Tag Archives: George Godsey

Patriots 2016 Opponents, 5 First Impressions of the Texans

Steve Balestrieri
September 20, 2016 at 8:02 am ET

Bill O’Brien Upgraded the Offense of a Playoff Team

The Patriots return to Foxboro just four days after their home opening win over Miami. They’ll be taking on the 2-0 Houston Texans who have been impressive the first two weeks of the season. The two teams met a year ago with the Patriots rolling to an easy win but this Houston team is vastly different than the one that the Patriots had their way with.

The teams will meet on Thursday Night Football on the NFL Network at 8:30 p.m. With Jimmy Garoppolo being hurt in the Miami game, the Texns will face rookie QB Jacoby Brissett in his first NFL start.

Here are our Five First Impressions of the Texans:

Osweiler was an easy choice: When the Texans lost their playoff game to Kansas City 30-0 a year ago, it was obvious that some wholesale changes needed to be made with the offense and they started at the most pressing, at quarterback. Houston waved goodbye to former Patriots Brian Hoyer and signed free agent Brock Osweiler.

Osweiler had an extended cameo of his services when the Broncos sat down Peyton Manning during their Super Bowl run a year ago. When John Elway balked at giving the youngster a new contract this offseason when they tried to lure Manning back for a final season, Osweiler bolted for the Texans signing a 4-year, $72 million-dollar contract.

He has a ready-made excellent QB coach in Bill O’Brien who will be hard but fair with him. O’Brien will develop his talents to the utmost. So far, the big QB has played well. He’s had some hiccups with turnovers, he’s thrown three so far, including two against the Chiefs on Sunday, but O’Brien isn’t worried, as mistakes will happen while learning a new system. And the Texans is much like the Patriots, very different than what they ran in Denver with Gary Kubiak.

But Osweiler is a big upgrade at the position for Houston. They’ve added the pieces around him to make the offense much more difficult to stop in the coming weeks.

Miller Fuller Add Big Pieces to the Offense: The Texans made a couple of splashes in free agency, bringing Osweiller in and also bringing in running back Lamar Miller from the Miami Dolphins this spring. With Arian Foster on IR last year, the Texans were in need of an upgrade there. Foster ended up with the Dolphins, signing there this summer so the teams essentially traded backs.

Miller was a great pickup for Houston, he was very underused in Miami and is a good runner and pass receiver and at just 25 years old is an upgrade over Foster at this time of his career. He’s been the workhorse for Houston carrying the ball 53 times for 189 yards on the season adding six receptions for 26 yards. He was stopped for three quarters by the Chiefs but O’Brien stuck with the running game and Miller was able to grind out yards and kill the clock down the stretch.

The Texans drafted the speedster Will Fuller from Notre Dame in this year’s NFL Draft with the 21st pick in the first round. It was obvious they needed a threat opposite DeAndre Hopkins and they let Nate Washington and Cecil Shorts go. Fuller, a 6’0, 175-pound wide receiver has excellent speed and thus far has proven to be a perfect complement to Hopkins.

Thru the first two games, Fuller has nine catches for 211 yards (23.4 yard average), and a touchdown. He’s the first rookie since DeSean Jackson in 2008 to have two 100 yard receiving games in his first two NFL games. He and Hopkins are a dynamic duo and facing a Patriots secondary that did not have a good game on Sunday.

Watt is Still the Driving Force in a Good Texans Defense: Houston’s J.J. Watt seems to be completely recovered from offseason back surgery and he’s the guy to watch for a Houston defense that hasn’t allowed a touchdown in six quarters.

Watt missed all of July and nearly all of August’s workouts and is admittedly still working his way back into football shape. He told the media on Sunday, that in the opener he knocked off some rust and that he just added to that this week.

“I don’t think I’m all the way there yet,” Watt said. “But, I definitely felt a little bit better today than I did last week and I think it’s going to continue that way.”

Watt’s “a little bit better” totals on Sunday? Five tackles, 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. Houston held Kansas City out of the end zone on Sunday and sack QB Alex Smith four times in the 19-12 victory.

Now on the short week, Watt and Co. will be facing the Patriots rookie QB in Jacoby Brissett on Thursday night.

If Texans Seem to be Familiar, They Are: There are a lot of Patriots connections with the Houston Texans and head coach Bill O’Brien is building himself a team on a solid foundation of New England talent.

