October 28, 2003
The Newlywed Game
by Keith Weiland
What a difference a week makes.
Just seven days after what was the most disappointing loss in franchise history, a 19-14 butt slap by the Jets, the Texans left me pleasantly satisfied in a 30-21 loss to the Colts.
Forget for a moment that what we saw was essentially a team losing in consecutive weeks for similar reasons. No one is going to confuse the Jets and the Colts offensively this season, but both squads play a tight cover-2 pass defense with mediocre secondary talent. Both also use their defensive lines with freaky-quick first steps to make a quarterback rush his throws.
And after watching the Texans blow a double-digit first half lead, not once, but twice in as many weeks, I’m still grinning ear-to-ear.
Okay, I realize that makes me sound about as clueless as Jessica Simpson with a grocery list, but hear me out on this for a sec.
The Texans have the makings of a potent offense. With fullback Jarrod Baxter and tight end Bennie Joppru returning healthy next year, along with David Carr, the receivers, and the offensive line gaining one more season familiarity with one another, Houston is going to score more times than Arnold Schwarzenegger at a bachelorette party. That Charley Casserly has apparently struck Texas gold with Domanick Davis only makes this more certain.
Forget for a moment that the defense needs immediate attention. They can fix that with a free agent signing here and a waiver wire pickup there. Keep plugging in a first day draft pick to develop depth from within, and they’ll be okay. Dom Capers knows what he likes, and he likes the vets starting on his defense.
Imagine if the Texans were to use their first round pick next April on an offensive lineman, someone like Iowa senior Robert Gallery or Arkansas junior Shawn Andrews. That could really solidfy a unit for offensive dominance for the rest of the decade. I’m not kidding. This is an offense that might really be just another season and one good starting tackle away from becoming a juggernaut.
So, back to my rose-flushed aftermath following the Colts game. I’m no dummy. I know there are problems, even on offense. How is it possible that Andre Johnson, possibly the best talent on the roster, has only averaged three catches a game over the past three weeks?
When Capers approved a decision to punt on fourth down with less than four minutes to play and two scores behind, I’ll admit it, I thought I was going to drop a couple kids in the pool right there on my living room couch. I mean, if you want to give your team a chance to win the game, unless you have the Steel Curtain waiting on the sidelines, you have to go for it on fourth down in that situation.
Far be it from me to throw out the suggestion of a conspiracy theory (yeah, right, who am I kidding?), but when an offense curls up in the fetal position with the game still very much in doubt, I’m sorry, but it smacks of either a lack of nads or… draft positioning. And lest we forget, Capers did show his testicular fortitude in telling Kris Brown to stay on the sideline down by three with two seconds to play against Jacksonville.
Silly, I know. No one tanks a game on purpose, certainly no one on the field. Still, the Texans are exactly two plays away from being a winless team. Take away a late Jay Fieldler interception at Miami and that goalline dive over the Jaguars, and this team is oh for 2003.
I’m not even advocating this pointless suggestion, but there are benefits. The Texans are not aiming for the playoffs this season. The team does not have a stated win total for the fall. Reasonably, every suit in the front office and every coach on the sideline will return in 2004, regardless of what record the team posts in its second year.
And better still, the franchise has gone out of its way to set the right expectations with the fans and media so as not to expect too much too soon. We’re still newlyweds here, basking in the glow of our honeymoon, forever remembered as 19-10.
No one wants their team to lose, no true fan at least, even for something as innocuous as a better draft position, but it does help. The Texans will have more options on draft day if Capers keeps serving fudge brownies at halftime.
The point here though is they don’t have to do that to get better. Watching the pieces continue to fall into place like they did at times against the Colts is proof that the Texans are looking more and more like they’ve made the right decisions on draft day. Picks on offense like Johnson, David Carr, Jabar Gaffney, Chester Pitts and Davis mean that the team doesn’t need to re-wall the whole house by Year Four.
I’m getting bubbles in my tummy just thinking about it.
It’s not stink. Promise.
Tune in, drop out… Virginia Tech’s loss last week to West Virginia puts a little bit of a damper on this game from a BCS perspective, but not for couch scouts like us.
Miami @ Virginia Tech, 6:45pm CT, ESPN – You already know all of the Hurricanes to watch in this game, so let’s highlight some Hokies, especially a couple on the defensive side of the ball. Junior cornerback DeAngelo Hall (5’11” 200) is one of the fastest humans in football, and he’s a physical player to boot. Watch him on special teams for an added treat. Defensive end Nathaniel Adibi (6’3″ 260) is one of those types who might fit the mold as an outside linebacker in the Texans’ 3-4 scheme. He is explosive at the snap, and he can change direction like a swivel chair on glass.
Like Jessica, Keith Weiland doesn’t like Buffalo much, either.