One week removed from the excitement of beating their biggest rivals, the Houston Texans will head to Washington for their next big test: the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. The Redskins are coming off a Week 1 win against the Dallas Cowboys in which both teams’ offenses stuttered and the defenses made plays. In the game, the Redskins defense held the three Dallas Cowboys running backs (Barber, Jones and Choice) under 100 yards combined. That means the Texans and running back Arian Foster will face a whole new test from last week’s offensive powerhouse Colts. This time, the Texans offense will have to keep the ball in the air and away from the fast and hit ‘em hard Redskins front seven.
What to Look For
Both the Texans and the Redskins are 1-0, but how they got their winning records are completely different. The Texans’f offense amounted 355 total yards against the Colts last week, while the Redskins could only put up 280 total yards in their 13-7 win over the Cowboys. This week, the Texans will likely still utilize their run game while getting the ball in the air more than last week. The Skins, on the other hand, will have to rely on their defense to put a better effort than last week’s effort against the porous offensive Cowboys.
QB Matt Schaub and the Offensive Line. Remember the Titans with Big Fat Albert Haynesworth? I know Schaub does, he was injured three times in two games against Haynesworth and the Titans, but that was years ago. Now, Schaub’s gained a whole new level of confidence and has been shaken by defenses since Albert’s Titans. If Schaub keeps his cool, he should be hitting his receivers with ease. But it will be up to the front five to protect him from the likes of Jim Haslett’s attack 3-4 defense.
RB Steve Slaton. Arian Foster should touch the ball at least 15-20 times this week. The Skins know it and Bob Dole knows it. But what about Steve Slaton, who only had seven touches (0 receptions) against the Colts? He’s coming off his first game out of recovering from turf toe, and will definitely be relied upon against the Skins’ defense which will be known for circling quarterbacks. Remember Brian Orakpo’s pressure last week on Dallas? It’ll happen again this week, so the Texans should bring screens and Slaton passes to avoid too much pressure on the line.
Neil Rackers. Rackers started the season off just right, going 2-for-2 on field goals with a long of 49 yards. He was also 4-for-4 in XPs and was able to consistently kick the ball deep on kickoffs. For the Skins game, Rackers will need to keep it up. He’ll be relied on if the Texans offense can’t capitalize in the Red Zone, and he’ll have to deal with the mind numbing sound of FedEx Field, where most fans there won’t even think the Texans are near legit as we do in Houston.
DeMeco Ryans. Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans will be put to the test Sunday. He’ll be the major run stopper against the likes of Redskins running backs Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson. Both backs are veterans who have had stellar careers and still have gas in the tank. Portis is quick, agile and hard to stop with arm tackles. Johnson will pound the ball and has the ability to break free from most tackles. Ryans definitely has a different gameplan than last week’s, and to win this week he’ll be depended on so that Pollard can stick with Skins former Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley.
Donovan McNabb. There was a time when veteran Donovan McNabb was one of the best at his position. Today, we find that he still hasn’t corrected all the mistakes that have haunted him for the last decade. That’s good for the Texans. If McNabb keeps throwing his bonehead passes, throwing passes to low to the ground or too high for receivers, and scrambling without notice of his surroundings, then the Texans defense should have a ball. I know you can imagine the Texans defensive line making havoc for McNabb and the Skins. However, if McNabb utilizes his weapons, which he is known to do as well, then he may be able to make Week 2 fantasy stars out of Chris Cooley and Santana Moss.
Jim Haslett’s 3-4 Defense. The Redskins run a 3-4 defense focused on attacking the quarterback with outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Andre Carter. In fact, the Redskins D sent 30 unofficial blitzes on 54-Romo dropbacks. For Orakpo, although he was statistically held in check, he did cause havoc on Dallas’ left side. Carter, on the other side, totaled four combined tackles and applied the pressure to Dallas’ offense. Both outside linebackers caused many Dallas holds, many of which went unofficiated. Middle linebacker London Fletcher brings something new to the Texans scouting report that they didn’t see from Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett. Outside the physical talent, Fletcher’s claiming this is the start to a new “Redskins era.” Additionally, he’s a leader on the team, a team captain, even one of the NFL’s smartest players according to GQ. But that’s not why he’ll be making an impact this week. Rather, he’ll make an impact on run defense, most likely racking up tackles if the Texans run the ball like they did against the Colts last week. Lastly, safety LaRon Landry can play the run and the pass. Although he’ll be inconsistent, his athleticism should keep the Texans on their toes.
The Shanahan Connection. This game has been in the making since Kubiak left Mike Shanahan and the Broncos in 2006. Since then, Shanahan has moved on from the Broncos, retired and now is the head coach to the Washington Redskins. Additionally, baby Shanahan, Mike’s son Kyle, was the offensive coordinator for the Texans for the past two seasons before permissively leaving the team for the Skins and his father. All Texans fans know their style of offense: run, run, play action, boots and more running. And with that, the Texans should be more comfortable against the Shanahans’ Redskins than they would against Gibbs’ old team.
Texans steal win from Redskins 21-17. This game will require a different mindset than the Colts game. The Texans will need to avoid turnovers, keep the the Redskins defense honest and guessing. The Texans D will be put to the test whether they know it or not. They can’t give up easy plays and fall off coverage. They’ll have to keep their positions and know their roles. No game is easy. Expect Foster to run for 90-110 yards and Schaub to get his numbers around the 280 yard marker, but TDs will be hard to come by for the Texans who already have Red Zone troubles.