The Texans Are Who We Thought They Were
Well, they are who I thought they were – overrated!
A lot of fans that looked at the schedule probably chalked this game up as a loss before the season even started. The Texans have a lot of talent at a lot of places. Andre Johnson is in his thirties, but he can still move the chains. Both of their tight ends (Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham) are big targets and very effective in the red zone. Everyone knows the Texans can run the ball with Arian Foster and the Eastern Shore Native Ben Tate. Even DeAndre Hopkins, their rookie wide receiver, was coming off of a 117-yard performance against the Tennessee Titans in an overtime win last week.
However, they still have Matt Schaub at quarterback and he just has never been a very resilient player. When things are going Houston’s way, Schaub plays really well. As soon as things start going south, he crumbles and that is exactly what happened today.
• Joe Flacco: 16-24, 171 yards. GRADE: B. If you are a fantasy football junkie, then you are probably disappointed with Flacco’s performance and think he needs to get a lot better in a hurry. There is definitely some room for improvement, but considering that Ray Rice, Dennis Pitta and Jacoby Jones are all missing time, Flacco did a great job minimizing errors and taking what the defense gave him, which wasn’t much. He moved the ball well and completed 67% of his passes, 9 of which went to Torrey Smith and Dallas Clark. The NFL isn’t fantasy and sometimes the best thing a quarterback can do is not make mistakes and sustain drives; all of which Flacco did today.
• Torrey Smith: 5 receptions, 92 yards. GRADE: A. Torrey may not have a receiving touchdown yet, but he is doing everything that you want to see a number one receiver do with gaining separation, running the full route tree and picking up yards after the catch. In my opinion the big reason why he hasn’t scored yet is largely due to the lack of a running game. When they can’t effectively run, they can’t run play action. When the play action doesn’t fool defenses, they don’t let Torrey get behind them and outrun them for a TD.
• Offensive Line: 2.39 yards per carry, 2 sacks, -40 yards on 3 penalties. GRADE: F. The offensive line has to be the biggest weakness on the team right now. I still am not quite sure how this same offensive line basically did what they wanted in the playoffs and now they can’t even muster enough strength to get a first down on 3rd and 1. Other than a couple of good runs from Pierce when the game was already over, the offensive line has some serious issues opening up holes for Pierce and Ray Rice.
At first, I thought that perhaps they just needed time to gel together and maybe having a new center was causing some issues. Now, I think it is Juan Castillo and the complete overhaul of blocking philosophy. From what I understand Castillo has implemented a zone-blocking scheme, which is similar to what the Texans actually run. Maybe I’m taking crazy pills, but I thought that the Ravens tried to install the zone-blocking scheme a few seasons ago and it went terribly, so they went back to a man-on-man blocking scheme and everything vastly improved. I don’t pretend to be a genius, but I refuse to believe that Bryant McKinnie, Kelechi Osemele, Marshall Yanda and Michael Oher are collectively this bad.
• Daryl Smith: 10 tackles, 1 interception returned for a touchdown. GRADE: A+. Mr. Smith, you Sir are a M-A-N. If you continue to play like this, you should be nominated for defensive player of the year. I watch a lot of football and I cannot think of a linebacker that is having a better season and more of an impact to their respective teams than you.
• Secondary: 7.76 yards per reception and no touchdowns. GRADE: A. Andre Johnson is one of the best receivers in the NFL and DeAndre ‘Nuk’ Hopkins is going to be an offensive rookie of the year possibility. Additionally, Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham are both very capable tight ends, especially in the red zone. Of Matt Schaub’s 6 touchdown passes this season 5 have gone to Daniels and Graham. I tell you all of this to show that Houston can pass the ball and the Ravens’ secondary came to play. They kept everything underneath and didn’t bite on any double moves. The safety combination of Matt Elam and James Ihedigbo is working out quite well. This may have actually been Ihedigbo’s best game as a pro. He reads plays very well and he has proven to be much more than just a special teams player.
• Justin Tucker, 3 for 3 with field goals. GRADE: A+. Tuck, what happened last week man? Were you hurt or not feeling well? Last week your kicks were dying and you pushed two field goals wide right. Today you are blasting kicks off the tee and you were dead on from 28, 43 and 45 yards. Welcome back man. Don’t worry; we know that last week was more of an anomaly than anything.
• Tandon Doss, punt return for a touchdown. GRADE: A+. Doss, you are making the most of your opportunities. At one point you were considered to be a timid player that had become complacent. Now, you’re playing like your life depends on it and I think it is great that you’re stepping up to the challenge. I watched you play at Indiana and I was excited for you when Baltimore drafted you. You’ve got the talent and now you’re finally putting it all together. Keep it up man. Make it impossible for the Ravens to cut you in the future.
• Jim Caldwell, GRADE: C. I think that the job of any coordinator is largely predicated on the talent that he has to work with. The reality is that the offense desperately misses Dennis Pitta. As great of a player as Ray Rice is and as dynamic of a player that Jacoby Jones is, Pitta makes the offense go. What really bothers me about the game plan the last 3 weeks is that even though the running game is about as close to awful as you can get, the play calling still seems to go “run-run-pass”. If the Ravens can only average 2.39 yards per carry, then that means on average the offense is looking at a 3rd and 5 every four downs. I don’t believe that Caldwell should abandon the run entirely, but until they fix the blocking schemes they should really just let Joe line up in shotgun and throw it. Seriously, line up with 4 wide and either Rice or Pierce in the backfield. Every few plays run a draw or a screen to keep the defense honest.
• Dean Pees, GRADE: A. In my opinion, this was the best overall defensive performance that I have seen under Dean Pees. They generated a lot of pressure up the middle with Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs played well. This defense has the makings to be a top-3 unit in the NFL this year. They have a ton of speed, they hit hard, they tackle and they haven’t given up a touchdown since the Denver game during week 1. I don’t particularly care for the lack of aggressive blitz packages, but I do truly believe that once this team starts to gel they could be very good. It certainly seems that they are hitting their stride.
• John Harbaugh, GRADE: C+. This whole “run game coordinator” title that John Harbaugh brought Juan Castillo in to fulfill really needs to be addressed. I know that Harbaugh likes to surround himself with familiar faces and for all intents and purposes, Castillo does come with a fantastic resume. The reason why I am discussing this now is because from the moment they hired Castillo last year, the running game got worse and there is some major ambiguity as to what Castillo’s role is and what Andy Moeller (remember him?) is doing with the team. During the pre-season, it was pretty evident that Castillo was the one who was working with the offensive line, not Moeller. So what gives Coach Harbaugh? Finally, if they want to be a running team, then they need to fix the running game. I don’t see a running team anymore considering they invested what they did in Flacco. Flacco thrives out of the gun in spread formations. He does even better when he is given ample time. Why not tailor the offense to this?
The Ravens have been a work in progress from the get-go. They just have far too many different faces at a lot of critical positions to not be inconsistent. Today’s win was a great example of how important it is to be effective in all three phases of the game.
Special Teams was on point today, the defense was lights out and even though the offense was lackluster, they didn’t turn the ball over and they sustained drives when they needed to.
The Ravens have a lot of talent and the defense is just scratching the surface of how good they can be. Both Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are on pace for double-digit sacks and Daryl Smith is having a fantastic season thus far.
If the offense starts to click, this could be a really, really good team.