Texans-Dolphins: 4 Winners, 4 Losers ("Chita Johnson, Weather Khaleesi" Edition)
4. The Reliant Stadium turf
Poor DeAndre Hopkins got his indoctrination to the driving range tee box that is Reliant Stadium's turf the hard way. First, he slipped hard on his cut on the route where Schaub threw his interception. (I don't know if the pass would have been complete, but Hopkins would have at least been able to break up the pick if he had stayed upright.) Then, later in the half, Hopkins appeared to bang is head on the turf after a reception, resulting in his first NFL concussion. (Welcome to the league, rook!!) Only the Reliant turf could be simultaneously soft enough to not allow a clean cut on an in route and hard enough to give a guy a concussion. I blame Johnny Manziel (no idea why, just seems like what everybody's doing).
3. Dustin Keller
Fortunately for the Reliant turf, they escape culpability on this one -- no, the blood of Dustin Keller's shredded knee is on the hands of the new helmet-to-helmet rules. I won't post the video here, if you were at the game, you saw. If you weren't, it was a disgusting tear of Keller's ACL, MCL, and PCL (pretty much all the important CL's) when Texans rookie safety D.J. Swearinger went in low on a tackle of the Dolphins tight end after a short catch. Now, if you've watched Swearinger play (or even watched his college highlights at South Carolina) you know he's a big hitter. He had three helmet-to-helmet penalties last season that cost his team dearly. As a rookie (especially one coming off an inauspicious debut last week, missing a tackle that resulted in a 61 yard touchdown), the last thing he wants to do is go anywhere near the head. Swearinger said as much after the game, that he was afraid of being fined. So he goes down low, as low as he can go. And now Dustin Keller's season is over, a season in which he took a one year "prove himself" deal. Just an horrific byproduct of the shortsightedness of the NFL's overly cautious, capriciously enforced helmet-to-helmet rules.
2. Geno Smith (both of them!)
Alabama head coach Nick Saban hates distractions, so if you're a player, the last thing you want to do is piss him off. Unfortunately for the player involved, I think this story is going to piss Saban off:
University of Alabama sophomore cornerback Geno Smith was arrested for Driving Under the Influence by UAPD late Saturday night/Sunday morning and held at the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office. Bond was set at $1,000.
Smith has been the Star cornerback in Alabama's nickle defense. The 6-foot, 186-pounder played in 13 games, starting two, his freshman season and recorded nine tackles and two pass break-ups. Smith's role in the defense increased later in the season as he established himself as the nickleback cornerback. He is expected to play a key role in this season's defense.
That's unfortunate. What's even more unfortunate is that I'm virtually certain that somehow Jets quarterback Geno Smith will catch some of the blame for this, even after the media finds out that it wasn't the same Geno Smith.
1. Dennis Johnson
Throughout rookie minicamp, undrafted free agent Dennis Johnson was drawing raves from many of my fellow media members. Now, understand that rookie minicamp (and OTA's, as well) involve no hitting and no real contact, so the guys who tend to stand out are a) quarterbacks and receivers (because everybody understands throwing and catching), b) guys who are freakishly big or athletic (the Jacoby Jones Corollary, this year's winner? Willie Jefferson!), and c) guys who are unusually diminutive.
Which brings us back to Johnson.
During mini camp and OTA's, Johnson looked really good, I guess. I mean, he looked really quick, and really decisive, and looked like he could be a cute, little story. I mean, eventually guys would be, y'know, allowed to tackle him, but as long as they weren't, wow, look at those little legs churn!! Then, everybody started to put pads on, and hit, and it wasn't as cute. And Johnson hasn't been nearly as good. Granted, against Minnesota, he had nowhere to run, but on Saturday against the Dolphins, he had two fumbles (losing one of them), didn't do much in the return game, and had four carries for eight yards.
The third running back spot behind Arian Foster and Ben Tate remains up for grabs. Handicapping it right now, I'd say it looks like this:
Deji Karim -160
Cierre Wood +250
Dennis Johnson +600
Ray Graham +1500
Karim's experience and special teams prowess are a huge difference maker for him right now. I'd bet that the runner up will be a practice squad guy, whoever that is.
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