November 5, 2015
Hoyer Set to Lead Second Half
by Bob Hulsey
For perhaps the first time in his NFL career, Brian Hoyer will be able to call the signals without looking over his shoulder. The seven-year veteran from Michigan State, barring injury, will be the man under center for the final eight games of the season as the 3-5 Houston Texans play out the remainder of a largely-disappointing season.
Hoyer's pre-season quarterback competition, Ryan Mallett, missed the team's charter flight to Miami, and it turned out to be the last straw for Head Coach Bill O'Brien who had lost both patience and confidence in him. Former Texan backup T.J. Yates was signed to take Mallett's place but, suffice it to say, Yates can't bring anything to the role that Hoyer lacks. Plus, Yates hasn't been in Houston's training camp since July of 2014, so he'll need time to learn the playbook.
That means Hoyer, who has spent a career fending off the likes of Kevin Kolb, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel for playing time, doesn't have to worry about getting pulled for a bad half, like the ones he had against Kansas City and Miami.
Tailback Arian Foster, who missed time with a groin injury, blew out his achilles in Miami and won't be back in 2015, leaving the running chores in the hands of Alfred Blue and Chris Polk principally.
The offensive line has been a jumbled mess, the tight ends can't catch, and the only player on offense who has looked good is wideout DeAndre Hopkins. There's no justice if Hopkins doesn't make the Pro Bowl. There's also no justification if any other Texan on offense gets a free ticket to Honolulu.
The defense, meanwhile, has been Jekyll and Hyde. Efforts against Kansas City, Atlanta, Indianapolis and Miami were truly disgusting, but the D has stepped up enough to topple bad competition like Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Tennessee to notch three victories.
All-Pro J.J. Watt has been neutralized when double and triple-teamed. A unit that led the conference in takeaways last season has been awful at getting them this year while sacks have also fallen off dramatically. Worse, the defense has shown spells of lacking both hustle and heart.
As bad as the Texans have looked all year, they are also in the thick of the division race since odds-on favorite Indianapolis has struggled mightily while still leading the "AFC Suck" division. The Colts beat Houston on the road in October with a 40-year-old viral-stricken backup quarterback in the game that could turn out to be the tiebreaker as the weeks wind down.
Houston gets a second shot at the Colts, likely with a wounded Andrew Luck back at the helm, when they visit Indianapolis in the season's final weeks where they will also host Jacksonville and close at Tennessee. Losses to Cincinnati and New England look guaranteed, meaning the Texans will probably need to grab some wins against the Jets, Saints and Bills before they hit the divisional home stretch if they have any hope of becoming the unlikely division champs.
A 6-10 season and a draft choice in the 10-15 range is the more likely outcome to a year that has seen much more go wrong than right. Heads should surely roll on South Kirby if the final eight games look like the first eight. Mental mistakes and penalty-filled drives have killed the Texans so far as much as a lack of talent has. Such errors have to be eliminated if the Texans expect to show any improvement.
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