Dave Choate: I'm seeing a ton of pessimism from Texans fans I've spoken with about the quarterback situation. What's your take, and is it so dire that it has the potential to derail Houston's season?
Tim: Sadly, I think the pessimism is warranted. It's bad. Real bad. Try as we might to psyche ourselves up about Bill O'Brien somehow molding Ryan Fitzpatrick into a good NFL quarterback, we have a fair amount of data that indicates Fitzpatrick is mediocre to slightly above average on his best days and well below average the rest of the time. Granted, it was a disastrous situation for anyone to step into, but Case Keenum didn't exactly set the world on fire in eight starts last year; as teams got more film on him, his struggles intensified. And Tom Savage is going to need time; even then, thinking he's the answer at QB is the equivalent of making a wish while you blow out the candles.
Could it derail the season? No, in that it's very hard to derail a team that won two games last year. But for those who thought Houston could bounce back to the playoffs this year? Yes, it's entirely capable of derailing that dream. Probable, even.
Dave Choate: It's fairly obvious the Texans are going to lean heavily on the defense. Besides Clowney and Watt, who are the impact players we should be looking for on Saturday night, and how will they help make the Houston unit near-elite?
Tim: Tough to answer that question as to Saturday night. I'd suggest people watch Brian Cushing and Johnathan Joseph, but J-Jo is definitely not playing and Cushing seems likely to sit this one out as well. Otherwise, keep an eye on D.J. Swearinger and Kareem Jackson. If the defense is truly going to be among the league's best, both of them will need to play very well throughout the season.
Dave Choate: How do you anticipate the Andre Johnson situation playing out? Is he a Texan for life, or will Houston spin him for someone else? Can the receiving corps do well in 2014 without him, hypothetically?
Tim: I don't think Andre Johnson is going anywhere. Contractually, he doesn't have much leverage. From the team's perspective, it would be a significant cap hit to trade him right now; the team has restructured his deal three times and essentially kicked the can down the road to the point that his cap figure is monstrous in 2014. Plus, Bob McNair, at least publicly, has repeatedly stated he wants 'Dre to retire a Texan. There is talk that McNair said something to put Andre Johnson's mind at ease before 'Dre reported to camp this year, with many speculating an assurance that the team had no plans to cut him after this year may have been made.
Dave Choate: What are your impressions of Bill O'Brien thus far? The right choice at head coach? What changes has he made?
Tim: I was ecstatic with the O'Brien hire, and I remain very much a fan after what I've seen so far. My only real criticism is the team's current QB situation, which could well have been the result of O'Brien deciding he really didn't like Bortles, Manziel, or Bridgewater (at least at a first round price tag) and deciding to take a proverbial knee at the position this year.
In terms of changes, O'Brien seems to be running the team as though it's a high school squad. A lot of stress on the team being put first, taking down all references to individual accolades around the stadium, making the players run laps for mistakes, and so forth. It's a tactic that will get praise if he wins and will earn him scorn for treating men like boys if he doesn't. It remains to be seen how it plays out, though I'm firmly on board.
Dave Choate: Looking at this team, I can't see you guys losing 14 games again. How many wins do you have in 2014, and why?