By Curt Macysyn
In reviewing the 2014 NFL schedule in the spring, fans of the New York Football Giants may have thought that their week three match-up at home against the Houston Texans would be a gimme. But under former Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien, the Texans have bolted from gate with a 2-0 start after their 30-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
The Giants have not won a game in September since 2012, while the Texans have started the season 2-0 for the fifth consecutive year.
No Arian controversy in Houston
In preparing for the Texans the Giants undoubtedly will have to prepare for a heavy dose of Arian Foster. The mercurial Foster spent the better part of training camp annoying reporters, but he has let his play do the talking for him in September. The sixth year running back from Tennessee has returned from back surgery, that limited him to eight games in 2013, to post back-to-back 100 yard rushing efforts in the Texans’ two wins. Against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, Foster rushed 28 times for 138 yards and one touchdown, and he heads into the Giants’ contest with 55 rushing attempts already in the young season.
By contrast, the Giants’ Rashad Jennings has 34 attempts and just over 100 yards in two games, both losses. Ball control is the name of the game for the Texans, as they have game manager, Ryan Fitzpatrick, under center. Fitzpatrick passed for a mere 139 yards against the Raiders, but completed 74 percent (14 of 19) of his passes against the silver and black. Of his 14 completions, two went for touchdowns, and his passer rating was a gaudy 129.1.
Big Blue must somehow contain Foster, and shift the focus onto Fitzpatrick to win the game through the air. Andre Johnson leads the receiving corps for the Texans. The veteran receiver seems to have gotten over whatever was bothering him in the preseason, when trade rumors swirled, and his commitment to Houston was being questioned daily. Johnson caught six passes against the Raiders for 74 yards, after catching six balls against the Redskins in week one.
Tight end Garrett Graham handles a secondary role in the Texans’ offense, the former Wisconsin Badger had five touchdown catches last season. Clemson product DeAndre Hopkins compliments Andre Johnson on the outside. The second-year pro had 52 catches as a rookie, and this season has caught two touchdown passes already.
Watt was that?
The only place to begin on defense with the Houston Texans is with $100 million man J.J. Watt. Watt signed a six-year extension two weeks ago that could be worth up to $100 million over its lifetime and guarantees him a cool $51.8 million. He is the highest paid defensive player in league history. The super-athletic defensive end is an offense’s worst nightmare because he is disruptive in the passing and running games. Watt poses an incredible challenge for a Giants’ offensive line looking to gather its sea legs.
Watt also scored his first offensive touchdown as an NFL player when he was on the receiving end of a one-yard Ryan Fitzpatrick pass. Watt had played tight end at Central Michigan.
The Giants are catching a bit of a break in that first overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney will not play for several weeks after undergoing knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. New Jersey product and former Pro Bowler Brian Cushing seems to be recovered from knee injuries that have plagued him the past two seasons. Both of Cushing’s injuries have come as a result of illegal blocks. He has totaled 13 tackles in two games this year, but Texans coach Bill O’Brien has indicated that he will manage Cushing’s snaps this season in order to keep him healthy.
Cornerback Johnathan Joseph has been all over the field for the Texans over their first two games. Joseph had a forced fumble and fumble recovery against the Raiders on Sunday, and he also leads the Texans in total tackles with 16 in two games.
Houston also is +(5) in turnover ratio this season. Linebacker Brooks Reed, and cornerback Kareem Jackson had interceptions of Derek Carr last week, and safety D.J Swearinger also forced and recovered Raiders’ fumbles. The thought of playing the turnover-prone Giants must have the Texans’ defenders licking their chops.
Another September loss, and Tom Coughlin’s crew will be facing critical mass when they face the Washington Redskins next Thursday, sporting an 0-3 record.
For more Giants news and updates, visit Giants Central.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on aExaminer.com.