First a few updates:
1. A big congratulations to Derek Jeter for breaking the all-time Yankees hit record.
Jets vs. Texans: Talking to the Opponent
I exchanged questions with Texans writer Mike Kerns from (http://dontmesswithtexans.com/) here is our conversation about the Jets/Texans match-up:
MK: With the apparent “QB battle” over and Mark Sanchez winning the starting job (was there really any doubt?), what does the team plan to do with Kellen Clemens. Does he become the primary backup? Or does Rex Ryan plan to see if Clemons can garner any interest on the trade market? Also, is he okay with just being a backup?
JC: Clemens will be the Jets backup this season because none of the quarterbacks on the roster have any experience but this will be his last season in green and white since his contract expires and the Jets like the long term potential of Erik Ainge and Kevin O’Connell. I’m sure Clemens isn’t okay with being a backup, but he had enough chances to be a starter and never took advantage.
MK: A lot of Texans fans were all about trading down in the 2006 draft and taking D’brickshaw Ferguson with their first pick. Now that the fallout from the Mario Williams pick has cleared (and most are now declaring him the right pick for #1 overall) you don’t hear much about Brick in Houston anymore. With this being the first match up between the two high draft picks, who do you give the edge to?
JC: I would give the edge to Williams, who has been a pro-bowl caliber player the past couple of seasons. D’Brick has been pretty good but not great since the Jets drafted him, although he is predicting a pro-bowl appearance for himself this season. It will be fun to watch those two battle on Sunday though, since they two of the more athletic people at their positions in the NFL.
MK: Is the new stories about Brett Favre calling out Jets officials about making him play injured last season as big of a story around the team as ESPN is making it out to be?
JC: I think Favre is just making excuses for his poor play down the stretch. Mike Tannenbaum admitted today that he should have listed Favre as probable, but it remains to be seen if the NFL will take any disciplinary action against the Jets
MK: Derrelle Revis and Andre Johnson. All-Pro vs. All-Pro. This is the one that seems to be getting the most attention on Texans fan sites. Last season, only Nnamdi Asomugha of the Raiders was able to keep Andre Johnson in check. Revis isn’t exactly a slouch though. What’s your gut telling you the outcome will be in this match up?
JC: Andre Johnson will get his catches, but I think Revis will be able to prevent him from killing the Jets with the big play. He usually rises up against the elite receivers in the league. I can see Johnson having something like 5 catches for 59 yards, but he won’t go off for one of his 8 catch, 130 yard, 2 TD’s performance.
MK: With the Jets strong running attack being matched up against Houston’s weakness (Run Defense), what kind of day are you expecting from Thomas Jones and Leon Washington?
JC: I am expecting Jones and Washington to combine for 40 touches on Sunday. I think TJ will get 22-25 carries and be right around 100 yards. Washington should be in the 10-12 carry range, along with a few receptions and should be good for a couple of big plays as usual.
JC: My prediction for the game: Jets- 23, Texans – 20
JC: Expectations have never been higher for the Texans, do you think they will finally get over the hump and challenge the Colts for the divisional title or at least a wild card spot?
MK: Well, I am kind of on the fence about that one. The Texans were a trendy sleeper pick last year, as well. But I think either way it goes, it wouldn’t surprise me. We have gotten so used to things going wrong here that we have gotten used to it. We expect bad things to happen and expectations to come up short. I don’t necessarily think it is pessimism. Just realism. But to answer your question, it all depends on Matt Schaub. If he can stay on the field for a full season, I think Houston reaches double digits in wins for the first time in franchise history. The defense only needs to be middle of the pack with the high power offense. And it all starts, and ends, with Matt Schaub.
JC: How healthy is Matt Schaub and if he gets knocked out of the game, will Dan Orlovsky or Rex Grossman come into the game?
MK: Matt Schaub declared himself ready to go for the game Sunday. When asked if he was 100%, he replied “in this league, you are never 100%.” But I really think the ankle sprain he suffered against Minnesota has really only been made a big issue because of his durability problems in the past. The team is just being overly cautious. As they should be.
With his strong showing in the preseason finale, Rex Grossman won the backup job. But I have to believe he will have a very short leash, especially since the Texans gave Dan Orlovsky a 3 year/9 Million dollar contract this offseason.
JC: How concerned are you about the secondary and the Texans defense overall?
MK: I thank the lord above that Dunta Robinson ended his holdout. He immediately became the Texans best CB simply by walking back through the door. Jacques Reeves is still out with a broken fibula, so Fred Bennett will start opposite Robinson on Sunday. Aside from Dunta, I am very concerned about the secondary. As I have been for the past few seasons.
With a new defensive coordinator, Frank Bush, I expect some big plays to be given up sometimes by the Texans defense (See Adrian Peterson). Amobi Okoye is in his third year and is teetering into the “bust” stereotype. DeMeco Ryans is 100% healthy this year and playing for a new contract, so I expect him to bring the pain even more that usual. Mario is Mario, so I’m not worried about him. But I want to see more than just these two guys making plays. Okoye and free agent acquisition Antonio Smith need to work at slowing down the run. I really do not know what to expect from first round draft choice Brian Cushing. He missed the entire preseason, yet he is starting on Sunday. Should be interesting.
JC: Do you think Houston will target Kevin Walter often, since it will be matched up on Lito Sheppard who has struggled this pre-season, or do you think they won’t shy away from throwing at Darrelle Revis because they have Andre Johnson?
MK: I don’t think they will go to Kevin Water that much since he will probably not play. He suffered a hamstring injury in the preseason and he didn’t even practice today. Andre Davis or David Anderson will probably step in. I’d like to see Jacoby Jones get some time simply for his playmaking abilities, but his immaturity keeps him strictly a punt returner and special teamer. But I think you will see TE Owen Daniels with a big game.
As much as I admire Darrelle Revis, Andre Johnson has simply looked unstoppable for a couple of years now. So I don’t see offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan letting Revis take away their greatest weapon on offense. And I am sure Andre will be up for the challenge as well. He was only thrown to one time against Nnamdi Asomugha last year and I hope they don’t do the same this year against Revis.
JC: What is your prediction for the final score?
MK: I think either one of two things happen. Either Houston comes out and gets up by a couple of scores in the first quarter and forces the Jets to make Mark Sanchez feel like he has to air it out. This slowing down the powerful Jets running game. Or, what is more likely, Houston’s defense is slow to arrive and relies on the potent Texans offense to play catch up all game. So, I predict a Kris Brown field goal with under a minute left puts Houston up 24-20 with under a minute left and Mark Sanchez is unable to make the game winning drive in his first NFL start. So, Houston wins a tough one 24-20. But only because they’ve become so tough at home.