NFL Team Report - Houston Texans - INSIDE SLANT
Texans terrible QBs can't shoot straight
In their first preseason game, the Houston Texans couldn't have looked worse if their game plan was built with the goal of putting on a pathetic performance.
The 32-0 loss at Arizona was an embarrassment because it continued a problem that's plagued the offense since the start of OTAs - a poor performance by the quarterbacks.
Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is playing with his fifth team in 10 years, was so bad it was alarming. Coach Bill O'Brien forced Fitzpatrick to play the first half, which yielded these pitiful stats: 6-of-14 for 55 yards with no touchdowns, two interceptions and a 14.6 rating.
Including veteran backup Case Keenum (76.2 rating) and rookie Tom Savage (77.1), the passer rating was 24.4 under O'Brien, who earned a reputation in college and at New England as a quarterback guru.
The Texans have two practices this week with Atlanta before hosting the Falcons on Saturday night. If the quarterback play doesn't improve dramatically, the Texans are likely to get embarrassed again.
"It was a disappointing performance, and the passing game starts with me," Fitzpatrick said after practice Monday. "We've already moved on. We made corrections, and we're looking forward to the next one."
Fitzpatrick was O'Brien's choice to replace Matt Schaub, who was traded to Oakland. He received a two-year contract that included $4 million guaranteed.
O'Brien put the blame on himself and his assistants for the 32-0 loss at Arizona.
"We have to coach them better, and it starts with me," he said. "We've got to improve a lot as coaches. We're all in this together. As a team, nobody played well. Nobody coached well. It was bad football. There's nowhere to go but up. We all have to learn from our mistakes."
The Texans passed up a chance to draft Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater. They didn't take a quarterback until Savage in the fourth round. He was 2-of-3 for 14 yards in his debut. He was tackled for a safety.
"This whole thing is a work in progress," Fitzpatrick said. "We'll get better, and, hopefully, that shows leading up to the season.
"I don't think you can let it play with your confidence at all. You've got to take it for what it was, learn from it and move on."
Against the Cardinals, the Texans threw for 98 yards and ran for 90. It was their worst preseason performance since a 38-3 loss at Pittsburgh in 2004. They bounced back that season to finish 7-9.
NFL Team Report - Houston Texans - NOTES, QUOTES
--The Atlanta Falcons traveled to the Texans' facility Wednesday for the first of two days of joint practices Wednesday.
The Falcons are coming off a 16-10 victory over the Miami Dolphins to kick off their preseason, but the offense is striving for more consistency heading into Saturday's game against the Texans.
"I think it's good. It's a change of venue for us to get down here," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said of the joint sessions. "For them, it's a different offense, a different defense to look at. Even practice, anytime you go against another team it brings out the competitive spirit for both sides. There are a lot of benefits to it."
Texans coach Bill O'Brien was pleased with the focus from both teams, despite there being no tackling during the practice. He said the planning for these sessions began back when the schedules were released, and he had a good experience working with Falcons coach Mike Smith's staff back from his days with the New England Patriots when those teams orchestrated a similar practice.
"(Both teams) practiced very professionally," O'Brien said. "It was a well-run practice on both sides. You know, look I understand that it is an aggressive sports, it's a violent sport, it's a competitive sport and it's an emotional sport. It has all of those things tied up into one and certain things are going to occur on the practice field.
"I understand that, believe me. At the end of the day it is about competing against each other and trying to get better and matching your skillset up against another player's skillset. It's not really about fighting. It's about getting better."
Former Texans backup quarterback T.J. Yates returned to Houston's facility for the first time since being traded to the Falcons in June.
"That whole deal was weird to me," Yates told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I was kind of down in the dumps. Then I got into a situation by being traded back home got me on another high. I was definitely up and down. But it's worked out for the best."
--Jadeveon Clowney, the top pick in the draft, made some good plays in his debut. He excelled against the run, applied pressure on the quarterback but looked awkward dropping into coverage.
"I was a little nervous," he said, "but when I came out and saw the lights and got my first contact, I loosened up."
Only on the first series, fans got a chance to see something opponents will see a lot in the regular season - Clowney standing outside right defensive end J.J. Watt in some passing situations. It resulted in Watt getting a sack on his one series.
Clowney allowed a touchdown pass that was wiped out because of a penalty.
