To get ready for Thursday's game, I exchanged five questions with Tim from Battle Red Blog, SB Nation's Houston Texans blog. My answers to his questions can be found later over at BRB, and his answers to my questions are below.
1. Given how awful the Jaguars looked against Detroit earlier this season, I can't say I expected them to stay within 30 points of the Texans, let alone go to overtime against them. What happened on Sunday in Houston?
I can't believe I'm typing these words. It feels wrong. It feels foolish. Yet I also think it's true: Chad Henne happened. I think the Texans schemed for Blaine Gabbert, and when they knocked him out on that first drive, everything changed. Again, I know that's a ridiculous thing to say. It's Chad Freaking Henne. But all of a sudden, Henne to Blackmon looked like Montana to Rice.
The Texans didn't cover well, and they didn't pressure Henne much. That's a bad combination, and the Jaguars took advantage of it.
I know. I'm as surprised as you are.
2. Overall, the Texans have seemed like the most complete team to me in all of the NFL this season. Would you agree with a statement like that, or is there still some room for improvement?
Even in the wake of the near miss that was last Sunday, I'd agree with that statement. That's not to say there's not room for improvement; there certainly is. In terms of what can still be improved upon, I'd say the Texans can still get better pressure from their outside linebackers and better play from the right side of their offensive line.
3. Former Michigan State wide receiver Keshawn Martin appears to be emerging as a solid contributor for Houston. What has he brought to the table so far in 2012?
Coming into camp, I thought for sure Keshawn Martin would be tapped for punt return duty. Instead, Trindon Holliday was a maniac during the preseason and won the job; truth is, Martin never even really got a chance to show what he could do as a return man, at least in the preseason games, as Kubiak kept trotting Holliday out there. Trindon then returned to earth once the regular season started and found himself unemployed (though he's raced to the house a couple of times in Denver since the Texans let him go). That created an opportunity for Martin, and after shuffling through his first couple of weeks as a return man, he looked like a home run threat last Sunday. I'm hoping he's turned a corner, which would be especially impressive given the generally poor performance of Houston's special teams thus far in 2012.
As a receiver, Martin runs great, precise routes. He just hasn't been able to combine that with actually catching the ball. I thought he'd thrive in the slot this year, but that hasn't been the case. At this point, Keshawn has to be considered a non-factor in the passing game. Hoping that changes, as I still have high hopes for him as a receiver in Houston.
4. Perhaps the biggest breakthrough for the Texans the last couple years has been their improvement defensively. What have the Texans done to make their defense so much better, and what makes them so dangerous for opposing offenses?
I can answer that question in two words: Wade Phillips. His arrival before the 2011 season fundamentally changed everything. He installed a new scheme that actually played to the strengths of his personnel. That was a completely foreign concept to his predecessors, each of whom presided over defenses that might as well have laid out a red carpet for opposing offenses.
Additionally, Wade brought in J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed through the draft, and the Texans then immediately transformed a historically bad secondary by signing Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning. I'd also be remiss if I didn't credit Vance Joseph, who was brought in to coach the secondary; he's done a phenomenal job turning Glover Quin into one of the best safeties in the league and turning Kareem Jackson from one of the most overmatched cornerbacks I've ever seen into a legitimately solid second corner (his poor performance against Jacksonville notwithstanding).
5. What do you think is the most important matchup for the Texans to win against the Lions on Thursday in order to leave Detroit with a victory?
The Texans have to get pressure on Matthew Stafford. At first glance, that might seem like an easy task, but the Texans have struggled getting consistent pressure on the quarterback from anyone not named J.J. Watt. Teams are focusing on neutralizing Watt, which means the other pass rushers -- especially the OLBs -- have to step up. Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed have been unable to regularly get into the QB's kitchen, and the loss of Brian Cushing means Wade Phillips isn't bringing heat as frequently or as well from the inside 'backers. If Stafford has all day to throw, he'll find Calvin Johnson & Co., especially if Johnathan Joseph's hamstring keeps him from playing. The Texans will have a very hard time winning if that happens.
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