Redskins vs Texans: Tale of the Tape
Here are how the Redskins and Texans stack up at each position group.
-The Redskins are hoping that 2013 was just a blip on the radar of Robert Griffin III’s career and that he can return to the potential and production that not only made him the 2nd player in the 2012 draft, but the Offensive Rookie of the Year that season. While it’s easy to blame all of last year’s struggles on the knee injury and the friction with HC Mike Shanahan, there are some questions that go beyond those two reasons. As impressive as Griffin’s rookie year was, he was aided by a scheme that took advantage of his skill set and didn’t ask him to do a lot of advanced quarterback work. Most of Griffin’s passes were short, quick hitters that took advantage of mis-direction to catch the defense off guard. Griffin didn’t have to go through his progressions or throw receivers open with any regularity as a rookie. As he was asked to do that more last season (and in the preseason this year) Griffin struggled and was not very effective. While he should be improved this season, there are question marks about where Griffin ultimately is as a signal caller. Is he back to a top 10 QB like 2012? or is he more in the 15-20 range? Where he falls on that spectrum will go along way to determining how much the Redskins can improve this season.
-The Texans decided to punt on quarterback this year, bringing in veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick to hold the position down until they can find their QB of the future. Fitzpatrick is by no means a top quarterback or even an above average starter, but he’s also a guy who’s been around the league and been solid for stretches. Over the last four seasons as a starter Fitzpatrick has a QB rating of about 82.0. That isn’t world beating, but it’s about average. Fitzpatrick has also not played on teams with as much talent at RB, WR, OL and on defense during those seasons. When Fitzpatrick can be a game manager type he can be efficient and a solid starter. It is when he’s forced to the throw the ball a lot that he typically makes mistakes.
Advantage: Redskins, This isn’t the blowout advantage that some would expect because RGIII still has some question marks and is learning a new offense. Fitzpatrick on the other hand probably isn’t as bad as most people think. Griffin though has the higher potential and if you need one of these quarterbacks to win the game late, he’s the one you would pick.
–Alfred Morris is a top 5 rusher in the league and has an impressive 4.7 yard per carry career average. From a pure running back stand point Morris is a feature back and one of the best in the league, but he’s proven to add very little value in the passing game. Number two back Roy Helu Jr. helps make up for Morris’s struggles in the passing game, and gives the Redskins a reliable number two back. Fullback Darrel Young is one of the best in the game and is a quality rusher, receiver and lead blocker. He helps give Morris a major boost in the ground game and despite playing in only about 30% of the snaps, he consistently makes his presence known.
-The Texans have a great all-around back in Arian Foster, who is very capable as both a runner and a receiver. He’s a major weapon that the Redskins will have to account for.The back-up RB spot for the Texans is a bit shaky right now and figures to be some combination of 6th round rookie Alfred Blue and 2nd year back Jonathan Grimes. Neither back-up back is proven and it could lead to veteran Ronnie Brown getting some work. Regardless of who get’s the back-up role there will be a significant drop-off in production for the Texans. At fullback the Texans will go with rookie Jay Prosch who excels as a lead blocker. While his potential is high, Prosch is just a rookie so it’s unknown just how effective he’ll be versus veteran NFL defenders.
Advantage: Redskins, It’s close, and if we were just talking about the top running backs I think you would have to go with Foster given his all-around ability being superior. The Redskins make up ground with the back-up running back spot and the FB spot and take a slight lead here.
-The Redskins have Pierre Garcon returning while adding DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts. That gives the Redskins three good-to-very good receivers and can create some match-up problems with the Texans. Jackson is obviously the playmaker of the bunch, and can be a major deep threat. Garcon should be the guy who is targeted the most and will be the Redskins chain mover. Roberts will be the slot guy and is a guy who can help in both areas. He’s got some playmaking ability and can be a nice consistent receiver who RGIII can rely on to move the chains.
-The Texans WR’s aren’t too bad either. A lot of people want to write off Andre Johnson because of the question marks at QB, but Johnson had arguably the worst QB situation in the league last year and still managed over 100 catches and 1,400 yards. Hopkins also added 50 catches and 800 yards, which is good production for a rookie even in good circumstances. Behind the top two though the Texans don’t have much at receiver, though Keyshawn Martin and Deveir Posey are interesting, they are unproven.
Advantage: Redskins, small advantage here because Andre Johnson is so talented and Hopkins could definitely breakout, but few teams can match the talent the Redskins top 3 bring.
–Jordan Reed has been dealing with an injury, but he should be good to go for the Redskins. Reed can be a major weapon and threat in the passing game for Washington if he can stay on the field. Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul can be average back-ups, but the key for them will be their blocking ability. The Redskins offensive line will need as much help as possible, so these guys have to hold up.
