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Texans Lose to Cardinals in End; Tate’s Season May Already Be Over

Fans and the media will dog the preseason, arguing it is worthless in value; however, ask any coach, general manager or backup player and they’ll emphasize its importance heading into the season.  For the Texans, Saturday’s preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale proved the preseason’s worth.  It brought the opportunity to see who is ahead of who going into the season, which players can transition their excellent training camp play onto the field, and whether the Texans are ready for their most challenging season in franchise history.

Early on, the Texans first team offense, led by Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster, rolled through the Cardinals’ defense.  But, as usual, the Texans high energy faded and they left vital points on the field.  The first team defense, led by Mario Williams, Brian Cushing and Bernard Pollard, dominated the Cardinals offensive line, especially third year tackle Brandon Keith, ratteling Cardinals starter Matt Leinhart who managed an unimpressive 6-for-7 for 49 yards.   Schaub, on the other hand, was very impressive going 5-for-6 with 78 passing yards and a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating.  Andre Johnson also impressed, lighting up opposing corners with his veteran presence and disguisable speed with three catches for 59 yards, including a 44 yard touchdown.  Worth noting, tight end Joel Dreesen dropped a Schaub pass upon contact but James Casey managed to find plenty of room on two catches in the first half.  Also: what intensity?  Mario Williams had three tackles and two sacks on twelve plays.

The second quarter brought a glimpse of the second team offensive line, which maintained more composure than the Texans’ 2002-2006 offensive line ever brought, giving hope if injuries ever take place on the line.  The second team defense was consistent, and brought rave reviews.  However, Kubiak gave running back Steve Slaton an audition to prove himself as an everydown back.  It didn’t work to plan.  Besides a pass over the middle and his always impressive speed, Slaton couldn’t break free of any defensive linemen, and ended up fumbling the football at the Cardinal’s one yard line.  Backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky also had some poor play, falling on plays, throwing short and making me question why Kubiak has been giving Orlovsky so much attention this camp.  On a high note, OLB Darryl Sharpton made some big plays and tackles, and Troy Nolan had two big-hit, pro tackles and an interception that made all the rave reviews in camp come alive.  At the end of the first half, the Texans led the Cardinals 13-0.

The Texans’ second half dimmed out their first half fun.  Long drives stalled in the red zone, carrying over from the first half and their last season.  The worst news though?  Rookie running back Ben Tate went down with an ankle injury that seems to be a broken ankle that will reportedly keep him out from anywhere between 8 week to the entire season.  Dorian Dickerson was very impressive running routes and putting pressure on the Cards’ third team defense, allowing running back Jeremiah Johnson to scamper some impressive runs.  The running back ahead of him, Chris Henry, didn’t show his training camp prowess, but still managed to make his presence known, hammering wanna-be tacklers.  However, the Tate injury truly began the Texans downfall against the Cardinals.  The Texans managed zero points in the third quarter, and put up three in the fourth, leading the Cardinals 16-0 in the fourth.  However, with nine minutes left in the fourth, the Cards put up 19 points to steal the win from the Texans.  Afterwards, third-string quarterback John David Booty rushed the offense down the field, convincing Kubiak that there was no need to put in kicker Neil Rackers for a 51-yard kick to possibly go to overtime.  Rather, Booty, after completing seven passes, was sacked after running into Henry allowing the clock to run out and end the game.

Overall, the Texans looked good.  The red zone troubles were there, but the first team offense seems to have maintained the confidence they had from last season. The question is, will they fade and lose their aggressive adrenaline when things start going well for them?  Additionally, the Texans running back situation just became a little more clearer:  Tate will be out for some time, if not the season.  Foster had 4 rushes for 31 yards (21 long), showing he can handle the starting job.  Slaton had 10 rushes for 22 yards.  Henry had two rushes for six yards, perhaps opening questions to whether he truly cannot transition his excellent practice play into gameday action.  Jeremiah Johnson, on the other hand, was fully impressive going for 33 yards on just five carries.  Kickers Kris Brown and Neil Rackers were not able to separate themselves today, but expect more opportunities in the future.  Next week, the Texans head to New Orleans to play the Saints on Saturday at 7PM.

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