2013 Rookie Review
You know what the best part of the regular season is? If you answered "the games matter", then you would be wrong, because the most amazingly exciting benefit of the regular season starting is that I finally get access to the All 22 camera angle on NFL Game Rewind. It is hard to truly appreciate the greatness of the "coaches film" feature until you have to do without it for four straight agonizing games, especially when that feature got a monumental improvement for the 2013 season High Definition.
I was not prepared for how big of a difference HD would make for how I see Texans football. Every calculated step by receivers, every little boxing match in the trenches, every subtle movement that tells the often unnoticed story of a football game is mine. This is, for people like me, the mountain top. It does not, and probably will not, get better than this. Speed, balance, and some nifty hands all showed up at times in his surprisingly productive rookie season, but he never quite put everything together into a singular, break out performance. Add on to his "rawness" a propensity to get swallowed up in the run game by offensive tackles and you had a young player with all the potential in the world to be something, but still a lot of work to do.
Issue number one with "Nubs" in 2012 was easily his struggles at setting the edge against the run. He was a bit on the lighter side in terms of weight as he floated between 250 255 lbs as a rotational pass rusher, and his strength was evidently inferior to the much larger offensive linemen that he often found himself matched up with on early downs. When reports and tweets floated around throughout the summer about Mercilus apparent increase in both bulk and strength, I was intrigued to see him get some game action to prove he could be an every down player. An unfortunate hamstring injury shielded the new from me this past August, but the regular season opener finally gave me a glimpse of what I can expect from 59 this coming season, and all signs point to success.
Could Mercilus have turned a corner? Could he develop a Brooks Reed ish affinity for run stopping and still package it with his untapped pass rush potential? Absolutely. Has he gotten there yet? Well, not yet, no. Watt into a virtual football deity. 2012 was all about the speed rush for Mercilus, and the Monday night opener was all about the bull rush. I never saw any moves built off of that power despite Dunlap practically asking for it during the entire game. No bull jerks, no spins, no counter clubs, no rips, no swims, no anything. It was all power, all the time, and that is what is so darn frustrating about watching Mercilus play. Even Mercilus one sack was sort of fluky in nature when he was practically pushed into Philip Rivers legs.
In particular I really liked a pin and pull zone run to the right side in the fourth quarter, and I was especially impressed by how well Garrett Graham, Derek Newton, and Brandon Brooks can open up gigantic running lanes when everything is clicking just right. Graham, who has developed into a hell of a blocker himself, can be seen here standing up Kendall Reyes (not an easy task) while Brandon Brooks dominates stud defensive end Corey Liuget and drives him out of the way (again, not an easy task). Newton has the task of kicking out Jarret Johnson, and he does a good job at driving into Johnson inside shoulder, putting his post leg into his crotch, and wrenching him away from the running lane. Chris Myers gets blown up (again) on the second level and costs Foster a big gain, but the play was blocked very, very well by the right side of the line (for once).
Brandon Brooks down right dominated every Chargers pass rusher he could get his paws on. Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes comprise one of the best young 3 4 DE tandems in football, and Brooks made them look absolutely helpless when trying to get to the quarterback. Immovable in pass protection, and nigh unstoppable when engaged in run blocking, Brooks flashed absolute brilliance that made his few errors seem negligible at best. A couple misjudged cut blocks, a mistaken co op call on an inside linebacker alignment that ruined a run play, and three phenomenal efforts to close the backside cutback lane by Liuget/Reyes put a couple "fix it" notes on what was otherwise as impressive a performance from the guard position as you could ever ask for. As bad as Derek Newton was in long yardage situations, Brandon Brooks more than made up for it. Interior pressure is a quarterback worst nightmare, and there was absolutely none coming from the right side of the line. Go back and look at all of the Derek Newton and DeAndre Hopkins gifs from this article notice how Brooks is pretty much the only offensive linemen to not give up immediate pressure throughout the game? This kid going to be something.
Brooks even found a way to improve on his nagging preseason habit of diving way too early on cut blocks and subsequently missing on a lot of back side assignments. Either he would fall short of his man, make contact in the lower thigh or knee area instead of the up field hip, or dive so early that defenders had time to react and they simply batted him down before he could ever touch them. It was one of the few flaws on Brooks game that I hoped would get fixed soon, and it seemed that for the most part it has. For starters, Jungle Boi showed off his greatest asset as a hybrid ish defensive back/linebacker in the Wade Phillips dime package foot work. His over aggressiveness can certainly cost him at times, but you can never, ever say that Swearinger does not have outstanding feet for a "box safety". His quickness, hip fluidity, stop start, and change of direction ability are all superb for a man with his bulk, and I think with more seasoning he can become every bit as effective, if not even more so, than Glover Quin.
This play in particular excited me. Watt pass deflection, but pay close attention to Swearinger feet and hips. Notice how Swearinger slowly rotates his hips and keeps them square with Antonio Gates as their relative angles change to one another? See his short, quick footed pedal from two yards inside? That the work of Vance Joseph, folks. No slide shuffle to give free releases, no guess work with when to flip from a standard "catch" technique. All Swearinger has to do is keep his hips pointed at his man from seven yards off and have good enough feet to react to the receiver break. As long as his hips are pointed in the right direction, he will be successful, and Swearinger has more than enough physical ability to keep up with the future hall of famer.
As with all rookie defensive backs, it Wholesale NFL Jerseys will not always look like this, but when it works it damn pretty.
This guy. This freakin guy.
I loved DeAndre Hopkins in college. I loved DeAndre Hopkins in the pre draft process. I loved him even more in the limited time we got to see him preseason, but I was not prepared for how awesome "Nuk" looks when you can see the entire field in HD. My God, he just just so good. How does somebody this talented at playing football fall all the way to twenty seven? How? This is absolutely mind boggling, and the twenty six teams that picked before the Texans should be ashamed of themselves.
At the time of this writing, the week two contest against the Tennessee Titans has already taken place and Hopkins has already introduced himself to the world, but I would argue that his week one performance was just as impressive (Disclaimer: I might take that statement back when I actually watch the All 22 of the Titans game). Every route was crisp, and every catch more clutch than the last. Hopkins showed moves in the open field, tenacity when run blocking, and even broke a couple ankles while he was at it.
But wait, there more! We haven even gotten to the best part Hopkins thirty yard grab on third down to bail out a scrambling Matt Schaub. The Texans are Wholesale Jerseys in third and long and employ a very good route combination to beat a variety of coverages the Chargers may employ. KeShawn Martin is essentially being used as a decoy on the left side to draw the safety down field and clear a path for Daniels on a deep crosser. Andre Johnson throws down a curl a yard or two short of the first down marker underneath the other deep safety, which then frees up Hopkins deep on the post provided he beats his man. Either the safety sits on the post and gives Andre Johnson single coverage with a free inside release to catch and extend for a first down, or he leaves his outside corner alone with no help over the top. It is a lose lose all around, even with man coverage across the board.