The AFC South leading 7-3 Houston Texans who have already survived hamstring injuries to RB Arian Foster and WR Andre Johnson (who should be back in Week 12), S Danieal Manning’s broken leg and a season-ending pectoral injury to OLB Mario Williams will now have to do without starting QB Matt Schaub for the rest of the season thanks to that Neanderthal, Albert Haynesworth.
Matt Leinart has been working with head coach (former backup QB to the great John Elway) Gary Kubiak for quite a while will now take the reins. Leinart has help though as the Texans who have been battling injuries all season long are widely considered to have one of the best offensive lines in football. They also have the #1 defense to go with the best tandem backfield in the NFL.
Kubiak is capable of getting the most out of quarterbacks and while there is no great time to lose a starting quarterback, if you’re going to lose one, the week of the bye would be the best. Kubiak has two weeks to prepare the former Heisman Trophy winner and first round draft pick to start against a good Jacksonville Jaguars defense. Fortunately for the Texans, they have been increasing Leinart’s snaps in practice for the last few weeks. The idea was to rest Schaub and also to help him stay healthy up and through the bye week (oh, so close!) Now in his sixth NFL season, Leinart has had the benefit of sitting and learning behind Kurt Warner and Matt Schaub and Kubiak has had time to work out a lot of the flaws that Leinart had coming out of college. The Texans really like Leinart and trust him with this offense.
When Mario Williams was lost for the season and the national media felt the Texans defense would struggle. In actuality, without Williams and Manning the Texans have gone on to improve their defense to the #1 ranking where they stand now. Most felt that the Texans couldn’t afford to lose Andre Johnson more than any other piece in this offense. Without Johnson the Texans have played well and are currently ranked as the number one seed in the AFC. During Johnson’s absence, Matt Schaub relied heavily on the running game and making safe passes to the tight ends and running backs. Kubiak runs a ton of play action and they are highly effective, even with Schaub’s limited mobility.
The Texans’ offense plays to the strength of Matt Leinart. He’s more mobile than Schaub and he won’t be asked to carry the bulk of the pressure. With Andre Johnson coming back defense can’t afford to consistently place eight men in the box and any NFL quarterback can get the ball to Andre Johnson in a one on one situation. While it’s a big headline nationwide that Schaub will miss the remainder of the season, for the Texans offense, it’s just another bump in the road on the way to their first playoff appearance.
Matt Schaub has been criticized his whole career for lack of arm strength and not being able to get the ball to Andre Johnson on the go route in stride. Other complaints of Schaub are his lack of mobility and how he handles high pressure situations. Leinart doesn’t have great arm strength either but he throws a good deep ball, something that Texans’ fans have wanted to see for the last several years when AJ breaks open down the sidelines.
Kubiak has worked a lot with Leinart’s footwork since coming to Houston and that was a huge problem for him in Arizona. Another advantage the Leinart brings to the table is that he throws a beautiful endzone fade. Schaub lacks this ability and usually doesn’t attempt it.
Leinart tended to aim his passes on occasion in Arizona, meaning that when he wanted to make a perfect throw he would throw the ball like a dart at a dartboard and get too much air under it. Kubiak has been working with him to trust his arm and not to over think the throw. It’s also worth noting that Matt Leinart had the opportunity to join the Seattle Seahawks and his former college coach, Pete Carroll this offseason. He would have competed for the starting job but he chose to resign in Houston as a backup. Many questioned the decision but Leinart is more comfortable with this team and felt that if he had to step in and play, that he would be great in this offense. Time will now tell.
Nationally this will make most NFL fans think the season is over for the Texans. For the Houston fans and local media, they realize that this is NOT a season derail-er. Matt Leinart may turn out to run this offense better than Matt Schaub. It sounds crazy but we just don’t know. If you ask any NFL fan which player they couldn’t afford to lose off of their NFL team, most would say their quarterback #1. In Houston, you would probably hear at least five other names or more before you got to Matt Schaub. Getting Andre Johnson back helps this offense more than losing Matt Schaub hurts it.
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