Hello there, Niners Nation. I've come from the far away land of Battle Red Blog to give you the low down on who and what you might see down in Houston this weekend in what is almost assuredly going to be the defensive showcase of the pre-season. Considering it is very possible (and in my opinion highly likely) that the first half of this game is going to be a Superbowl preview, I thought you might want to get an introduction to the team you'll be facing this Saturday.
Two best defenses. Two best run games. Two bloodthirsty teams chasing the ring. What's not to love?Quarterback
Matt Schaub is back and seems to be perfectly healthy. While not elite, Schaub has posted monster numbers in the past when he is forced into shootouts (A la' Alex Smith versus the Saints). His strength is the play action bootleg off the zone stretch, so expect lots of shots to Andre Johnson Owen Daniels off the fake. He's pretty good at it. Schaub isn't necessarily the most mobile guy ever, but he can shift around the pocket adequately...then again, most of the time that pocket isn't being collapsed by Justin Smith. It will be interesting to see how he tangles with arguably the best defense in the league.
Arian Foster and Ben Tate are household names (to varying degrees) around the league. The NFL's best rushing tandem put up nearly 2,800 combined yards last season, and that was with Arian Foster missing almost four full games. Against legendary run defenses like the Steelers, Foster was the first man to rush for over 150 yards against Pittsburg in nearly a decade. Against Baltimore, Arian again broke new ground by becoming the first back to ever cross a hundred yards against the Ravens defense in the playoffs - in their home stadium no less. Top 10 defense after top 10 defense fell to the Texans ground attack last season, including the #2 Atlanta Falcons, which allowed over 150 yards and a score. The fact that "Shock and Awe" were able to accomplish such a feat with no Andre Johnson to pull safeties and no Matt Schaub to keep defenses from plugging the box every single snap is truly remarkable.
One test has yet to be taken, however, and that test is San Francisco. Atlanta, Pittsburg, Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Jacksonville are one thing, but there is really only one rush defense in the league that everyone is afraid of. Patrick Willis versus Arian Foster. Carlos Rodgers versus Andre Johnson. Justin Smith versus Duane Brown. You can't script a more titanic match of strength versus strength than Houston and San Francisco. I absolutely cannot wait.
Andre Johnson would already be considered a Hall of Famer if he could stay on the damn field. When healthy, Johnson has no equal. Not even the Jets leave him singled up, and it's the freaking Jets. However, for pretty much a decade Houston hasn't really had anything at wideout behind the Great One. 2012 hopes to change that. Kevin Walter will continue to be the slow, sure handed white guy for this offense that we know and love, but there are several young guns in the mix that could be deadly components to the Houston aerial attack this season.
Keshawn Martin is the first name that comes to mind. The 4th round rookie has lit it up in camp and in his first pre season game so far, starting in place of Andre Johnson last week and proving himself admirably. At Michigan, K-Mart scored touchdowns five different ways last season (rushing, receiving, passing, punt return, and kick return). As Kirk Cousins aptly put it, he's a "touchdown waiting to happen". Although just 5'11", Martin is incredibly agile and deadly in open space. Kubiak has already used him a few different ways and seems to be designing packages specifically to get him into a 10 yard cushion. We'll take this kid over Jacoby Jones any day of the week.
Lestar Jean in the second guy to keep an eye on. a UDFA last year, Jean was a camp superstar before Kubiak stashed him on IR because of a shoulder injury. In his second year, Lestar has continued to impress and has worked himself into position to get significant playing time. While Martin is more of the shifty, play making slot receiver, Jean is the classic big bodied outside receiver that just straight up out jumps people. His 2 receptions for 50 yards last week in limited snaps backs up that characterization as well. Look for him to make a splash from 30 yards as a scoring threat on the number 2 and 3 corners.
DeVier Posey in our 3rd round rookie that hasn't really impressed much this off/pre season. He can run routes very well and has sick body control, but there is just something....off. He's been relegated to running with John Beck for most of his snaps, which almost assuredly hasn't been helping him (Beck routinely misses Posey even when he is wide open), but I don't think we will really know what we have in Posey for some time. He's just kind of there.
Our tight ends are decent. We don't have Vernon Davis, but Own Daniels fits the offense just fine. He runs good routes and has a good connection with Schaub. He's a possession receiver at best, but that's really all we need him for anyway...just move the chains buddy. Casey is an intriguing option as TE2. He's more of an H-Back than anything, and Kubiak has likened him to his own Jim Thorpe, in that he is a guy that they put everywhere. He'll run, he'll block, he'll motion out wide. It's no uncommon to see him change position 3 times a snap just to get a good match up. He also has the best hands on the team by far. Good luck with that one. Garret Graham is TE3, and is basically a less talented Owen Daniels clone....literally.
This is my favorite part. When it comes to stopping the other team, San Fran and Houston are pretty damn close. You got Willis, we got Cushing. You got Smith, we got Watt. You got Rodgers, we got Joseph. You got a Brooks, we got a Brooks. You got Aldon, we should introduce Whitney. It's splitting hairs at every position to give the edge to one team or another, so I think I'll just suffice to say that I'm pretty positive both teams will finish 1-2 in defense this season...I'm just not sure in what order. Last week Houston held Carolina to 137 total yards, notched 7 sacks, and got 2 turnovers.