Due to nature of the NFL and its obsession with the man under centre plenty of media outlets are grabbing the low hanging fruit and billing the matchup between the Oakland Raiders and the Houston Texans as ‘a tough watch for fans’. That however couldn’t be further from the truth as the encounter has more to offer with an abundance of talent on either roster that maybe the causal fan (that’s just checking into the playoff football) isn’t familiar with.
Firstly lets address the elephant in the room, ‘the quarterback situation’. Texans head coach Bill O’ Brien has in my eyes placed his future in the hands of Brock Oswelier, a situation you could argue has been forced upon him due to the fact that Tom Savage is in the leagues concussion protocol. Osweiler has the stage set for a bizarre mini redemption story following his benching back in week 15 against the Jaguars. As for the Raiders they’re now down to he third string quarterback Conner Cook following an injury to Matt McGloin who himself was filling in for the injured Derrick Carr (ankle). Cook a fourth round draft pick out of Michigan State threw for 9143 yards, 71 touchdowns and 22 interceptions during his college career.
What Ourlads’ NFL Scouting Services said about CONNOR COOK:
Michigan State, 6040 217 4.78. Three-year starter from Hinckley, OH. The all-time winningest quarterback in Spartan history. Played in a pro style run first offense. He does a good job of managing the offense by avoiding or getting out of bad plays that can get you beat. A crafty veteran with good reads, touch, and accuracy. Steps up into the pocket and buys time. He is solid under pressure and bounces around in the pocket. Played through injuries this past season. Protects the ball. Maintains accuracy on the move. Stands strong in the pocket and can take hits. Good velocity on intermediate and short passes with accuracy between the hash marks and on the perimeter. Demonstrates feel in the pocket. Well schooled to recognize and feel pressure. A good play action and drop back developmental quarterback. Racked up a 34-5 record as a starter. Smooth and quick release. Strong lower body. NFL ball clubs will like his size and his ability to play within the pocket. The major question mark on Cook is his accuracy. He misses a lot of throws high. He has never thrown for over 58.7% in any season. Also question his decision making under pressure as well as ball security issues under blitz pressure. Struggles to throw the ball through passing lanes that open up. He gets passes batted down. Cook’s body language and leadership is being vetted by teams due to not being elected a team captain. Is he a take charge individual who steps up and leads a group of teammates? How does he get along with people in general as well as teammates? The last two red flags may be the most important to lead an NFL franchise. 2015 stats: 229/408, 3131 yds, 56.1%, 24 TD, 7 INT, 56 yds rushing, 136.5 QB rating. Ball velocity 50 mph.
Defense will determine the victor within this game as both teams have potential game winners within their respective line-ups. Bronco’s Von Miller Super Bowl performance last February was a game winning effort nothing short of sensational and the only other player in my eyes that can take over a game similar to Von Miller is Khalil Mack. During the regular season Mack had a run of six straight games with at least one sack, put on a huge display against the Panthers with a pick six of Cam Newton during the first half only to follow that up with a game sealing fumble recovery following a swipe at Cam’s arm which knocked the ball loose, and lets not forget the 6 tackles and 3 QB hits. Mack might not dominate the box score at times but his ability to apply pressure to the quarterback and make defenses account for him on every play is phenomenal.
Like the Raiders the Texans have a talented pass rusher of their own in the form of Jadeveon Clowney The media focus has somewhat left the former first overall pick over the course of the last 18 months due to a number of injuries. However 2016 has been a breakout year for Clowney, which has seen him selected to his first Pro Bowl. Pro Football Focus have Clowney ranked as the seventh best 3-4 outside backer, Clowney has spent much of the regular within the oppositions backfield. Another player flying under the radar within this Texans defensive unit is cornerback A.J Bouye who’s quietly put together a career year recording 62 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception and defended 16 passes. Alongside safety Quintin Demps, and fellow cornerback kareem Jackson this Texans secondary unit finds itself ranked second overall against the pass, yet more proof the Texans are in good shape on the back end.
Jack Del Rio on the Texans defense:
Q) What are some of the challenges that the Texans defense poses to you?
Del Rio) “Well, Romeo’s (Crennel) a veteran coach. Done it for a long time. They’ve got an extremely talented group, and that’s even minus J.J. (Watt), which is incredible. But with (Jadeveon) Clowney and (Whitney) Mercilus and (Vince) Wilfork and (Brian) Cushing, they’ve got a really talented group and they’re playing good ball.”
Brock Osweiler on Khalil Mack:
Q) When you watch Raiders DE Khalil Mack on tape, what do you think?
Osweiler) “He’s a stud. He’s one of the best pass rushers this game has to offer, and there’s a lot of good ones out there. He’s right at the top of the list. What he’s able to do is truly special. He’s a very strong player, he’s a very athletic player, he’s fast, he can bull rush you, he can speed rush you, he has a very high motor, he never takes a single play off. So, you need to show a guy like that respect. Obviously there’s certain things that you’re going to do in a game plan to try to help slow him down but you can never completely eliminate a player like that. You hope that you can slow him down and execute your game plan.”
Looking to breakdown the impressive Texan secondary, will be the wideout pairing of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree the pair have combined for 2156 yards and 13 touchdowns. Tight ends Clive Walford and Mychal Rivera could benefit underneath should the Texans keep Cooper and Crabtree at bay. Latavius Murray will be looking to bounce back following last weeks disappointment in Denver (11 yards from 5 carries) once again DeAndre Washington will be itching for another opportunity should Murray struggle once again.
DeAndre Hopkins has been held hostage in a Texans offense that’s failed to push the ball down field throughout the regular season. Hopkins has gained 100+ yards receiving just once when Oswelier has been under centre. The main benefactors of the Osweilier ‘check down’ have been tight ends Ryan Griffin and CJ Fiedorowicz, the pair have had career numbers and have combined for 979 yards and 6 touchdowns. Running back Lamar Miller has rushed for 80+ yards in five of his last six starts and will be a much needed weapon should the passing game struggle, Miller remains listed as questionable, but is expected to suit up on Saturday.
Bill O’ Brien on QB Brock Osweiler:
Q) Do you see any difference in QB Brock Osweiler now that he is back in the starting role
O’ Brien) “I think that it’s a tough game. I think that the National Football League is not easy. As a head coach, every decision you make is all about in the best interest of the team and what’s the best way that we can help this team win. As it relates to players maybe being moved from starter to backup role, I think every coach and player learns from those situations. I’m sure that’s a better question for Brock. I will tell you this, he’s had an excellent week of practice. He’s been on the money with what we’re trying to do. He’s prepared just like he has every week this season, as the starter or when he was the backup. He’s a hard working guy. He’s a very prepared guy. We’ve had a good week.”
Jack Del Rio on Connor Cook:
Q) Did you see some things last week that make you encouraged that he’ll be able to do what you need him to do on Saturday?
Del Rio)“Yes. Yes, and we’ve seen things throughout our time having him where he’s developed as a young player kind of in the background as the third quarterback all year but continued to work hard in his preparation. He won a lot of big games at Michigan State. I know this is a different level but he’s got that kind of unflappable feel about him. We’re going to trust him to go out there and lead us.”
Quotes referenced within the article are via the respective team(s) media guide(s).