During the season, Bent's Game Analysis charts games for some of the Jets' upcoming opponents, enabling a breakdown of what to watch out for on gameday…
Just a few weeks ago, the Jets' schedule from mid-November to mid-December was looking pretty easy for the Jets. However, it seems like each of their opponents over that month have regrouped - either due to key veterans making their return from injury, a positive response to coaching changes or the maturation of key youngsters. The Texans looked like a complete mess as they trailed 41-0 to Miami at halftime three weeks ago. Since that time, they've held their opponents without a touchdown for 10 quarters and have won two straight games, outscoring their opponents 56-15 and ending the Bengals' unbeaten streak. While they may have issues at the quarterback position, they do boast arguably the best defensive player of this era.
After the jump, I break down the positional groupings (BGA-style!) to try and highlight what the Jets need to look out for.
Head coach Bill O'Brien admitted he had pulled the plug on Brian Hoyer too soon and Hoyer had been a big part of their recent resurgence. He had put up pretty good numbers since returning to the line-up following the ill-fated Ryan Mallett experiment, but - unfortunately for the Texans - he got hurt in the Bengals game and will not suit up today due to memory loss.
TJ Yates will fill in for Hoyer. He doesn't have a ton of regular season experience - just four touchdown passes - but did once win a playoff game. No doubt the Jets gameplan will involve getting after him and creating pressure.
Backing up Yates is Brandon Weeden, who was just claimed off waivers a couple of days ago. He was most recently starting games across state for the Cowboys as Tony Romo's emergency replacement; an experiment which lasted about as long as the Mallett experiment did.
There's a familiar face on the Texans' offensive line - former Jets guard Oday Aboushi, whom the Texans claimed when the Jets waived him in week two. However, Aboushi has been relegated to the bench after making four starts at left guard earlier in the season. Instead, second year pro Xavier Su'a-Filo started his second game of the year at left guard last week. Su'a-Filo has good potential but has struggled in pass protection so far in his career.
The Texans are still widely associated with being a zone blocking scheme and that's typically been the case since Alex Gibbs was there for a couple of years at the end of the last decade. However, with long-term starting center Chris Myers retiring during the offseason, the Texans moved the bigger Ben Jones - a former starting guard - to center. Their offensive line coach is now Mike Devlin, who was in the same role last year with the Jets. As we know, he runs a more varied system with both power and zone elements.
The Texans' best - and most expensive - lineman is left tackle Duane Brown, who is in the third year of a six-year $53 million deal. However, Brandon Brooks is also an emerging talent at right guard. Derek Newton completes the starting line-up at right tackle, although he's also started games at both guard positions this year.
Other than Aboushi, the back-ups are veteran Chris Clark, who has made a couple of starts at tackle this year but gave up three sacks to Miami and hasn't played since, and undrafted rookie Kendall Lamm. Lamm is a player I identified as a potential sleeper during the offseason and he's made some good contributions, playing over 150 snaps as an extra lineman in jumbo packages and a rotational role. The Texans will often play some of their starters in a rotation, so you could see any or all of the three reserves getting reps.
The Texans haven't lost many key players to season-ending injuries this year, but Arian Foster's Achilles tear was a blow. In his absence, Alfred Blue is the starter. Blue ran for 139 yards against the Bucs in week three, but has gained just 108 yards on 41 carries since then.
Veteran Chris Polk and former Jet Jonathan Grimes back up Blue. The three of them combined for just 68 yards on 22 carries in the Bengals game. Of the three, Grimes is probably the best pass catcher. Polk is dealing with hamstring issues.
Jay Prosch - a 256-pounder who was a 6th round pick last season - is the team's fullback and averages about 10 snaps per game.
With Andre Johnson gone, DeAndre Hopkins is having a break-out season as the unquestioned number one receiver. Hopkins had already had a monster year last year - 71 catches, 1,210 yards and six scores - but this year has been something else. He's already beaten last year's total with seven touchdown catches and needs just six receptions to beat his career best for receptions in a season. While his average per reception is down, he needs just 73 more yards to record another thousand-yard season and should present a formidable challenge for Darrelle Revis, regardless of who's throwing him the ball.
