IRVING, Texas – For the second-straight week, the Texans' two biggest threats are guys you're going to know all about.
J.J. Watt is arguably the best defender in the entire league, as his playmaking ability has been instrumental in Houston's 3-1 start. Much has been made of Andre Johnson's supposed dropoff, but he's out to a strong start this season, even if he hasn't found the end zone.
I've also got my eye on a rookie from my alma mater, LSU, who could have a big say in how Houston's offense performs this weekend.
Weapon: J.J. Watt, DE
It not often that you can call a NFL player rare, but when you look at J.J. Watt's body of work that is exactly what you have. When scouts are asked to draw up the perfect prototype of a defensive lineman, Watt is your example.
He is a big man that plays with a running back's burst and quickness. He is just as quick going up the field as he is working down the line. His ability to change direction makes him especially dangerous due to the fact that offensive linemen feel like they have him blocked and out of the play, but then he explodes the opposite direction and is in on the tackle. His contact balance and body control is outstanding. It is not often that you see him off his feet. He never gives up on a play and is relentless in the way he attacks the ball. His durability and stamina would make a marathoner proud.
His best rush is when he can line up on the outside shoulder of the blocker and attack the opposite gap. He is a handful to block one-on-one on the move due to his power and his technique of breaking blockers down. He's listed as the left end but will line up on the right side as well and rush from either tackle spot in the nickel.
Nemesis: Andre Johnson, WR [embedded_ad]
Andre Johnson has faced the Dallas Cowboys twice in his career -- 2006 and 2010. Both of those meetings ended up as defeats for the Texans, but that didn't stop Johnson from being targeted 23 times in the two games.
Johnson might not be the player that he once was due to various health issues that he has had to deal with throughout his outstanding career. Nevertheless, he is still a dangerous route runner and productive pass catcher at all levels of the field. Johnson doesn't have the initial quickness or extended burst that he once had to gain separation, but he does still play with body control and balance. His hands have always been his calling card. He is natural in the way that he is able to extend them to make catches in the open field or with a defender on his back. He can still run the slant with the best of them and secure that first down.
Even at his age, he is still willing to put his body on the line to make a catch. No matter where the ball is thrown, he will work his body into position to make the catch. It's hard to throw a pass where he doesn't get his hands on the ball. Throughout his career has been one of the best situational receivers in the league, and it's rare that you see him come up short on a route. The more that a defensive back pushes on him, the more he pushes back. Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick will need to be ready for an all-day battle.
Under the Radar: Alfred Blue, RB
With Arian Foster day-to-day with a hamstring injury, the load of the Texans running game has been put on the shoulders of rookie Alfred Blue. If Foster is inactive, like he was in Week 3 against the Giants, it will be Blue to get the call over veteran Jonathan Grimes.
On the season Blue, has carried the ball 34 times for 127 yards, but has yet to find the end zone. He is the type of runner that doesn't have a great burst or any type of extended quickness. His style is that of a physical, attack-the-defender runner. He is not going to make you miss in the hole – I would not call him elusive at all. He's more likely to run over you than put his foot in the ground and make a violent cut. He's a much better with the ball when he is running inside between the tackles than outside on the edge. But he just doesn't have the speed to turn the corner and kick it into another gear.
Blue has never been asked to catch the ball out of the backfield or pick up blitzes. He has had to work hard in both areas here now in the pros. He is willing in both areas, but if there is a weakness to his game it is as a pass blocker. He just doesn't look comfortable at all with his technique. Steady, workman-like back that is not afraid to run the ball downhill. Need to get bodies on him quickly before he has a chance to get rolling.