If you go looking for lists of the NFL's most disappointing teams so far in the 2013 season, you'll likely find the 2-3 Houston Texans and the 2-3 St Louis Rams. We've dissected the issues that have been baffling the Rams, but how have the Texans fallen to this lowly level after making the playoffs in each of the past two years?
To get answers, we reached out to Pat D. Stat, a longtime Texans fan and lead writer for StateOfTheTexans.com, and asked him to give us a scouting report. His answers describe a team being dragged down by the worst kind of anchor — its starting quarterback.
RamsHerd: Clearly, this season is not turning out the way Texans fans had hoped going 2-3 after an 11-1 start to 2012. Matt Schaub seems to be the focal point for fans’ ire. Is he truly the biggest problem, or are there less obvious areas of concern?
PDS: This has been a constant discussion among media and fans everywhere. I am pretty convinced it is tough to evaluate the rest of the roster and play with how bad Matt Schaub has been playing. There is no rhythm for the team and it is frustrating to see the talent go to waste.
There are some question marks on the offensive line and their pass protection and the lack of turnovers being produced by the defense, but Schaub's issues have taken the limelight through the first five weeks.
RamsHerd: The Texans built an identity on strong defense and the ability to manufacture a running game no matter who is in the backfield. Can they lean on those attributes for a quick turnaround?
PDS: I think they can and should. One alarming stat right now it how many passes Schaub has thrown, 313 which is 3rd most in the NFL right now. They have been running that ball well, but can't stick with it long enough with the Texans in the hole with all of the pick 6's that have been thrown.
They have the personnel to make the run game work with Arian Foster and the defense led by J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing. That is the key for this team, get back to what has made them successful. Oh, and Schaub taking care of the football.
RamsHerd: My favorite receiver in this year’s draft class was DeAndre Hopkins, with Cordarelle Patterson a close second. (I considered Tavon Austin too much of an injury risk, and still do.) What kind of impact has Hopkins made so far as a rookie?
PDS: If and when they target him, good things have happened for the offense. He was named offensive rookie of the month for September, and is one of the most gifted players I have seen with my own eyes. It started in OTAs and carried into training camp, he is everything you want in a wide receiver, and add in he is learning from Andre Johnson his growth trend is only up. He finally gives the Texans that real second option in the passing game, and the future for the offense on the outside for the coming seasons. He catches with nothing but hands and has the confidence you want with your players.
RamsHerd: How exactly did JJ Watt become the most dominant defensive player in football, after only two seasons? Did you see this coming when the Texans drafted him?
PDS: We are still trying to figure that out, and to get J.J. Watt at #11 overall was lady luck looking after this franchise. There was no way to even think he would be the type of player and I was thinking like everyone else, a solid bookend defensive end. Well he is that and plenty more, and is everything you want to be the face of the franchise on and off the field. His play is at another level, and he is putting together the same domination he showed last season when he was named DPOY.
Watt is making so much disruption at the line of scrimmage he is making life tough for offenses in the passing and running game. Teams cannot single block him, and plays away is where he really turns into a different player. It is not often you find a 3-4 defensive end as a true impact player, but Watt is a special player.
(Related: Thanks to Watt, the Houston Texans are leading the MMQB list of most effective pass-rushing teams in the NFL.)
RamsHerd: Despite Watt’s presence, the Texans defense has given up 139 points on the season, only two less than the Rams. Where are teams finding weak spots to attack? Or are all those pick-sixes adding up?
PDS: Those pick sixes are adding up and in the first week of the season on Schaub's first pass of the year was picked off by San Diego and almost taken in for a touchdown. So just on Schaub's interceptions that has been 35 points right there.
The Texans defense has been better than people realize, and that goes back to what I said earlier: Schaub's play has skewed so many numbers for the team that is is so hard to gauge other parts of the team.
RamsHerd: Gary Kubiak has been entrenched in Houston for a long time, and has been on the hot seat before. Is he on the hot seat again? If so, how hot is it?
PDS: I think right now his seat is like luke warm. Now if Schuab comes out and has another bad game on Sunday, the attention will turn once again to Kubiak.
Kubiak is convinced that Schaub gives him the best chance to win this coming Sunday, but this week was the first time where it felt Kubiak really struggled with the decision to keep Schaub as the starter. If Kubiak lets Schaub start again if he has a bad game, then the situation will turn to Kubiak.
There is a running joke here in Houston that Kubiak is loyal to a fault and this is one of those situations, and it shows with his patience to wait out this low spot of play by Schaub. The result on Sunday could be a big crossroads for Kubiak and his future here in Houston.
We ride together, we die together. #Texans pic.twitter.com/9IjW1vHvOV
— Mike (@Northside_Mike) October 10, 2013
(Related: There are now reports surfacing from Ian Rapoport that Kubiak is willing to bench Schaub, for good, if the interceptions continue.)
Our thanks to Pat for his ready insights. Stay tuned to State Of The Texans for continued Texans intel, as well as a Rams scouting report from me. You can and should be following him on gameday at @PatDStat. Follow @PatDStat.