Can they make it?
The Texans are in the playoffs as division champions for the first time in franchise history. I am extremely happy about this. These guys have hammered their way through insane levels of adversity during this season to get where they are. Now, that is not something you'd expect but....here we are.
As an outside observer I have noticed a few things that bother me, though. Don't get me wrong with what I'm about to go in to. I love coach Kubiak and truly admire his ability to gather a team of such high quality players and his ability to create plays in this style offense that are highly effective. And now with the big "but" of the post... If I had the chance, I'd have to talk to Kubes about how he is playing T.J. Yates. Yates is a great QB with obvious talent and could be the future of the Texans but for now, we need to play to his strengths.
Kubiak seems to be trying to work Yates as if he were Matt Schaub. Schaub is a good QB with his own strengths that differ from Yates. That would go for any two QBs in the league No two QBs are exactly the same. Let's break this down.
Schaub and Yates work the run game pretty well in the same ways. It's really hard to not be uniformed across various QBs when you have a couple great backs to hand off to. Schaub and Yates are on equal footing here and watch game footage you wouldn't even notice which was which if you weren't paying attention to the number on the jersey.
Schaub and Yates do work the screens a little different. Schaub is a little more of a floater when tossing the ball on a screen where Yates fires a quick shot. Neither really seem to be any better or worse but they are obviously different in a way that shows they are not the same QB. Watching footage, you can tell which is which. Same goes for bootlegs. Schaub floats the ball with solid accuracy so TEs, RBs or WRs can catch in a casual manor and do what they do from there. Yates, in the boot, is more rapid in his movement in the back field and, again, fires a bullet to his intended receiver. Still, the differences between the two do not make either any better or worse than the other. I'd like to make clear that I am not trying to say one is any better than the other, overall. I am simply pointing out differences in how they work the ball/plays.
Here is where I might seem a bit critical of Kubiak. Because there are differences in how Schaub and Yates work the ball, the offense needs to be modified in order to allow the team to utilize the strengths of Yates while he is at the helm. Schaub is a relaxed casual passer where Yates is a controlled cannon! Both styles work well as long as they are complemented with the proper play maker line up. Take it or leave it, I'm about to give my constructive criticism as an outside observer.
Andre Johnson is about to come back, Jeff Maehl has recently been brought up and we also have Walter and B. Johnson for WRs. What I would do to help complement Yates and put more points on the board is to add or modify plays that utilize single a RB and WR with multiple TEs and start using single RB, TE plays where more long ball receivers can stretch the opposing defense. Not only will that work to the strengths of Yates by allowing him to use his arm strength but it also gives him options to dump the ball to the RB or TE if needed just to move the ball down the field. We only have one long ball receiver that we lean on, probably way too much, and we need to get more down field and more often.
After seeing some footage of Jeff Maehl from his final year in college ball, I feel comfortable saying that he should be given a chance to make some plays along side A. Johnson. Run them on the same side or opposite side of the line but having two long ball guys stretching a defense thin will open up the middle and probably help the run at the same time.
This has been my first attempt at publicly tossing in my two cents. Keep in mind I am a 39 year old guy that hasn't played on the field since I was in school and was a nose tackle trying to now give offensive advice to pro NFL players/coaches but when it comes down to it, I've never lost my love of the game and have always broken down the games I've watched to see what worked and what didn't. So, I tend to be the guy everyone comes to when they want an idea on might win a game on any given Sunday. Some calls are easy and others aren't so much but, at the risk of tooting my own horn, my pick rating based on how the ball is handled along with defensive standings has been pretty accurate so far. I wish I could claim 100% success rate but so far, I have a better rating than Cris Collinsworth ;o)
To sum all this up, I think, if they play to their strengths, the Texans can make it all the way. They have the talent, they have the desire, they just need to make the good calls and execute.