Let’s be honest: The Bucs’ preseason has not been what many expected. But that has a chance to change against the Texans on Saturday night.
Tampa Bay can rectify the last couple of performances with a solid game this weekend. The starters will play the first half and if the product isn’t up to Bruce Arians’ liking, they could play into the third quarter.
In other words, Bucs fan should hope they don’t see Tom Brady and co. take the field against the Texans after halftime.
But no matter how the game unfolds there will still be plenty to watch for. Let’s dive into the main topics surrounding this week’s Bucs-Texans matchup.
Don’t underestimate the Texans defense
The Texans hired Lovie Smith over the offseason to come in and fix one of the 2020’s worst defenses. Smith’s recent NFL reputation is certainly not what is used to be (especially in the Bay area), but the arrow is pointing up for the Texans defense through two preseason games.
Smith’s defense has complied seven turnovers and seven sacks through two games. The unit is also allowing around 11 points per game, as well. For context, the Bucs offense has scored just as many touchdowns as the Texans defense – one. The Bucs offense is also responsible for just two more total points (9) than the Texans have sacks or turnovers.
Granted, Houston has played against the likes of Jordan Love, Kurt Benkert, Ben DiNucci, Garret Gilbert, and others. So the competition hasn’t been top-notch. However, you can only play who’s in front of you and so far, the Texans have fared very well against lesser opponents.
Does this mean they’re ready to go up against one of the best offenses in the league? I’m not sure, but I do know one thing: don’t be surprised if the Texans defense gets the best of the Bucs offense a few times on Saturday.
And speaking of offense…
Will there be any offense, at all?
This could very well be a defensive game if the Texans hold up their end of the bargain on that side of the ball. The Bucs offense has been putrid and while the Texans offense has put up points (23 points per game), there are some issues that stand out.
It all starts with the Texans passing game. The trio of Tyrod Taylor, Davis Mills and Jeff Driskel have combined to complete 52.7% of their passes for 280 net passing yards and one interception. They’ve yet to throw a touchdown in a game. Houston’s offense has really struggled on third down, as well, completing just 25% of attempts. This includes a dreadful 0-for-10 showing against the Cowboys in Week 2.
Both teams have also struggled mightily in the red zone. The Bucs have been inside an opponent’s 20 six total times and so have the Texans. Both teams are currently sitting at a 33% touchdown conversion rate, which is obviously not good at all.
Then there are penalties. The Bucs average 6.5 penalties per game and the Texans average five per game. Tampa Bay is very familiar with the effect penalties can have on an offense (see Week 5 vs. Chicago last year). So far, both teams have had issues staying disciplined.
Lastly, both teams have struggled to move the ball. The Bucs have just eight drives that have gone for 25 yards or more and the Texans have nine through two games. Both amounts exclude drives that started inside their opponents 25.
Keep in mind, this is mostly the product of backups and we will see the starters for a good portion of the game this week. A good showing from the starters will wash this away, but at the same time, don’t be too shocked if there aren’t many points on the board when it’s all said and done.
Can the Bucs get their ground game going?
I specifically remember the games of Bucs past (and recent past) where they couldn’t run through a wall made of water. The 2021 preseason has rekindled many of those memories.
Make no mistake: Arians wants to run the ball. In fact, he loves to run the ball. And that’s probably a good idea when you have a 44-year-old quarterback behind center. No matter who said quarterback is or who said quarterback is throwing to.
When you remove quarterback rushing totals, the Bucs running backs have ran the ball a combined 26 times for 48 total yards. That’s an average of 1.85 yards per carry, which is simply pathetic. I don’t care if it’s preseason.
In the Bucs defense, they have been hit hard in terms of depth on the offensive line. Just about every backup has missed time to due to an injury or a personal issue. This is big because the backups obviously play more during the preseason. So the inconsistency in terms of personnel have definitely had an effect on production.
But at the same time, the Bucs ran the ball three times for two yards during the starting offense’s only drive against the Bengals. Yes, that’s a small sample size that you can’t do anything with. But still, that average of 0.66 yards per carry is not something you want to see.
Jose Borregales’ time to shine
The undrafted rookie has a shot to make some noise on Saturday. Ryan Succop was recently placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list after contracting the virus during a friendly dinner. He won’t play against the Texans, leaving kicking duties in Borregales’ hands (or feet).
Borregales has had a strong camp. He hasn’t had a chance to strut his stuff during a game, but that will obviously change this weekend. Arians has said that he wants to keep an extra kicker on the Bucs’ practice squad due to the ever-unknown effects of COVID, but he may not be able to do so if Borregales has a good night against the Texans.
Either way, the former Hurricane can dramatically improve his chances of making a final roster. Which is a great spot to be in just two weeks before the start of the regular season.
Will Deshaun Watson play?
Texans head coach David Culley wouldn’t comment on whether or not Watson will play during the preseason and so far, Watson hasn’t taken a single snap. I’m not entirely sure his legal issues are playing a role in this, but it’s safe to guess they are. If that is the case, I wouldn’t expect his playing status to change since the FBI has recently entered the fold.