation. Though his numbers looked healthy enough, 61 of those yards came on a dump-off pass that I could have completed, and he has developed some worrying-looking quirks to his mechanics. I’ll admit his night wasn’t made any easier by the Minnesota pass protection getting steadily worse the lower down the depth chart they went on the line, but he was all about the happy feet even when the protection was sound. Maybe once upon a time Matt Cassel was a legitimate quarterback and a fine backup – the guy we’re seeing right now…? I wouldn’t be nearly so sure.

Patterson – Harvin Who?

The first time Cordarelle Patterson (+1.5) touched the ball, it was on the opening kickoff which he took back 50 yards and came a trip from the kicker away from potentially breaking it the distance. He then showed over the course of the game that he is an exciting-looking weapon for Minnesota, working the intermediate area of the field to great success, making people miss in the process.

The Vikings definitely plan to use him deeper down the field than they did with Harvin, but he will be doing a lot of the same things, and in truth I don’t think he is the world’s best deep threat. He slightly misjudged the flight of a deep pass that could have made his night look a lot healthier on the stat sheet, and that’s a trend from his college tape that I noticed before, but he does more than enough for Vikings fans to get quite excited.

Game Notes

  • With just a couple of games left to go up on the site at time of writing T.J. Yates currently sits atop the pre-season QB grades.
  • Despite looking like he could have used the game time, second year Vikings corner Josh Robinson saw just six snaps before he took to the bench with the rest of the starters. He gave up a catch in those six snaps.
  • The Houston receiving corps combined to drop six passes in this game. The Vikings’ group dropped just one.

PFF Game Ball

I’m going to split the game ball between the two Texans backup quarterbacks. Both T.J. Yates and Case Keenum showed impressively with very little to complain about in an encouraging outing for Houston.


Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam



| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN and NBCSports.

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