New England Patriots vs Houston Texans: Game Three Preview and Prediction
By Hal Bent
WHO NEEDS TO STEP UP?
- Patriots’ young defensive ends
- Brandin Cooks
- Shaq Mason
The Texans’ offensive line is not good. They allowed ten sacks to Jacksonville in week one and Cincinnati got to Deshaun Watson three more times last week. Starting left tackle Duane Brown is a holdout and has not played. Right tackle Derek Newton is out for the season with a knee injury as well. Starting right guard Jeff Allen injured his ankle in week one and is out this week. Left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo has struggled and was on the injury report with a knee injury.
New England has to take advantage of these injuries and holdouts to impose their will on the Texans’ offense. Defensive ends Deatrich Wise and Trey Flowers need to continue to bring pressure from the edge and maintain control to keep Watson from scrambling and making plays outside the pocket.
Rookie defensive tackle Adam Butler has given the defense a boost with strong pressure from the interior and needs to continue to collapse the pocket against a weakened Texans offensive line. Not allowing Watson to step-up and force him into the edge rush is a good plan, but the Patriots need to execute that plan to slow the Texans.
On the other side of the field, wide receiver Brandin Cooks has flashed potential at times but still seems out-of-sync with quarterback Tom Brady. There is no doubt that Cooks has the potential to be an impact receiver in this offense. However he and Brady are still working out the kinks and with multiple weapons elsewhere, he has not been utilized as much as he could be.
Last year against Houston, the Patriots lacked that outside the numbers wide receiver to win in man coverage. That is a large reason why Cooks was brought in for a first-round draft pick. Teams to often flooded the middle of the field against the Patriots and when they got pressure with a four-man rush, Brady did not have that one-on-one winner on the outside. Cooks should be that receiver in this offense. He just needs to go out, get open and show Brady he should be targeted 10 times or more a game.
Finally, the Patriots will need right guard Shaq Mason to step-up on Sunday. Mason will not be blocking him on every play as Houston moves their pass-rushers around quite often, but he will see a lot of Watt
Mason has been the Patriots most consistent offensive lineman so far this season, but he has not had to face a player of Watt’s caliber. Watt is strong against the run and a powerful pass rusher. Mason may have the quickness to stay with Watt but may not have the power it needs to have help and perfect technique to hold up throughout the game.