O’Brien was the QB coach and the offensive coordinator with the Pats from 2007-2011. Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crenel started in New England as the DL coach in 1993 and became the DC here from 2001-2004, including the first three Super Bowl wins.Texans offensive coordinator

George Godsey was the Patriots tight ends coach and was here from 2011-2013. Linebacker coach Mike Vrabel is one of the hottest coaches in terms of getting top job offers. He was a standout member of the Patriots during the first three Super Bowl winning teams as a linebacker and goal line tight end. Special teams coordinator Larry Izzo was a standout STs player on the Patriots between 2001-2008.

And of course the biggest Texan of them all is Vince Wilfork. The big man spent 12 seasons with the Patriots. Wilfork played in 158 games and tallied 517 tackles, 16.0 sacks, three interceptions for 48 yards, 35 quarterback hits, 28 tackles for loss, 12 fumble returns, four forced fumbles and 26 passes defensed.

When looking at the organization that O’Brien is building around him in Texas, it is easy to see where the emphasis on creating a winning atmosphere is coming from.

Special Teams Coverage Units Still Have Questions: One of the other weaknesses on the Texans a year ago was on their Special Teams. In the playoff loss to Kansas City they gave up an opening kickoff return for a touchdown which set up a frustrating day for the Texans as they lost badly.

That prompted the hiring of Izzo as the STs coordinator. During the preseason, the Houston coverage units were pretty solid but against the Chiefs again, breakdowns in coverage again reared their ugly head.

KC’s electric returner, rookie Tyreek Hill gave the Texans fits on Sunday. He averaged 15.8 yards per punt return, 27.7 yards per kickoff return, and took a kick back for a TD that was brought back on a very questionable holding call.

Is this just an anomaly due to a rookie returner that the team didn’t have enough tape on? Or is this an area that could be possibly exploited on Thursday. This will be an area that will bear watching.

Check back with us later in the week as we’ll break down the key matchups for the game right here on PatsFans.com.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Texans, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 10, 2015 at 6:36 am ET

The New England Patriots head out on the road to face the Houston Texans on Sunday Night Football. The game was originally slated for 4:25 p.m. but was flexed by the league into the primetime slot.

The game will be televised by NBC with their top announcing crew of Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth on the call. The game will also be on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call. Kickoff is slated for 8:30 p.m. ET

The Patriots (10-2) lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 35-28 at home for their second consecutive loss, the first time that’s happened since 2012. Tom Brady threw two picks including a 99-yard pick six as the special teams units allowed a punt to blocked and returned for a touchdown seconds before the first half ended and as well as an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown by Darren Sproles.

The Texans (6-6) lost to the Buffalo Bills 30-21 breaking a four-game winning streak as the Bills ran for 182 yards. Houston is still in the thick of the race for either a Wild Card or the AFC South Divisional Crown.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our  “Razor’s Edge”  column in 2015 to give a quick break down on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:
The Patriots and Texans will meet for only the seventh time overall as Houston just entered the league 14 years ago. The Patriots hold a 5-1 overall edge including a playoff game in January 2013 and the last three in a row. This will be the fourth meeting between the teams in Houston where the Patriots hold a 2-1 advantage.

The last meeting between the teams was in November of 2013 with the Patriots taking a 34-31 win in Houston.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots 2015 Opponents, Five First Impressions of the Texans

Steve Balestrieri
December 8, 2015 at 9:58 am ET

The Patriots return to the national stage with a Sunday Night Football matchup against the Houston Texans. The game will be played at NRG Stadium at 8:30 p.m.

The Texans (6-6), lost on Sunday 30-21 to the Buffalo Bills. Tyrod Taylor hit TE Charles Clay for a 40-yard touchdown pass with 1:53 left for the winning score. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Texans. Brian Hoyer completed 26-43 passes for 293 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in the loss.

The Patriots (10-2), lost for the second straight week 35-28 to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Patriots gave up a blocked punt, an 83-yard punt return as well as a 99-yard interception return for touchdowns. Tom Brady had three touchdowns but two very costly interceptions in the game.

The game will be televised by NBC with their top announcing crew of Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya.  It will also be carried by the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 FM the SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak.

Here are our five first impressions of the Texans:

Do These Texans Look Familiar? They Should: Head coach Bill O’Brien was the offensive coordinator here for the Patriots and has adopted much of the same playbook. Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel held the similar post here and was the architect along with Belichick of those excellent defenses of the early 2000s. Texans LB coach Mike Vrabel was a standout player for the Patriots during three Super Bowl runs. Offensive Coordinator George Godsey was a tight ends coach for the Pats.