"I do whatever the coaches ask," he said. "I thought I did OK. I can get better."
--Receiver Andre Johnson and running back Arian Foster have been out with hamstring injuries. The Texans are hoping they can return to practice this week against Atlanta and play against the Falcons on Saturday night.
"I've spoken to both those guys (and), they're doing better," coach Bill O'Brien said. "It's a long season, and our trainers are doing a great job with them. Seems like they've improved, and, hopefully, they can do something this week."
--Offensive lineman Xavier Su'a-Filo, the 33rd overall pick in the draft, worked with the first team at right guard on Monday. He played left tackle with the second team against Arizona.
"He's improved," O'Brien said. "He's played tackle (and) guard, and he's done some quarterback-center exchange in the pre-practice. He's doing a lot and getting better.
"It's hard for a rookie to come in on the interior of the offensive line and get used to that right away. Everybody's stronger (and) quicker.
"The one thing that helps us with him is he's able to play center, so when you learn center, you really learn all the calls and the blocking assignments for the whole line because you're the captain of the ship along with the quarterback."
Su'a-Filo welcomes the workload. He started at guard and tackle at UCLA.
"It's really not that bad," he said about learning multiple positions under new line coach Paul Dunn. "When you learn guard, you have to know what the tackle and center do as a unit. It's not too difficult.
"I've got to keep plugging away and continuing to capitalize on my reps in practice. The coaches do a good job of moving me around so I feel comfortable. I'm not where I need to be, though, not even close.
"Don't make the same mistakes I made in the first game in the second game and continue to get better. If I improve every day in practice, then I'll be happy."
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Jonathan Grimes vs. Alfred Blue. Grimes, a veteran running back in his third season, originally came to the Texans as an undrafted free agent. With Arian Foster on the sideline, he's worked with the first team. He started against Arizona and ran 10 times for 39 yards. Blue, a sixth-round pick who averaged six yards a carry at LSU, came off the bench behind Grimes and carried five times for 30 yards. He also had two catches for 14 yards. Blue is pressuring Grimes for the spot behind Foster.
NFL Team Report - Houston Texans - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Inside linebacker Brian Cushing practiced for the first time this year with the Texans and could play in Saturday's preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Cushing, 27, was activated from the physically unable to perform list. He hits the field determined to shake the injury-prone label tagged on him because of 20 games lost to injury the past two seasons.
Cushing had a broken fibula and torn LCL that caused him to miss most of last season. He was hurt in Week 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs on a low block by running back Jamaal Charles.
Cushing tore his ACL in October 2012 when he was on the wrong end of a controversial low block by then-New York Jets guard Matt Slauson. The play led to a $10,000 fine and rules change designed to protect defensive players.
The Texans could be cautious with Cushing, who said he is unsure when he'll be at full speed but knows he will play in the season opener against the Washington Redskins.
"I know when it's go-time, and I need to ramp it up and get on the field. I'll be there," he said Tuesday.
In addition to the defensive standout, running back Arian Foster and wide receiver Andre Johnson were on the field Wednesday. Foster missed nearly two weeks with a muscle strain and Johnson came back from a hamstring strain that occurred early in training camp.
--RB Andre Brown, who was projected to be the backup to Arian Foster entering camp, didn't play against Arizona even though he was healthy and was released late Monday. Jonathan Grimes started. Alfred Blue and Dennis Johnson also played, although Johnson was also cut.
--RB Ronnie Brown was signed by the Texans late Monday. Brown was with San Diego last season and became an unrestricted free agent in March.
--LG Ben Jones, who has started at right guard and is the backup center, continues to earn praise from coach Bill O'Brien for his performance in practice and against Arizona. The coaches like Jones because he's got a nasty disposition and will do anything to win his one-on-one battles.
--P Shane Lechler picked up where he left off from last year. On three punts at Arizona, he had a 49-yard gross and a 44.7-yard net.
--WR Mike Thomas, who is the slot receiver, led the team with four receptions for 40 yards. Last year, Keshawn Martin was the slot receiver. The coaches like Thomas' quickness, route running and experience.
--ILB Max Bullough, an undrafted rookie who's competing for a spot on the team, made a good first impression. He had six tackles against Arizona, including five unassisted. He also recorded five tackles for loss. Bullough also is a good special teams player who'll have to excel to make the team in a reserve role.