1) Canal Street Chronicles: The Texans rebounded from an abysmal 2-14 season in 2013, to a fairly respectable 9-7 record last year. Despite the fact that they missed the postseason in 2014, what/who do you credit with enabling Houston to improve so dramatically from one year to the next?
Brett Kollmann: That jump in wins was 100% because of Bill O'Brien. He is a phenomenal head coach, as some of you have no doubt seen if you have been watching Hard Knocks this season. The man took a depleted roster with four different starting quarterbacks to the brink of the playoffs! O'Brien's system was efficient and heavily adapted for every single individual opponent, and his ability to motivate his players produced results during clutch moments all year long. Arian Foster missed games, the secondary was banged up, Brian Cushing was never 100%, and yet O'Brien still dragged this club kicking and screaming to an above .500 record. That's coach of the year material right there, folks.
2) CSC: Former Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer, who is now on his fifth NFL team, was named the starter over Ryan Mallett by head coach Bill O'Brien a few days ago. How do you feel about Hoyer being "the guy" in Houston? Can he lead this Texans team to where it wants to go?
BK: I disagreed with the decision to start Hoyer, personally. Mallett is a far superior physical talent who showed a very good understanding of O'Brien's offense during his year in Houston. I thought he deserved a shot to show what he could really do with that cannon arm of his, but I'll defer to O'Brien on this one. His work last year earned my complete trust in his decision making ability, even if it's not what I would have done.
3) CSC: Running back Arian Foster had another outstanding season in 2014 (8 touchdowns, 4.8 yards per carry, 1246 rushing yards) despite playing in only 13 games. Alas, Foster is injured once again. When is Foster projected to return this season? Who will be expected to carry the running load if Foster misses any significant amount of time?
BK: Foster is now projected to return sometime between weeks 2-4, believe it or not. When the injury first happened many people expected him to be placed on season-ending injured reserve, but his prognosis has only gotten better and better since then. He will likely be "all the way back" when the Texans and Saints play for real in late November. As for who will be carrying the load until then, you should expect a fairly even mix of Alfred Blue and Chris Polk. Polk is the superior athlete in almost every single way, but Blue has the inside track on the starting gig for now because of his experience in the system. To be honest, I sort of expect Polk to challenge for that starting gig over Blue sooner rather than later...or at least until Foster comes back.
4) CSC: Houston's very good defense is known for being paced by all-around stud J.J. Watt. Apart from Watt however, who should Saints fans keep an eye out for on the Texans' defensive side of the ball during Sunday's game as well as this upcoming season?
BK: Mike Mohamed is our secret weapon on defense. He flies all over the field and seems to always find ways to make big plays whether it's against the run or the pass. Brian Cushing is the hammer who likes to smash run plays to bits, but Mohamed is the scalpel. He has a legitimate shot to lead the team in tackles this season considering he's by far the best coverage linebacker on the team and he's gotten much, much better against the run since linebacker coach Mike Vrabel came to town.
Other than Mohamed, watch rookie corner Kevin Johnson. He has been spectacular thus far, and I think he has already carved out a big role on this team as their nickel corner. I am really eager to see how he does against Brandin Cooks, who has been ripping everyone who faces him to shreds so far this preseason. If Johnson can at the very least hold his own against Cooks (easier said than done), we may have ourselves a draft steal.
5) CSC: How much would you hate linebacker Brian Cushing if he played for another NFL team? And is he the scariest, borderline-crazy guy you've ever rooted for?
BK: Brian is a psychopath, but he's our psychopath. We love him unconditionally...always and forever.
Many thanks to Brett for taking the time to answer our questions. For more coverage of the Texans, check out the great work of the guys at Battle Red Blog.