It’ never too late to note that preseason games aren’t about winning, but about putting a team together and giving opportunity for players to prove they should be part of the plan. Andre Johnson looks as good as ever for the Houston Texans, but unlike previous years, he seems to have a lot more help in the receiving game.
The Texans lost 31-23 to the New Orleans Saints, but most of the points they gave up came after a fantastic start to the game, which included putting on 164 yards on the Saints and getting a lot of pressure on Brees and the Saints’ offense until they began using screen passes to avoid that pressure.
Johnson finished with 7 receptions for 131 yards, and Alec Lemon caught one pass for a touchdown off of T.J. Yates. Matt Schaub finished with 15-of-26 for 213 yards, and the best of them all might have been Ben Tate, filling in for Arian Foster as the number one running back, finishing with 74 yards and a touchdown.
The Texans got only one sack in the game (Jason Crick on Drew Brees) but their pressure and ability to get beyond the offensive line was quite impressive, writing up five quarterback hits. One of the more impressive new faces on defense is undrafted rookie Willie Jefferson, who has been doing very well at outside linebacker for the team in the preseason, and seems to have a place that will see him playing plenty of snaps during the regular season.
Crick himself might have done enough to win himself a starting place at defensive end for the Texans in week 1 instead of Antonio Smith, thanks to his sack and overall ability to blast by tackles in the game and in this preseason. However, getting pressure on the quarterback was one of the Texans’ strengths last season. Secondary play wasn’t.
And the Texans struggled after the opening to contain the Saints, allowing 302 passing yards in total with 4 touchdowns and a 66.7% completion ratio. Not everyone was playing, especially not J.J. Watt while Brian Cushing is taking his time getting back into full action, but it seems like it’s going to be another season in which the pressure on defense falls on the pass-rushing to hurt the opponents’ passing game, because the secondary can’t really handle quality receivers.
The Texans are hopefully going to be better than one season in more than one aspect. While keeping their running game as the driving force of their offense, Foster or no Foster, and Ben Tate seems like a very efficient fill-in for now, the passing game has to be better, with or without the rather fragile Matt Schaub. Andre Johnson is looking for a year in which the double teams and triple teams are no longer a regular thing. Maybe even without the improvement of the secondary, all the other things and their upgrades will be enough to take the Texans over the postseason level they’ve been stuck on for the last couple of years.