QB Brian Hoyer was Tom Brady’s backup in New England. And of course Vince Wilfork now plays for the Texans after anchoring the line for more than a decade for the Pats. Big Vince was a key member of last season’s Super Bowl winning squad.

There won’t be much the Patriots can do or show that the Texans won’t in some capacity have seen before. It comes down to matching up, winning the one-on-one battles and production.

Watt Is Human After All: One of the key factors facing a Texans defense for the Patriots this week will be accounting for J.J. Watt. After a slow start where the Texans started 1-4, Watt was a big reason that the Texans turned their season around and once again leads the NFL with 13.5 sacks.

Last week, facing a banged up Buffalo Bills offensive line with backups starting at both right guard and tackle, it was assumed Watt would ride roughshod over the Bills. But it didn’t happen; RT Jordan Mills making his first NFL start and backup RG Kraig Urbik both had solid games. They stuck with their assignments and the Bills utilized a running game that gained 187 yards on the ground and largely negated Watt’s effectiveness.

Watt finished the game with a single tackle for a loss and just four tackles overall and at times was clearly frustrated. Jadaveon Clowney did have one of his best games of the season however with 2 TFL (tackles for loss) a sack and a pair of QB hits. Now that he’s getting healthy, he can be a disruptive influence opposite Watt.

Crennel Has Defense Playing Aggressive: Part of the reason for the early season struggles was the play of the cornerbacks. Romeo Crennel had little confidence in them and they played seven to eight yards off the line and passively. Now they play Jonathan Joseph and Kevin Johnson up close to the line with Kareem Jackson in the slot. Andre Hal took over for Rahim Moore at safety and the results have been very positive. Johnson is a rookie but playing very well.

By playing more aggressively, the Texans have really improved in YAC (yards after catch).  They’ve gone from 24th in YAC to 12th. Those wide open passes underneath are now contested ones and they’re generating more turnovers as a result.  They forced eight turnovers in the third quarter of the season after forcing just six in the first six weeks.

ILBs Brian Cushing and Eddie Pleasant have been good at covering the underneath passing game. Pleasant replaces run-stuffer Benardrick McKinney on passing downs. Quentin Demps is still somewhat of a liability at times in coverage and will be a target for Tom Brady this week. He was targeted on the Bills go-ahead touchdown by Charles Clay.

Texans Getting Creative Offensively: With the game on Sunday night, don’t be surprised to see O’Brien and the Texans to open up the play book against the Patriots to secure a big win and further their own playoff chances.

Houston has used direct snaps, Wildcat formations, option passes to keep opposing defenses off-balance. O’Brien would love to catch Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia flat-footed for a few plays this week.

They used Cecil Shorts to throw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Alfred Blue against the Jets which gave them a 17-10 lead in the fourth quarter. Speaking of Shorts, he took a big hit in the Buffalo game but is not in the concussion protocol and should be good to go for the game on Sunday night.

Hoyer, Hopkins playing at a high level: Houston QB Brian Hoyer and DeAndre Hopkins have settled in nicely with the Texans under Bill O’Brien and their play has been improving as the season moves on. Hoyer spent the first three years of his career as Brady’s backup but now he’s coming into his own as the Texans battle for a playoff spot.

Hoyer on the year has completed 61.2 percent of his passes for 2202 yards with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions for a 94.4 passer rating.

Hopkins is becoming one of the top receiving threats in the NFL and has 86 receptions for 1169 yards, good for a 13.6 yard average and 10 touchdowns. His latest touchdown, a 19-yarder from Hoyer against the Bills on Sunday broke the franchise record set by Andre Johnson. Against the Bills on Sunday, he had 5 catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. He’ll be the guy to watch in the passing game Sunday. He’s made some incredibly acrobatic catches as his one against Cincinnati can attest.

Big Vince Slowing Down: This season hasn’t been a great one for former Patriots standout  NT Vince Wilfork. It seems that the big man is finally starting to slow down and hasn’t been the disruptive run stuffer he’s been in the past.

Wilfork hasn’t been able to shed those double teams inside that he was so adept at for years with the Patriots and has been getting pushed back a lot inside.

As a result, Houston has been playing him right over the nose at 0-technique and having him shoot one of the gaps on either side of the center. But with Vince’s lack of speed, there are big avenues available for cut-back runs inside. It is one reason the Texans have been only so-so against the run this season.

It will be interesting to see if the big man gets his game elevated to the next level against his former team on Sunday night.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.