We're through the week, headed into the weekend, and it's only 48 hours until the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans square off on Sunday Night Football. I took some time to chat with Brett Kollman from our Texans blog, Battle Red Blog. Earlier today, he put together a film breakdown of Colin Kaepernick that is a solid read. Earlier this week, NN and BRB put together thoughts on why each team will win, and also under-the-radar players to watch on Sunday.
Niners Nation: What's up with Matt Schaub? He's struggled with pick-sixes, and it seems like something is missing there. Is he facing any specific issues, and how comfortable are Texans with their QB?
Battle Red Blog: I think the Texans are comfortable with their quarterback situation. It certainly is a lot better than the Vikings, Jags, Browns, and Bucs, so there is not that much to complain about. Schaub's pick sixes can be attributed to a miscommunication with DeAndre Hopkins, a great play by Darryl Smith, and a horrible play call by Gary Kubiak on third and four. Should Schaub have taken a sack? Definitely. Should Gary Kubiak be calling a play action roll out that the Seahawks have been sitting on all game in the fourth quarter when NOBODY in the Seattle front seven was stopping Arian Foster? Hell no.
Matt Schaub is what he is - a slightly above average quarterback that won't make too many mistakes and is good for a big play every now and then. There have been a few more boneheaded plays than big plays as of late, but everything will regress to the mean eventually. Perhaps that starts this weekend against a Niner secondary that sorely misses Chris Culliver.
NN: How are Arian Foster and Ben Tate splitting the workload? What does each bring to the table in terms of what they do as a runner?
BRB: Arian Foster is still the lead dog in the back field, but Tate has been having a hell of an audition year before he his the market this spring. Foster is the better pass protector, receiver, and has superior vision, while Tate is the more athletically gifted of the duo and his harder to bring down. In terms of pure North-South running, Tate has been better than Foster this season, but as an all around package there are few backs in the game I would rather have than Foster.
NN: So, uh, J.J. Watt is a decent player. Does he actually have weaknesses? Where can we expect to see him on the field, or does it vary considerably?
BRB: J.J. Watt might be the only player in the NFL that is literally unstoppable. There is no weakness to his game - everything is his strength. He is bigger than everyone, stronger than everyone, and faster than everyone. His swim move is impeccable, and his bull rush destructive. Expect him to line up primarily over the right tackle unless San Francisco moves Vernon Davis over to the left. Watt lines up against the offenses' strong side on every snap, so his positioning will entirely depend on Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald. In passing situations Watt will kick inside on whichever guard is weakest in protection and go hunting. Iupati vs Watt sounds like one hell of a matchup to watch.
NN: Tell us about the Texans secondary. The Texans have some serious names back there.
BRB: The Texans secondary is as good (or in my opinion - better) than any in the NFL. Jonathan Joseph is an All-Pro corner, and Kareem Jackson has turned into a Pro Bowl-worthy defender in his own right (minus a few random series here and there where he turns from fantastic, to horrible, and back to fantastic again). Daniael Manning is an underrated strong safety with excellent man coverage skills against tight ends, while Ed Reed mans the free safety spot. D.J. Swearinger, our rookie out of South Carolina, comes in on passing downs in the dime package to play a hybrid linebacker-safety role and take tight ends in man coverage while Manning and Reed prowl for passes in deep zones. Brice McCain, the Texans nickel corner, is the only defensive back that I would consider a "weakness", and he has taken a nosedive since his incredible 2011 season as the game's top nickel back. If there is one guy you want to attack early and often, it's him.
NN: What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of the Texans coaching staff?
BRB: The strengths? Play calling. The weakness? Play calling. Gary Kubiak will devise a brilliant game to attack even the best defenses in the NFL, and then he will call for a roll out on third and four that results in a pick six. Wade Phillips command a defense that forces five three and outs in a row only to give up a 99 yard touchdown drive at the most inconvenient times. Erratic does not even begin to describe this coaching staff. You hope for the best, experience the worst, and somehow still end up ranked in the top five in the NFL. It's a roller coaster being a Texans fan these days.