–Garrett Graham figures to be the primary pass catching TE in Houston this year and he’s coming off a decent season last year, which looks better considering how many issues the Texans had at QB. Graham is dealing with an injury as well, but the expectation is he will be ready for the game. He’s not as good as a pass catcher as Reed, but he’s a guy the Redskins defense can’t ignore or he’ll make them pay. The x-factor for the Texans is rookie C.J. Fiedorowicz. Fiedorowicz is a two-way tight end capable as an inline blocker and effective in the passing game as well. He’s a big physical tight end who can be tough for some linebackers and safeties to cover, particularly in the Red zone and on 3rd downs.
Advantage: Redskins, this is probably a smaller advantage than what most people will predict. A lot of it will come down to the production of the 2nd tight ends. If Logan Paulsen struggles as a blocker and Fiedorowicz thrives, it can really close the gap here between the two TE groups.
-The good news is the Redskins have the best offensive lineman on either side of this contest in Trent Williams. The bad news is the rest of the Redskins offensive line is very questionable. Free agent guard Shawn Lauvao figures to be the 2nd best offensive linemen, but he’s not a guy who inspires a lot of confidence. He struggled some in the preseason and camp, and hasn’t had a great career prior to coming to Washington. After Lauvao it really goes down hill, Tyler Polumbus, Chris Chester, and Kory Lichtensteiger all look like major liabilities along the line.
-The Texans LT Duane Brown might not be as good as Trent Williams, but he’s not too shabby either. Brown is easily a top 10 LT (somewhere in the 5-7 range) and will be a tough match-up for the Redskins defense to crack. Center Chris Myers and guard Brandon Brooks are two other pretty good offensive linemen and just far superior to anything the Redskins have. The Texans RT Derek Newton and LG Ben Jones are a bit more of question marks, though both may be better than the Redskins 4th and 5th best OL. The Texans also have really good depth with 2nd round rookie Xavier Su’a-Filo and veteran tackle Tyson Clabo on the bench. If there is an injury or even if one of their weaker guys struggle, the Texans will have options.
Advantage: Texans, this one is in a blowout. The gap between Williams and Brown is small, but the Texans win in a landslide with the talent difference of the rest of their OL versus the rest of the Redskins.
-The Redskins went out and signed Jason Hatcher as a free agent in the hopes of adding a quality pass rusher along the defensive line. Hatcher has the potential to be a good pass rusher as a defensive end and will disrupt his share of running plays as well. Unfortunately Hatcher had to have offseason surgery and likely isn’t yet at 100%. He’ll play versus the Texans, but he likely won’t play as much as he would normally and the snaps that he gives you might not be at his peak level. Hatcher should still be an upgrade over what the Redskins had last year, but it will be less than what it should be. Next to Hatcher the Redskins have Barry Cofield and Chris Baker. Cofield is the better of the two and a guy who can get some nice consistent penetration on defense. Baker is a bit more up-and-down, but he’s shown some promise. Overall it should be a solid defensive line for the Redskins.
-The Texans have J.J. Watt. That really should be the end of the discussion. Watt is arguably the best defensive player in the league. Don’t let his 10 sacks last season fool you into thinking he wasn’t getting after the passer. Watt living in the offensive back-field and got plenty of additional pressures and hits on the opposing quarterback. If that wasn’t bad enough, Watt is an excellent run defender and will make a number of stops for a loss or no gain. He’s extremely tough to run against even when you try to double team him. The rest of the Texans line is filled with more questions than answers, but there is some potential there. 2012 4th rounder Jared Crick figures to take over Antonio Smith‘s spot, while the NT position will be manned by Jerrell Powe and 3rd round rookie Louis Nix.
Advantage: Texans, it’s a small advantage given the uncertainty with most of the Texans line, but Watt is just so good and such a difference maker that it is tough to ignore his impact. Also, while the Redskins look better on paper, Hatcher is a question mark with how many snaps he can give you. If he only plays 30 snaps his impact may be minimal.
-The Redskins bring back both Brian Orakpo (who again led the team in sacks) and Ryan Kerrigan to hopefully once again bring considerable pressure off the edge. Orakpo hasn’t put up top sack numbers, but that isn’t always his fault given the scheme he’s been in. He’s one of the better right side edge rushers in the game and a force that teams will have to deal with. Kerrigan is a good left side rusher, who can take advantage of 1-on-1 match-ups with most right tackles. Joining them as a back-up 3rd pass rusher is 2nd round rookie Trent Murphy. Murphy still has a long ways to go, but he should help add to the Redskins rush when he’s on the field with guys like Orakpo and Kerrigan.
-The Texans went out and grabbed one of the best pass rush prospects the draft has produced in the past 10 years in Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney so far looks worthy of the hope and should give the Texans an edge rusher who can be among the best in the league when he gets to his prime. Whether that starts week 1 or not is up for debate, but pass rushers are one position who can excel as rookies. Opposite Clowney will be 4th year OLB Brooks Reed. Reed flashed strong pass rush ability as a rookie, but hasn’t been able to replicate that success since. He can still be a dangerous guy if teams are too focused on Clowney and Watt, but he’s still average at best right now. What could be intriguing is when former first round pick Whitney Mercilus is on the field, he has 13 sacks in two years and has shown to be a decent pass rusher. The Texans could use all 3 OLB’s on the field together and they can also rotate them to keep them fresh. Another thing that we could see is Mercilus playing some of Clowney’s ROLB role to give the Texans a strong presence to go up against Trent Williams, while Clowney moves over to the left side to face Tyler Polumbus (while having J.J. Watt next to him).
