Unless you’ve been asleep since Sunday, you’ve probably heard that the Houston Texans have lost their starting quarterback for the season.
The Texans say that they’re still waiting for some other opinions to come back before declaring Matt Schaub out for the year. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that it’s a done deal and Schaub won’t see the field for the remainder of the year. A lot of the Texans’ players have come out in support of Matt Leinart after hearing the news…but what would you expect them to say. These are biased opinions and I wanted an opinion of a player that has seen Matt Leinart perform in this offense. Enter former Texans’ wide receiver Dorin Dickerson.
Dorin was gracious enough to allow me a phone interview on the differences of the two Houston Texans’ quarterbacks. He also threw in a couple interesting tidbits about former college teammates, Jonathan Baldwin and Tyler Palko who will start on Monday night in place of the injured Matt Cassel.
Dorin was drafted by the Houston Texans in the 7th round of the 2010 NFL draft and released by the team at the end of the preseason this year. He’s cut in the mold of an H-Back but the Texans transitioned him into a wide receiver. After spending some time with the Pittsburgh Steelers he rested an injured hand and is now back to 100% healthy. While with the Texans, Dickerson wrote a weekly blog for RotoExperts’ TheXLog.com. The following is excerpts from the phone interview we conducted on Tuesday, November 15th.
Jayson Braddock: You were with the Texans when Matt Leinart came over in 2010 and stayed with them through preseason of 2011. How did Leinart progress in that time?
- Dorin Dickerson: Well, as you know we didn’t get a lot of work over the summer due to the lockout and after we were able to start practicing he had to remain out for a little while longer due to resigning with the team. In the time I was there you definitely could tell a little change. He progressed. All of the coaches love him, the players too.
JB: You’ve taken reps from Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart. How big is the falloff and some of the issues they’ll face with Leinart?
- DD: A lot closer than what people think. They’re the same style just different hands. That’s going to be the biggest issue. It’s hard to adjust to a lefty. A lot harder to catch his ball, the way the ball spins and tails off. They’ll also have to flip the way they run bootlegs. It was the same way for me catching my former teammate, Tyler Palko’s ball. But, they have one of the best receivers in the game in Dre and he’ll adjust.
JB: Speaking of Tyler, he’ll get the start on Monday Night football against the New England Patriots and he’ll have another one of your friends and former teammates, Jonathan Baldwin to throw to. Has the thought of being back out there with them cross your mind?
- DD: Man, I’ve been itching so bad to get back out there with Tyler and Baldwin. They’re excited and I’m excited for them. What a lot of people don’t realize is that Steve Breaston was a star high school stud in Pittsburgh. Tyler hooked up with Breaston on three touchdown passes in a Pittsburgh high school all-star game. They were the show. I wish I could show you some of the old film of them. He has instant chemistry with Baldwin and Breaston.
JB: Getting back to Leinart, what limitations do you see him having in this Texans’ offense that Schaub didn’t?
- DD: Just experience in the offense. He’s only been there a little over a year now. I haven’t been around him for months but when I was there he still hadn’t fully grasped the offense. It’s not a knock on him, it’s just that Schaub’s had five years in the offense and Leinart has only had about a year.
JB: With those limitations in mind, what do you see Matt Leinart’s record being over the last six games of the season? They’ll face the Jaguars, Falcons, Bengals, Panthers, Colts, and Titans.
- DD: Probably 3-3. The Jags could surprise him in that first game as he gets his legs under him. The Falcons and Bengals are both playing well and the Titans are a rival. Really it’s the mental side of the game for Leinart. I think he’ll get it. In my heart I think he can lead the Texans deep in the playoffs.
JB: Well, going off of that, where do you see the Texans ending in the playoffs?
- DD: I can see them going to the second round.
JB: Let’s look at some attributes. Between Schaub and Leinart who is more mobile, stronger arm, better accuracy, and handling pressure?
- DD: Schaub has the stronger arm. Leinart will tend to put more touch on passes. I would definitely say that Leinart is more mobile. He gets out and runs the bootleg perfectly. I would also give the edge on accuracy to Schaub. Leinart has seen enough time so Schaub would handle the pressure situations better.
JB: All of the Texans’ players are coming out and saying that Matt Schaub was the team leader. Is this the team saying the right thing or was Schaub really a leader of the offense?
- DD: That’s one of the things I really liked about that Texans team. They were all leaders. They led collectively. No one guy was really a leader and the whole team looked to them. At any time any player may step up and that’s the way it should be. It could be Dre one play, then Arian, then Wade. I didn’t get the sense that it was any one person that the offense looked towards.
JB: How is Leinart viewed in the Texans’ locker room? Do they feel he’s a capable leader or are they just saying the right thing and fear him leading this offense?
- DD: They have no choice but to believe in him. It’s not that they doubt him but, they have no choice but believe in him. They used a draft pick on TJ Yates and if Leinart struggles they may go to him but Leinart’s the guy they thought highly enough of. They wanted him to re-sign. People forget that he was a top pick in the draft. He’s played well and it’s more mental than anything with him. He’s great in that offense. It’s not like they’re going to ask him to do too much. They have one of the best running backs in Arian Foster. They have Andre and Owen. He just has to make the plays. People will be surprised.
JB: There were rumors that someone didn’t want you in Houston and that you were never given a fair shot. Do you feel you were cheated here and do you hold any grudges?
- DD: No no, I don’t have any hard feelings. That locker room is filled with some really great guys and the Texans are a great organization. I’m appreciative of my time there. I’m sure everyone has a story about how they felt that someone didn’t want them, whether it was the GM, a coach, or whatever. At the end of the day I just didn’t make enough plays and that’s on me. They drafted me and gave me an opportunity. They wanted me to learn another position and switch to wide receiver and it didn’t work out for them. I didn’t make enough plays. Now my job is to get better and make them pay for letting me go. I’ll use it as fuel to keeping getting better. I’ve learned from it and I appreciate all of the coaches and teammates.
Matt Leinart will have two weeks to prepare for the Jacksonville Jaguars and there isn’t much that I can disagree with on Dorin’s assessment of the situation. The offensive line will have to adjust to the lefty quarterback as Eric Winston now becomes the blindside blocker. It’s great point that Dickerson brings up about the way the ball is delivered from a lefty quarterback. You may see some adjustments from the Texans’ receivers in the first few games. Hopefully for Houston’s sake, the next two weeks will give them time to adjust to the different ball. Dorin and I also discussed Leinart’s tendency to over think throws. He’ll add too much touch on the ball and throw like a dart as if he was attempting to throw the perfect pass. When he makes these throws, he does not believe in his arm and the ball tends to float on him. Like Dorin said, it’s going to be more mental for Leinart than anything.
Thanks to Dorin Dickerson for taking the time for this interview. You can follow Dorin on Twitter @ScorinDorin. Make sure to keep up with him, he’s someone that will be on a NFL roster again, now that he’s back to full health for the first time since the preseason. When he comes back, I expect to see a team switch him back to his natural position of H-back to take advantage of his blocking ability and his hands with better matchups against linebackers instead of corners.