Anthony North, the lead writer over at Toro Times, a Texan’s blog, offered some of his insight to Sunday’s match-up.
1. Who has the bigger advantage? Kyle Shanahan on the Texans coaching staff or the Texan’s coaching staff on Shanahan?
1. It’s really hard to say. From a Redskins perspective, you have an offensive coordinator that has experience working with the Texans coaching staff, players, and scheme. But here’s the thing. Almost everything Kyle knows about the Texan Mike Shanahan already knows. From the Texans perspective, you know that your offense has been tweaking their offensive philosophy over the past four seasons. The Texans has had three different offensive coordinators over the past four seasons in Mike Sherman, Kyle Shanahan, and now Rick Dennison. However, the main mastermind of the offense comes from Gary Kubiak, and that’s no secret. But with that, he seemed prepared for this situation. From almost day one since Kyle was promoted to offensive coordinator of the Texans, he was constantly mentioning that he (Kyle) would be a successful coach for another team in this league. Kyle had also said that he wanted to some day coach with his father, so Kubiak could have easily seen this coming. Has Kubiak possibly hid some things from Kyle? It’s very possible.
2. With Washington’s difficulty so far in defending the run and Arian Forster’s breakout game last week, will the Texas continue riding the hot hand or will we see more of a vertical passing game?
2. Under Kubiak, the Texans have always wanted to be a run first team. Last year, it appeared that the Texans took a big step away from that philosophy, but they had no choice. Now, new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison (a former offensive line coach and coordinator with Denver) has completely turned the running game around. Now we’re seeing what many of us expected from the Texans run game last season. So after the success running with Arian Foster last week, you can expect much of the same this week. If the Redskins continuously give the Texans opportunities to run the ball on them, then expect them to keep calling run plays. The Texans know that if they can run the ball like they did last week, then there is no doubt that they will win this game.
3. The Redskins ground game struggled to take off last Sunday versus the Cowboys. How will the Texans look to contain the Skins, whose leading rusher last week was Clinton Portis for on 63 yards?
3. After implementing a completely new defensive scheme under new defensive coordinator Frank Bush last season, the Texans defense has devised very elaborate ways to put pressure on the opponent’s offense. The Texans are definitely aware that when Portis is healthy, he can be a very dangerous runner. But with Donovan McNabb at quaterback for the ‘Skins, it will be hard to put enough focus on stopping the run. However, here’s something to consider. During the first three weeks last season, the Texans defense was the worse in the league, giving up monster running games to the Jets, Titans, and Jaguars. But since week four, the Texans defense was one of the best in the league at stopping the run and was also one of the best in total yards given up. This was probably due to the new schemes being implemented and with the eventual addition of safety Bernard Pollard in the starting lineup.
So here’s what I expect to see from the Texans. You’ll probably see a lot of defensive pressure tight on the edges. There will be a hot pursute to the ball carrier if he attempts to bounce outside. The Texans have shown that if you bounce outside, you usually get stopped for little to no gain. With linebacker Demeco Ryans holding down the middle, it will be very hard for the Redskins to run against this defense. Quite honestly, the Redskins will probably have more success passing against the Texans young corners.
4. What about the Redskins 3-4 defense is concerning to the Texans offense? What match-up do you feel the Texans will look to exploit or key in on?
4. The 3-4 has been a problem for the Texans offense in the past. Even though they improved considerable against it last season, past problems still remain a concern. The most concerning about the 3-4 is the nose tackle. The zone blocking scheme’s biggest weakness are big guys that can penetrate through the blocks of the offensive line. This was most obvious when the Texans would face players such as Albert Haynesworth or Kris Jenkins. I think it would be very smart for the Redskins to start Haynesworth this week as he knows this team well and has had success against it in the past.
As far as the Texans offensive keying on a weakness, I’m not sure. Houston tends to be very balanced when it comes to offense, so expect the ball to go everywhere on the field. The Texans will want to run the ball a lot, so you could say that the Texans offensive front will look to constantly pound on the front seven of the Redskins to tire them out.
5. Final prediction and footnote
5. I know you don’t want to hear this, but I see the Texans winning this one 27-17. As much as some probably want to believe that the Redskins have improved so much since last season, it’s hard to really determine that at this point. After a poor season in 2006, the Texans won their first two games in 2007, generating a lot of hype. The result led to just an 8-8 season, which was probably a very fortunate record for the team that season. But what I see in the Texans team now is the ability to turn it on not only on offense but also now on the defensive side of the ball. The Texans have shown that they can beat any team on any given week, and the Redskins aren’t any different. Last season, the Texans went 8-2 outside their division and also went 6-2 against teams from the NFC over the past two seasons. These are reasons why I believe the Texans will come out on top in this one. However, I do hope that these teams play just as an exciting of a game just like they both did against their opponents just a week ago.
Check out Anthony’s work at http://torotimes.com.