Advantage: Redskins, The Texans OLB’s might end up being pretty good this year and if Clowney reaches his potential they could be great, but the Redskins have two proven commodities and an intriguing 3rd option of their own. It’s not a major advantage here, but probably at least moderate.
-The Redskins may have a really nice find in 3rd year ILB Keenan Robinson who will take over for London Fletcher in the middle of this defense. Robinson has looked good in the preseason and camp and he displays really good athleticism in getting to the football. Next to Robinson will be Perry Riley who is coming off a poor season. Riley is athletic and can be a thumper as well, but too often he lacks the instincts to make the play. He’ll have some good games or stretches from time to time, but at best he’s an average ILB.
-The Texans have lost Brian Cushing to injuries quite a bit in recent years, but when he’s healthy Cushing is one of the better ILB’s in the game and can be a true difference maker. Though his outlook over the course of the season could be murky, with him healthy heading into week 1, that is a huge plus for the Texans defense. The other ILB spot figures to be more fluid between any of the additional 4 ILB’s on the roster depending on match-ups. Also, reports are that OLB Whitney Mercilus will also play inside some, likely with the idea of having him blitz up the middle.
Advantage: Texans, It’s only a small to medium edge considering the complete unknown at the 2nd ILB spot, but Cushing alone gives Houston the edge here. When he’s on the field he’s going to make plays, and will do so in every area.
–DeAngelo Hall is coming off arguably his best season as a pro and if he can continue to play like that the Redskins will be very happy with him as their top corner. David Amerson assumes the other starting corner role, after a rookie season that saw him struggle quite a bit, particularly against 2nd and 3rd receivers. He is coming off a strong preseason, but things could get interesting as he faces off versus some top receivers from time to time. Behind them the Redskins figure to be without Tracy Porter, leaving veteran E.J. Biggers and rookie Bashaud Breeland as the 3rd corner options.
-The Texans have a good starting pair of corners in Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson, though Joseph is coming off an injury so there is a question mark there. Behind them the Texans corners are very untested, with 2nd year A.J. Bouye likely set as the 3rd corner.
Advantage: Tie, Texans have the better two starting corners, but one is coming off a serious injury. Their 3rd and 4th corners are real unknowns. The Redskins have their own question marks, particularly with Amerson, but he’s looked vastly improved in camp/preseason so they could match-up the Texans in the top 2 corner spots.
-The Redskins did add Ryan Clark this offseason to add leadership and experience to the back-end. Even with the veteran in the fold the safety position was going to be one of the weakest on the team this season, and that was even before Brandon Meriweather was suspended and Phillip Thomas was cut due to injuries. The Redskins are going to need to rely on Clark and 2nd year safety Bacarri Rambo to hold down the position week one. It’s doubtful that newly acquired Duke Ihenacho can help much week one, leaving most of the strong safety duties to Rambo. This is a major question mark for the Redskins and something that the Texans could possibly exploit.
-The Texans have 2nd year pro D.J. Swearinger and Kendrick Lewis as the starters with Danniel Manning and Shiloh Keo as the primary back-ups. Swearinger had an up-and-down rookie campaign, but shows a lot of promise, and he has the potential to breakout this year. Lewis is an average safety, but probably not much better than that. This is by no means the Texans strongest area, but it should be average-to-above average at least.
Advantage: Texans, Ryan Clark is a nice addition, but it’s unlikely this is a strong unit for the Redskins. The Texans figure to have both better starters as well as better depth if they need to sub in.
-The Redskins are coming off one of the worst special teams performances in NFL history last year as they had issues in every facet of their ST units. They added some talent to help on their cover units, but until they are tested in game action it is tough to know how improved they are. Andre Roberts takes over as the primary returner and he should improve the numbers from the return game, but overall he’s probably an average return man. Kai Forbath won the kicking job and should provide the Redskins with a very accurate kicker, but there are still questions about his kick-off distance. The punting job was won by Tress Way, but he’s never punted in a regular season game so there is a question about whether he’s up to the task for the season.
-The Texans saw kicker Randy Bullock struggle big time last season with his accuracy, but he’s back again after winning the preseason kicking battle and showing better accuracy this year. He’s considered to have a pretty strong leg and should do well with touchbacks this season. The star of the Texans special teams unit is punter Shane Lechler who remains one of the best punters in the league. He’s the type of punter who can flip the field for your defense and he can limit returns with good hang time. Keshawn Martin will be back as the Texans primary return man. He might not be an elite returner, but he he’s pretty decent, as he returned a punt for a TD and averaged 26.3 yards per kick return.
Advantage: Texans, Lechler alone would win this for them, but Martin also should have an edge over Roberts.