Originally written November 28, 2012 on State of the Texans:
The Houston Texans are dealing with an interesting two game stretch where the defense has been mortal against the pass and given up 983 total yards to the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars. This is quite the wake up call to a defense that has been solid since the start of the 2011 season and spoiling the fan base with something they had not seen in Houston. Despite a struggling defense, the offense has been putting together enough plays to put points up on the board and have actually carried the team the past two weeks. The Texans are showing they can win different ways and that could pay off huge in the long run. The team is developing their identity and having 10 wins at this point in the season proves they are a team on a mission for bigger things. With all of the positives coming in the Texans’ direction, the team still needs to look deep into their roster and figure out how they can put together the best roster for this stretch run.   What to Evaluate Outside Linebackers Bryan Braman, Outside Linebacker #50, 2012 Training Camp - The Texans should give the outside linebacker situation a close look. With the recent struggles of the pass rush, look no further than the lack of production from this position group. Connor Barwin, Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus have combined for 7.5 sacks, 17 quarterback hits and 22 hurries in 685 defensive snaps (both run and pass). With Reed on the shelf with a groin issue, the Texans will call upon special teams standout Bryan Braman to help Barwin and Mercilus on the outside. It is a serious question on what Braman brings to the defense, but be certain that Mercilus and Braman will be a liability in run support. Both youngsters have shown issues of losing contain on defense when they do get on the field, and that is what Barwin and Reed excel in is setting the edge. The team better keep an eye on this position because opposing offenses will be trying to put Mercilus and Braman in positions to over think on the field. If Reed’s recovery is slower than expected, the Texans will have to look for help soon to help this deep but not much production position.   Kicking Situation - We heard it in Kubiak’s voice at this Monday’s press conference, the kicking range and power of Shayne Graham is becoming an issue. We all know the organization is loyal to their players, but Graham’s short range consistency (39 yards or closer 13/13) doesn’t make up for his lack of long range accuracy (40+ yards 7/12). Throw in having only 17 touch backs in 67 kickoff attempts, teams are having a field day on returning kicks. Graham could help the special teams if he could get consistent touchbacks, but he just hasn’t. There are plenty of kickers on the free market and there is going to be a game where the Texans are going to need a field goal of 50 plus yards to win. Right now with Graham, the confidence for that to happen is not there.   Defensive Line Help - The Texans will get a much needed boost with nose tackle Shaun Cody returning from a rib and leg injury. Cody will come back and help at the nose tackle position, but more importantly it will allow Earl Mitchell help at defensive end too. J.J. Watt has been racking up defensive snaps the past four weeks missing only one snap out of 256, and for a 3-4 defensive end that is a high total. If Cody can prove to stay healthy, it will help take pressure off the entire defensive line. With recently signed Terrell McClain on the roster, he has only seen two defensive snaps since Cody was out. McClain’s roster spot could be valuable for more movement to make this roster better in the long run. The defensive front needs to find some pass rush besides J.J. Watt, and with Tim Jamison out for the season, it has been a sad season on the interior. Let’s hope Antonio Smith turns it up late in the season on passing downs.   Dead Roster Spots - It might be a non issue, but the Texans have two offensive lineman on the active roster who have not seen any time the entire season in Andrew Gardner (Tackle) and Cody White (Guard).  Gardner is 4th on the depth chart at tackle while White is the 5th guard in the pecking order. The Texans are stashing these two just in case, but in White’s case the rumor was he was promoted from the practice squad after the Carolina Panthers were trying to claim him off the practice squad after losing their center Ryan Kalil for the season. The Texans like playing it safe but it would seem if the Texans need to make a move, one of these players would be the one that would be waived for a roster spot. Depth is great but with no playing time for either Gardner or White, a spot for an extra kicker or pass rusher could be at a premium for making a push to the promise land.   You can follow Patrick on Twitter.  He is the Editor of State of the Texans.    

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