The Redskins on Sunday open up the 2014 season against the Houston Texans. HoustonTexans.com's Deepi Sidhu (@DeepSlant) gives us an insider's look at the major storylines for the opposing team heading into the matchup.*
- *Redskins.com:The Texans put all their eggs into Jadeveon Clowney's basket this year, taking him No. 1 overall in the draft. First off, how has he looked – both from a personal and a physical standpoint – with the Texans through the offseason and preseason, and what kind of impact is he expected to make specifically on Sunday in his debut vs. the Redskins?
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Sidhu: **"When he's been healthy, Clowney has looked every bit the No. 1 pick and the Texans expect big returns from him. In preseason, he had back-to-back plays against Atlanta including a sack on Matt Ryan. Clowney has looked fast, explosive and just moves so smoothly for his size. His strength, obviously, is chasing quarterbacks but Romeo Crennel wants to line him up as an OLB. So, dropping back in coverage is something that he's had to learn. Still, players say that he's picked up the defense very quickly. He had a sports hernia surgery this offseason and which limited his reps in camp and preseason games but he'll start Sunday."
Redskins.com: J.J. Watt this week got an extension for a whole lot of well-deserved money. What is it about Watt that makes him such a force every single game? It seems as though he's just one of those guys that's wired a little bit differently than most others.
Sidhu: "He is and he works extremely hard. Even after his deal was signed, Watt showed up to NRG Stadium around 3 a.m. for a workout because he couldn't sleep. He didn't hold out because he didn't want to lose valuable reps. He really eats, breathes football.
Watt is quick, instinctive, and is highly disruptive to a team's offense whether it's sacks, TFLs, or when he can't do one of those two, he jumps and gets a hand up in the quarterback's passing lane to disrupt any chance of completions. As a defender, he finds ways to line up in that give him an extra advantage and sheds blocks easily. He's full-go for every snap, whether it's practice or a game."
Redskins.com: Bill O'Brien makes his Texans head coaching debut on Sunday vs. the Redskins, who are also featuring a first-year NFL head coach in Jay Gruden. What's the culture like under O'Brien there at the team facility and in practices and on the sidelines, and how has he been received so far?
Sidhu: "O'Brien has two prevailing mottos: 'Team First' and 'The More You Can Do.'
O'Brien isn't into individual accolades. Everything is a team effort. He pushes the players hard – the team practiced back-to-back weeks against Atlanta and Denver in training camp. However, he's also really a player's coach and has developed good relationships with his straight-shooting style. For instance, Andre Johnson, who missed the offseason, returned because he believed in what O'Brien's message was.
O'Brien expects more from every player (hence, the more you can do) and believes firmly in versatility. Players should know how to play more than one role. That's how you make yourself valuable to a team. The overall culture he has instilled is toughness and he wants this team to be a game-plan offense and defense, one that looks different each week based on its opponent."
Redskins.com**: The quarterback position has obviously been a focus for the Texans the past couple seasons, as they've moved a few guys in and out and are trying to find that one consistent guy who can come in and be efficient with O'Brien's system. The Redskins are hoping to crash Ryan Fitzpatrick's debut on Sunday – with pass rushers like Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Jason Hatcher – but their secondary is the question mark entering the season. How has Fitzpatrick picked things up, and what's the feeling for the offense on Sunday vs. Washington?
Sidhu: "Fitzpatrick is smart and experienced but preseason numbers haven't been stellar for any of the quarterbacks. Still, he's the only one who's picked up O'Brien's system and is comfortable in it right now. The Texans hope that once Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, and all the starters on the o-line return, Fitzpatrick and the offense will really come together."
Redskins.com: Arian Foster has showed he can be one of the best running backs in the NFL when healthy. After undergoing season-ending back surgery last season, he sat out this entire preseason as a precaution. How has he looked in practices, and what kind of impact is he expected to make Sunday vs. the Redskins? Are expectations tempered at all due to his recovery?
Sidhu: "No, Foster has looked like himself or a better version, if that's possible. From running to blocking to catching, he is invaluable to this offense. That's why throughout preseason and camp, his reps have been limited. Ultimately, he's a three-down back and he'll be doing even more in this offense like catching passes out of the backfield."