HOUSTON VS TENNESSEE PREVIEW By Brad Lorkovic ( LORK 88 ) Homecoming: when most people hear this, they think of those dances in high school that seemed like a bigger deal than it was. Well, this week isn’t a dance, but it is a homecoming and a bigger deal than most games. If you hadn’t figured it out, Vince Young is back in town to prove us that we made the wrong pick in April. For us, it’s a chance to get revenge on Tennessee for what happened week 8 (which could be considered one of our worst games of the season). So who really gets revenge in this game: Vince on Houston, or the Texans on Bud Adams? Houston’s Running Game vs. Tennessee’s Run D: Again like always, we’ve got to be able to run the ball. As for run defense, the Titan’s run defense hasn’t changed too much since our last meeting. They do have Haynesworth back and they’ve been progressing against the run, but there is still room to improve. For the D Line, Haynesworth and “Bear” Smith are the big rocks in the middle, with Starks being the athletic DT coming in if Smith can’t go (injured hamstring). Vanden Bosch and LaBoy are at the DE spots. Bosch has good size and is extremely quick, while LaBoy is undersized who uses his speed more. At LB, Bullocks is the most talented and the playmaker. Thornton is the other OLB and has been a solid tackler, but is also deceptively athletic. Sirmon is the LB in the middle and is considered the weak link and average compared to the other two, but is reliable and consistent. One thing to note is that Chris Hope will sometimes come up and play the run as an extra LB. For us, it comes down to finding consistency in any of our RBs, and finding the running lanes. I’d be more inclined to run against LaBoy, but Bullocks is right there behind him. Personally, I feel we need to take our runs inside. However, we need to hit the holes fast and not allowing the DTs to get penetration. I don’t feel getting past the D Line will be the problem; it will be stopping the LBs from making plays as they can run all over the field (including Hope). Houston’s Passing Game vs. Tennessee’s Pass D: Simply put, last week was unacceptable. Whether you blame the O Line or Carr, both need to play better. Tennessee like their run D has more talent than stats indicate. Pac Man is the most talented player in the backfield and is starting to come into his own this season. He’s quick and cocky, but has mental lapses and he is his own enemy in that sense. The other CB is Reynaldo Hill who took advantage of not getting notice last year, but this year has been different. He plays a step behind and is now getting the most attention because of Pac Man’s emergence. The safeties are Hope and Thompson. Hope has had a great year as both a tackler and in coverage. He’s very balanced and consistent, and his leadership has been welcomed. Thompson on the other hand is very inconsistent and tends to disappear some games. As for their pass rush, its best defined as quick and tenacious. LaBoy is better known as a pass rusher, as is Vanden Bosch. For us, it will come down to creating mismatches against their weaker secondary. We need to try to attack Hill and Thompson as much as possible. We also need to keep Carr off his back so he has time to stretch the field rather than throw the check down pass every time. Tennessee’s Rushing Game vs. Houston’s Run D: So far this season, our run D has improved, but we haven’t faced a running team like Tennessee in a few weeks. Granted, the stats are skewed because Vince runs on pass plays, but he must be accounted for too. The Titan’s leading rusher this season has been Travis Henry who’s been playing like it was 2003. He’s been hitting holes fast and shows a good burst when he gets to the second level. LenDale White has also seen carries, and is looking decent (although he is questionable this week). He’s showing the vision that many people thought was better than Reggie Bush’s. Also, there’s Vince who can take off at any given moment when a play breaks down. Their O Line has been solid this year, mainly because of the acquisition of players like C Kevin Mawae. However, Ben Olson has been ruled questionable for the game so there could be a weak link at RG. For us, we need to clog the lanes in the middle. Henry is better known for breaking off big runs in the middle rather than sprinting to the outside, so I feel we need to make it tough on him. Thomas Johnson could be back this week which should help, as well as the majority of our D Line becoming healthier after some games with injuries. Tennessee’s Passing Game vs. Houston’s Pass D: Our pass D played better last week, but is still struggling overall. In terms of passing, Vince is still mediocre (10 TDs and 10 INTs, 50% completion rate), but those stats shouldn’t be taken for granted. As for weapons, two of Vince’s biggest targets are out for the season (Ben Troupe and David Givens). That leaves WRs Drew Bennett, Bobby Wade, and Brandon Jones, with TE Bo Scaife. Bennett is a long strider who uses his size well, while Wade is an undersized speedster. Jones has good hands, and size, but is still very young and learning. Scaife is a solid receiving TE who runs solid routes to get open because he’s not as athletic as Troupe. Robinson has been improving, but Faggins is a liability and seems to be a step behind. Our Safeties also seem better built against he run than the pass. For us as a whole, we need to not give anything to Bennett deep as he can and will win jump balls. We’ve also got to find a way to disrupt routes so Vince’s timing is off. I expect to see a lot of intermediate routes, so I say we run more zone coverages including zone blitzes. Lastly, we need to make sure that when we blitz, we get to him. Nothing is worse than running right past him and allowing him to go 20 yards because of over pursuing. Position Battle QB Advantage: TENNESSEE RB Advantage: TENNESSEE WR Advantage: HOUSTON TE Advantage: HOUSTON OL Advantage: TENNESSEE DL Advantage: PUSH LB Advantage: TENNESSEE CB Advantage: PUSH S Advantage: TENNESSEE K/P Advantage: TENNESSEE RET Advantage: PUSH Key Factors To The Game 1) Make Vince throw the ball. Part of this also has to deal with stopping the run in general. It’s not a knock against Vince’s arm (even though his completion % is at 50, and he’s thrown as many INTs as TDs), but I’d rather make him throw on us rather than run whenever he finds a running lane (which is often). He’s done a great job keeping drives alive and I feel its more because of his legs rather than his arm. In a sense, let’s not give him the choice of running or throwing; let’s just make him throw the ball to see how he handles it. Therefore, I’d rather make him throw the ball than just take off and run for the 1st down. 2) Please, for the life of David Carr run effectively. If we can’t run the ball, that requires us to pass, and with an even more vicious pass rush that isn’t a good situation. Our O Line hasn’t been doing much in terms of pass blocking, so making Carr sit back there will turn him into the human piñata of 2005. Whether it’s Lundy, Gado, Dayne, or even Taylor, we’ve got to keep Tennessee honest with the run so that we can use the pass game when we want rather because we need to. 3) Keep forcing turnovers while reducing our own. In turn, this also affects field position. Last week, we had -5 pass yards and still won the game. Most of this was due to the fact that we forced 5 turnovers and started most of our possessions in the 2nd half on the Raiders side of the field. If it wasn’t for turnovers, I think we would’ve lost last week. I feel that if we have another week of in the positive turnover margin, we have a good chance of winning this game.