Two veterans provide support to Hopkins in the passing game; former Jaguar Cecil Shorts III and former Titan Nate Washington. Washington remains a dangerous deep threat and leads the team with a 15.8 yards per catch average. He's a player who has burned Antonio Cromartie more than once in the recent past. Shorts is a good possession option, but also possesses good quickness.
Two rookies - Keith Mumphrey and Jaelen Strong - complete the rotation. Despite being the less-heralded pick, Mumphrey has played a lot more and Strong has just three catches so far.
At tight end, another youngster - last year's third round pick CJ Fiedorowicz - is listed as the starter. He and veteran back-ups Garrett Graham and Ryan Griffin have combined for 19 receptions. The youngster is probably the best blocker of the three.
I'm surprised the media isn't making more of a big deal over the battle between Vince Wilfork and Nick Mangold, which often used to be a hot topic when the Jets met the Patriots over the years. Wilfork left New England in the offseason and has been starting at nose tackle for Houston. He's no longer the elite player he once was, but still gives the team a solid space stuffer in there.
Starting alongside Wilfork in the Texans' 3-4 base is Jared Crick. Crick held his own as he made the transition from rotational back-up to full time starter last year, but hasn't quite had the same success this year.
Beyond the starters, the Texans don't have a lot of experience on their bench. However, I could see them starting to find more reps for rookie Christian Covington as the season progresses. Covington had his first NFL sack against the Bengals.
Oh, and they have this guy called JJ Watt. He's pretty good too.
Recent number one pick Jadeveon Clowney has flashed against the run this season, but hasn't done much as a pass rusher yet. He has just one sack and has yet to fully live up to the hype. Clowney has been outshone by former first-rounder Whitney Mercilus, who was on the brink of being dumped by the old regime, but seems to have found a new lease of life this season. He's racked up 6.5 sacks already.
John Simon has done a solid job of starting on the other side, but he doesn't get many pass rush reps because Watt will often line up as a pass rushing end on pass downs. Simon has more of a versatile role, which requires him to drop into coverage a lot more than Mercilus or Clowney do.
On the inside, Brian Cushing continues to play an every-snap role with rookie Benardrick McKinney currently listed as the other starter alongside him. From what I've seen of McKinney, he seems to be developing nicely, and there is also veteran depth behind him with Justin Tuggle and Akeem Dent, although Dent is listed as questionable.
Three quarters of the Houston starting secondary according to the official depth chart have good experience, although Kareem Jackson will miss today's game with an ankle injury. The exception is safety Andre Hal, who only made his first NFL start last month. He did mark it with two interceptions though, which is good enough to lead the team.
At corner, Johnathan Joseph is still playing well and had a big interception against the Bengals. The other starter at safety is Quintin Demps, who was almost out of the league before Houston signed him late in the offseason. Demps was previously a Texan from 2010-2012 but spend last year with the Giants.
Former Bronco Rahim Moore was benched after the Miami debacle and hasn't played since. Demps played just 10 snaps that day, having missed the previous two weeks through injury. Eddie Pleasant is probably ahead of Moore on the safety depth chart right now, although he's not even listed.
The team has some intriguing young depth with first round rookie Kevin Johnson having started the last three games and Hard Knocks favorite Charles James II having seen his role increase over the past few weeks. Expect to see him working a lot out of the slot.
The Texans have one of the best punters in recent memory - Shane Lechler - although he may be past his prime these days. The kicking game is less established. They dumped current Jet Randy Bullock last month and replaced him with former Jet Nick Novak. Novak has missed just one of his seven field goal attempts so far.
The Texans have given up the third highest total of punt return yards in the NFL this season. They've not given up a touchdown though and the longest returns they've given up were 50 yards on a kickoff and 37 on a punt. Dent and Pleasant are their most productive tacklers in coverage.
Mumphrey has been handling return duties, but hasn't had much success yet. His longest return was a 41-yarder on a kick-off.
>>> I'll be back tomorrow to recap the game.
Stats from PFF were used in the completion of this article.