In our latest edition of Thoughts from the Other side I caught up with my Examiner.com colleague Alan Burge who covers the Houston Texans. He took some time out of his busy schedule to do a question and answer exchange with me for the game on Sunday.
If you take a peek on his page, you can see my answer to his pressing questions.Thoughts from the Dark Side: Where in the hell did Arian Foster come from? Is he a product of the Shanahan/Kubiak running system or something else?
Alan Burge: I can't answer this in a few words. Thirty-two teams missed on Arian Foster during the 2009 draft. That was partly due to his below average senior season at Tennessee but probably also because of who he is as a person. Foster is a different cat - at least in terms of an NFL running back. He's a free-spirit who was known as a bit of a nonconformist while in college. He writes poetry. He's a philosophy major and a deep thinker. Arian admits to ‘not taking authority well' during his college years and you can understand why he might have seemed rebellious or ‘different' to a hardcore SEC football coach. The Texans signed Foster as an undrafted free agent immediately after the draft but he didn't show enough in training camp to make the 53 even though the Texans were running back poor. He was released during final cuts in 2009, cleared waivers, and was signed to the practice squad a few days later. Then something happened. The light came on and he began to figure it out. The Texans recognized the talent and invested time in teaching him how to be a professional. Foster began to seek advice from teammates such as Andre Johnson on how to be a pro. He watched guys like Andre and Matt Schaub and how they went about their business. I think he realized this may be his only chance to fulfill a dream so he dedicated himself to his profession and the results were immediate. Foster was promoted to the 53 man roster late last year and had big games against Miami and New England in Week 16 and 17. It carried over into 2010 and we noticed a different Foster in training camp. It quickly became evident that the starting running back position was his job to lose - even before 2nd round pick Ben Tate's season ending injury. Foster is not a product of the system because the Texans now run a combination of zone and man scheme. Foster has great vision and his cutback ability is impressive for a guy that's 6-1, 227. Foster is an engaging personality and is a frequent guest on local radio shows. He seems comfortable now that people know more about what makes him tick.
TFDS: Coach Kubiak says that the Texans haven't turned the corner yet, is this the year they reach the playoffs and why?
AB: Statements like this are troubling since Kubiak is in his fifth season. This is supposed to be ‘their year' but that's been said for the past three seasons. Frankly I think they missed their shot at the playoffs last year. They have a much harder schedule this year (Indy and Tennessee twice, Dallas, Jets, Ravens, Chargers) and due to that, a very young secondary, and a single point failure at starting QB, I picked the Texans to finish 8-8 this season and miss the playoffs. I was in the minority with that prediction. The Texans are really missing Brian Cushing and it will be nothing short of a miracle if they come out of these first four games 3-1 without him. The Texans also lost starting DE/pass rusher Connor Barwin for the season due to injury, and starting left tackle Duane Brown for 4 games due to violation of the league's policy on performance enhancers.
TFDS: Nnamdi Asomugha shut down Larry Fitzgerald, can he do the same to Andre Johnson?
AB: Yes, especially since Andre is hurt. He may play on Sunday but his ankle is really bothering him.
TFDS: Why have the Texans had such success against the Raiders? Texans lead the series 4-1.
AB: Not sure. The Texans had no business winning in 2006 and no business losing in 2008. Last year, the Jamarcus factor played a major role in the rout at Reliant Stadium.
TFDS: What do the Texans have to do to win the game?
First and foremost, protect Schaub. He's been getting hit too much. If Schaub gets time to throw, he can really put a defense on its heels.
Secondly, the pass defense needs to step up. They've been horrible over the first three games giving up huge chunks of yards.
Third, pressure Gradkowski. The Texans have been good against the run so it will be interesting to see if they can stop McFadden.
Fourth, win the turnover battle. The Texans defense has one forced fumble and no interceptions through three games.
*>Bonus Game Predictions<*
I'll say the Texans by 3, but given it's the Texans, it wouldn't surprise me if the Raiders win.