Denver Broncos punt returner Jim Leonhard catches a punt during the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE
Sunday’s game in Denver between the Broncos and the Houston Texans will be Special. Former coaches and players, Gary Kubiak, Wade Phillips and Rick Dennison will be in attendance on the opposing sideline, but they will also help celebrate Rod Smith’s enshrinement into the Broncos Ring of Fame. Before that all takes place though, we will preview what the Texans are all about. Scott has provided knowledge on Houston’s Offense and Defense, so let me tell you about their Special Teams.
Houston’s Special Teams Unit is ranked 28th overall 2 weeks into the season by Pro Football Focus (Broncos rank 10th). That hasn’t been much of a problem to worry about yet, since the Texans have outscored their two 2012 opponents 57-17. Then again, Miami and Jacksonville aren’t exactly powerhouse teams. Nevertheless, I do not expect that poor showing to continue.
The Special Teams Coordinator for the Texans is Joe Marciano, who is in his 11th season with Houston. Widely regarded as one of the League’s top coaches in his field, Joe has been coaching Special Teams for 26 NFL seasons. Marciano and running backs coach Chick Harris are the only coaches to have been with the Texans since the team’s inception in 2002.
Here is the personnel breakdown for the Houston Texans Special Teams Unit.
The Kicker is 11th year pro Shayne Graham. So far this season, Shayne is 5/6 (83%) on Field Goal Attempts with a long of 40 yards. He has hit 6/6 on Extra Point tries. His longest career Field Goal is 53 yards and was last accomplished in 2009.
When kicking off, Graham’s average distance puts the ball 1-yard deep in the end zone. He has 4 Touchbacks in 13 Kickoffs so far this season, averaging 30.8% (21st). The other 9 kickoffs were returned an average of 26.0 yds (21st).
The Punter and holder for the Texans is Donnie Jones, a 9th year player out of LSU. Jones has punted 11 times in the young season, with a gross average of 47.0 yards. He has a Net yard average of 33.5 yards. Donnie has placed 2 punts Inside the 10 yard line, 2 have gone for touchbacks and one has been Fair Caught. The other 5 have been returned for a 21.6 average and 1 touchdown. Clearly this is the problem area and should be shored up quickly.
I have a theory as to the poor punt coverage results. I would say that injuries have a lot to do with the outcome. Leading Special Teams tackler, Tim Dobbins, is injured with a bad Hamstring and did not practice this week. Brice McCain, the second leading tackler for the Texans is nursing a sore knee and Brooks Reed has been limited with an aching Hip.
Quintin Demps and Mister Alexander are the other two Special Teams standouts who will need to up their game, or Jim Leonhard and Omar Bolden may take advantage.
The Return men for the Texans are 2nd year man Trindon Holliday, 5th year pro Justin Forsett and Rookie Keshawn Martin. So far, Trindon Holliday has done all the work, with 7 punt returns for a 13.0 yard average. He has signaled for 4 Fair Catches.
Trindon has also returned 5 kickoffs an average of 21.0 yards. At 5-5, 169 lbs., Holliday is a pocket rocket and an exciting returner with terrific speed (sub 4.3 in the 40).
Houston’s Long Snapper is 3rd year man Jon Weeks. 5-10, 246 lbs, Weeks has 3 Special Teams Tackles in 34 games with the Texans. He has only had 2 bad snaps in 584 tries as a Pro.
The Houston Texans may be vulnerable in the punting game this week due to injury. The Broncos should take advantage of this and set up some good returns. On the other side, they will need to contain Trindon Holliday or Britton Colquitt’s booming punts may outkick the coverage.
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