As we approach the Saints' third preseason game with the start of the regular season is just around the corner, I exchange five questions with Brett Kollman from Battle Red Blog, the Houston Texans SB Nation site. Be sure to check out Brett's post that includes my answers for his questions as well. Let's get started:
1. J.J. Watt had an unrealistically amazing season last year for any position, let alone a DE in a 3-4. Is it realistic for us to expect similar, or even increased production out of him this season?
It sure is. What makes the Wade Phillips system so great is that even the defensive ends, which in a 3-4 are normally run stuffers and pocket collapsers, can act as primary pass rushers because so many people are coming after the quarterback on any given snap. Five and Six rushers is a common occurrence, which I'm sure as Saints fans you all are familiar with given you once employed Greg Williams, who was even more blitz-happy than Phillips. With both outside linebackers, both defensive ends, and the nose shade constantly trying to get up field in their one gap scheme, J.J. Watt is often than not given single blocking against the right tackle, which for a pass rusher in the mold of Watt is a gigantic advantage. I expect Watt to have another monster season simply because there are few if any left tackles that can handle him for an entire game, let alone right tackles.
2. The Texans have lacked a real presence at WR opposite of Andre Johnson. What are your impressions of rookie Deandre Hopkins? Is he ready to step in and contribute immediately or will he need a year or two to really adjust to the NFL?
Hopkins has been marvelous in his first few months as a Texan. He had a very, very strong camp that had him winning battles against every DB we've got, including Jonathan Joseph, and his impact in red zone drills has been tantalizing. His first action against Minnesota was encouraging as well where he caught 4 passes for 52 yards and a beautiful touchdown grab, but unfortunately his game against Miami was cut short by a mild concussion. No word yet on if he will play against the Saints, but if he does I expect more good things from him.
3. Where would you rank Matt Schaub among QBs? Your offense's success has been contingent upon your running game in recent years. Ben Tate is healthy now, so him and Arian Foster should be able to carry your team to success again. If that isn't the case, though, and they either can't stay healthy or produce like the past, is Matt Schaub a good enough QB to carry your team to victory?
Let's see - Brees, Rodgers, Peyton, Brady, Ryan, Romo, Eli, RG3, Stafford, and Newton are all probably ahead of him off the top of my head. Schaub, Luck, Wilson, Roethlisberger, Dalton, Kaepernick, and Cutler are all in the second group right behind those guys. He's not bad by any means, but he's definitely good enough to carry the team if he needs to. Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, DeAndre Hopkins, Devier Posey, Keshawn Martin, and Garrett Graham are probably the best set of passing weapons he's ever had, and the emergence of Brandon Brooks as a force at right guard should give him a bit more time in the pocket (even if Derek Newton is still the worst right tackle in the league). If God forbid both Arian and Ben went down, I am confident enough in the passing game to still generate points, even if a lot of other Texans fans are not.
4. Any indication as to if Ed Reed will be ready for week 1? Regardless, are you expecting him to come in and have the type of impact he had in Baltimore, or are you skeptical that he has enough left in the tank to be that guy still?
I'm not sure if Reed will be there, and even if he isn't I am not too concerned. Where we really need Ed Reed is the playoffs. This team is in the "get the ring or you are a failure" mode, so as long as Reed is around in January I'm okay. As for his impact, just being on the field will help against Brady and Manning, our main obstacles on the way to the Super Bowl, so I'm pretty pumped about that. He is literally the only guy in league history who puts fear in to those two, so that alone is worth the money.
The 2013 Texans will finish with a record of 12-4 and earn 1st place in the AFC South. I am not worried about Andrew Luck bringing the Colts back to dominance in the division as long as J.J. Watt is on this team.
While I think Brett may not be giving Andrew Luck enough credit, he provides some nice insight to the Texans. With two definite playoff contenders in this match up, perhaps the Saints' will meet the Texans again, but with a bit more on the line. Thanks again, Brett.