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Texans' pass defense, pass rush issues to watch

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Posted Oct. 12, 2010 @ 2:31 a.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

There are worse places to be in than in a four-way tie for the division lead, so the Texans can't be completely unhappy with a 3-2 record after five games. However, they have dropped two of their last three, and their latest loss, a 34-10 drumming at the hands of the Giants, was alarmingly bad. The Texans' defense surrendered more than 400 yards for the third time in five games, and their offense, so potent in the first four games, was held to 195 yards — just 24 on the ground.

On Monday, head coach Gary Kubiak said he wants his team, which has had flashes of brilliance this year mixed with stretches not associated with a team that has playoff aspirations, to be steadier. 

"We've played some very good games and a couple poor ones in big spurts as a football team," Kubiak said. "Very good in spurts and very bad in spurts. So we're trying to find some consistency there as a football team. That's the key to being a great football team, when you find that same level of play, that same sense of urgency every week in this league. That's the hardest thing in this league to find, and we're searching for that. Obviously, we've got a long way to go to get that done, but somehow we've got to find some consistency in what we're doing."

The PFW spin

As the Texans seek to find that consistency, here are a few areas to watch:

— Their secondary play continues to be a concern. Opponents have thrown for at least 245 yards in every game vs. Houston this season. Rookie CB Kareem Jackson struggled in coverage vs. Giants WRs Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith. The Texans started three defensive backs (Jackson, CB Glover Quin and FS Troy Nolan) with two years of experience or less in Week Five, and second-year CB Brice McCain also plays regularly. "Do we have some young players on the back end? Yes, but we're going with those guys," Kubiak said Monday, expressing confidence in his defense while acknowledging it had to play better.  

— The pass rush has mustered nine sacks in the three wins and no sacks in the two losses. DE Mario Williams has five sacks and is again playing at a high level, but more pressure is needed. "It's not good enough as a group," Kubiak said of the Texans' pass rush. "It's not about one player or one position; it's about the whole group playing better."

— Their pass protection has been suspect at times. QB Matt Schaub was sacked three times by the Giants, and Houston has surrendered three sacks or more in three games this season (14 overall).

— The passing game hasn't been sharp lately. Schaub has completed just 32-of-63 passes for 388 yards with two TDs and one interception in his last two starts. WR Andre Johnson missed the Week Four win over Oakland, but he was back on Sunday, catching five passes for 95 yards. The Texans have also been without speedy WR Jacoby Jones (calf) for much of the last two games. Considering how strong the Texans' passing game has been at times, this ranks as a lesser concern than the defense. 

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