With the Chargers set to open Training Camp this week, football is in the air. While most of us including me self cannot wait until kickoff in September, I started looking to the future and began studying our opponents for this upcoming season. This will be the first of a weekly segments entitled “The Other Eleven”. Each article will be broken into two parts,one evaluating the offense and the other the defense of our 16 opponents throughout the season. I’ m sick of waiting already, let’s dive into it!!!!!
Our Week 1 opponent…the Houston Texans. One of the most talented rosters in the NFL, the Texans finished in the upper portion of every major statistical category last year. With a 12-4 record in the 2012 season, the Texans will open 2013 as one of the favorites to go to the Super Bowl. Needless to say the Chargers will have a huge test to overcome in their season opener.
The Texans offense runs right through running back Arian Foster. Since 2010 Foster has led all running backs in scrimmage yards (5,702) and touchdowns (49). The last time that Foster faced off against the Chargers, he carried the ball 27 times for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Foster will look hit the ground running and start the 2013 season the same way he finished 2012.
Why this is important: The Chargers were 6th in the league in rushing yards allowed last season. However key departures on the defensive line (Antonio Garay, Abrayu Franklin and Vaughn Martin) will mean that the Chargers will have a much different look to their defensive line and an even greater responsibility for new, young players to step up and make plays.
Foster’s production however can not be possible without the big boys he has blocking for him. In 2012, three players from the Texans offensive line (left tackle Duane Brown, left guard Wade Smith and center Chris Meyers) were all voted to the Pro Bowl. However, as one of the best O-Lines in the league it does have one glaring weakness. The right side of the line lacks stability. Two of the right tackles that rotated during the regular season will be entering 2013 after season ending injuries Rashad Butler from season ending triceps injury and a knee surgery to Derek Newton. Texans third round pick Brennan Williams, who had a great shot to compete for the starting job, tweaked his knee in OTA’s and had his knee scoped. The right tackle job is Houston’s biggest weakness but possibly the Chargers biggest advantage.
Why this is important: The Chargers need to get more pass rush from their outside linebackers. The Chargers lost Shaun Phillips and Antwan Barnes to free agency and the bigger blow that followed was second year linebacker Melvin Ingram going down to injury in OTA’s. However, Dwight Freeney was brought in and signed to do one thing and one thing only, get after the quarterback! In the 11 years that Freeney has been in the league, the one team that he has had the most sacks against in his career (15 ½) has come against the Houston Texans. Freeney played his entire career in Houston’s division he knows them well. He will need to make an immediate impact on the questionable right side of Texans offensive line in order to pressure quarterback Matt Schaub. I believe that this is one of the key factors to the game and one of the best chances the Chargers have to secure a win.
Finally the last and possibly most improved aspect of the Texans offense…the wide receiving corps. Of course this unit begins with Andre Johnson. Johnson earned himself another trip to the Pro Bowl in 2012, racking up 112 catches for 1,598 yards. However, he only found the end zone FOUR times last season. Johnson, who just turned 32, needed another wide receiver opposite him in order to avoid constant double teams. In the 2013 draft, Johnson got some help in the form of 1st round pick DeAndre Hopkins. The Texans have already penciled in Hopkins as the starter opposite Johnson and expect him to stretch the field and force opposing defenses into more single coverage formations. With the weapons the Texans have on the outside, their TE Owen Daniels cannot be overlooked in the middle. Matt Schaub will look to maximize the offense’s potential with his crop of weapons.
Why this is important: The Chargers secondary unit got perhaps just as big a makeover as its offensive line. Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason departed in free agency and will be replaced by third year corner Shareece Wright and free agent acquisition Derek Cox. Cox will see a familiar face across the line in Johnson as he has been staring him down his whole career in Jacksonville. In the last two years, Cox has allowed only 56.4 percent of the passes thrown his direction to be completed. Of those passes completed, only ONE has gone for a touchdown! Cox will need to lock down Johnson in order for his teammates to contain the faster Hopkins. Donald Butler and Rookie second round pick Manti Te’o will have to be responsible for covering any formations that will be coming over the middle. The Chargers finished last season 18th overall against the pass. In my opinion they will have to put up a better performance than that if they want to slow this offense down.
For PART II of this segment of “THE OTHER ELEVEN“, we will look to see how the Chargers offense matches up with the Texans defense.
Bolt so Hard
By Jake Hefner