The transcript of Bill Polian’s weekly radio show always ranks as a must read, and you can find the whole thing here.
I found this discussion of linebacker and defensive tackle play especially interesting.
Q: Is there any thought about getting Pat Angerer on the field at outside backer to get he and Clint Session on the field at the same time? Wouldn't that compensate for the weakness at defensive tackle? And with Antonio Johnson hurt, will Ricardo Mathews get more playing time?
A: "The answer to the second question is yes. In answer to the first question, is I guess I would say, 'Right church, wrong pew.' There's no question that Pat and Clint are very explosive, aggressive, instinctive players. You would like to get them on the field together if you could, in some form or fashion. The question is, 'How do you do that?' We don't measure it based on statistics, especially tackles, because that's a statistic that's not very reliable. But in terms of the way they play, their quickness to the ball, their ability to punch people when they tackle, their instincts -- very similar. How do you do that? The staff's sitting down and thinking about that right now.
"As to the purported weakness at defensive tackle, it is not based on ability as much as it is on function. We are not functioning at the correct fundamental level at that position, which is why it can be corrected and it will get better. Of course, having Mookie Johnson back would certainly help and Rico will have some difficulty when he's first in there, because that's the toughest position for a rookie to learn how to play in the National Football League other than quarterback. For example, [second-year defensive tackle] Fili [Moala] is having a heck of a year. Well, it's his second year. He should. A year ago people were complaining about Fili. We said, 'Give him time. Everything will be OK.' Rico's going to struggle, too. The bad news is we haven't been having the kind of play at defensive tackle that we did last year. The good news is we can correct that fundamentally. That's one of the things that John Teerlinck, our great defensive line coach, was trying to get done during the bye week. We can get better at that."
So if Moala is having a heck of a year, the primary offenders who are “not functioning at the correct fundamental level” are Daniel Muir, who starts beside Moala, and Johnson who’s been the third tackle. Johnson just had knee surgery, so he's expected to miss Monday night, opening the door for Mathews, a seventh-round draft pick out of Cincinnati.
Interior line play improved last year and that boost was a significant factor for a Super Bowl team. It sounds like Polian thinks it’s backtracked this season.
The Texans are sure to try to give it a significant test with Arian Foster getting carries between the tackles. Did things get fixed during the bye week or will the interior guys show us more of the same?