Thanks to SB Nation's Texans blog, Battle Red Blog, for helping us out and answering a few questions ahead of Sunday's Chiefs-Texans game. Battle Red Blog's Brett Kollman knows his stuff so I'm glad he was able to give us some insight into the Texans. You can read my answers to Brett's questions here.
1. How do teams normally play JJ Watt? Double and triple teaming him?
BRB: They try double teaming him, sure, but it doesn't necessarily work all the time. The only way that you can really hope to contain Watt is to just egregiously hold as often as humanly possible and hope the refs don't throw the flag. In all honesty, the zebras don't flag holds on Watt nearly as often as they used to simply because they would have to call a penalty on literally every single snap.
I'm sure the same thing goes for Justin Houston at this point. Both of these guys are playing with a handicap that most other players don't have simply because they are too good to be allowed on an even playing field. So ... uh ... tell Fisher to just hold on for dear life and see if the refs feel like throwing laundry. That is his only realistic option, to be frank.
2. Arian Foster is out. What can we expect from the Texans running game?
BRB: Alfred Blue's crippling averageness, mostly. He is neither great, nor is he terrible. Blue is the very definition of "meh", which worries me more than anything else on the offense simply because that means we have no idea what to expect. Behind him, Chris Polk will probably be the main change of pace back. He's a bruiser that has more pop and burst than Blue, but his hamstrings and groin are traditionally pretty fragile. I love watching him run, but I'm never quite sure how long he will be on the field.
3. What's your level of confidence in Brian Hoyer against a good defense? What does he do well?
BRB: Brian Hoyer with a clean pocket isn't half bad. He's got some zip on the ball, he's shown good touch on deep and intermediate throws to DeAndre Hopkins, and the team seems to have a lot of respect for him. Brian Hoyer under pressure, however, leaves a lot to be desired. His performance will be determined by how well he identifies blitzes pre-snap, because his post-snap identification of second level pressures and coverage rolls on the back end has been spotty at best throughout his career. God help this offense if Derrick Johnson comes untouched up the middle more than once on Sunday.
That being said, if Case freakin' Keenum could almost lead this team to a win in Arrowhead, I'm sure Hoyer has a good chance of edging out a win at home. He does, after all, have a stifling defense, good offensive line, and stud young wideout around him to help the process along.
4. The Chiefs pass rush is key to their defense. Can the Texans o-line effectively hold them off?
BRB: Duane Brown vs Tamba Hali is not something I am terribly concerned about if Brown is indeed fully healthy, and I have zero worries about a Pro Bowl caliber guard like Brandon Brooks holding off Jaye Howard, but Justin Houston vs basically anyone is a matchup I am not looking forward to. There is no stopping that dude, so I've just resigned myself to the fact that he'll get his two or three sacks and go on about his business. Derek Newton has evolved into a surprisingly good right tackle, but even I won't pretend like that is an even battle.
Beyond Houston on the edge, Allen Bailey going one on one against whoever the Texans trot out at left guard is probably going to suck for us a bit. Bailey is a damn good penetrator, and in all likelihood center Ben Jones will have to slide his direction early and often just to keep him from wrecking the game inside.
So in short, yes I am worried about the Chiefs pass rush, but the Texans offensive line is more than capable of giving them an even fight. This should be a good war in the trenches, even if the advantage is slightly in KC's favor.
5. The Chiefs o-line has been tested. Outside of Watt, who should we be worried about?
BRB: Jadeveon Clowney is back, and Vince Wilfork is now manning the middle. If Clowney is anywhere near the level he was at this time last year before his knee injury in the 2014 opener - and that is a big "if" of course - y'all should be very, very worried. Watt and Wilfork both require double teams on every snap as it is, but then you throw a healthy Jadeveon Clowney in there on top of that? Forget about it. There isn't an offensive line in the world that can stop all three of those guys when they are at their best. Not only that, but Whitney Mercilus and John Simon have both been ferocious run defenders throughout the summer, and Brian Cushing hasn't looked this fast, strong, and tenacious since he last played the Chiefs two seasons ago and got his knee blown up. Hell, I haven't even mentioned Mike Mohamed yet and he is one of the best coverage linebackers in the league.
This Texans front seven is, quite frankly, loaded. They should be a hell of a lot of fun to watch this year.