In just about 24 hours, the Minnesota Vikings and Houston Texans will be kicking off their pre-season opener at the Metrodome. As is our wont, we've exchanged questions with our friends at SB Nation's site for all things Texans, Battle Red Blog, and here are their answers to the questions I sent their way. (Once they post the questions I answered for them, I'll update this post with the link.)
1) These two teams saw each other down at Reliant Stadium last December, towards the end of the 2012 regular season. What are the biggest changes that Vikings fans will notice about the Houston Texans when they come to town tomorrow?
The biggest change would probably be their health. J.J. Watt is 100% after finally letting his elbow heal, Brian Cushing is 100% after his ACL tear in week 5 of last season, Brooks Reed is 100% after his groin strain last Thanksgiving, and Jonathan Joseph is 100% after two sports hernias and a hamstring strain in 2012. The four most important pieces on this defense are finally back and ready to hit people, and I expect the Bulls on Parade to remind people this year why the Texans defense was ranked so highly in 2011. While the starters might not even play a full quarter, seeing our boys test themselves against the likes of John Sullivan, Matt Kalil, Kyle Rudolph, and Adrian Peterson should be a treat. What happens when an unstoppable force meets and immovable object? Good television, that's what.
2) Houston's first pick, Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, is someone that a lot of Vikings fans (myself included) were high on going into the 2013 draft. What's the buzz about him in this year's camp? Is he the guy that can complement Andre Johnson?
Texans fans were pretty much resigned to the fact that Hopkins (and Arthur Brown) would not make it to us at 27 prior to the draft, so seeing him in a Texans uniform is a dream come true. I still don't know how we got him, but he has easily been the most impressive rookie in training camp thus far. Twitter is littered with reports of Hopkins destroying our defensive backs in every drill, and considering that Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson are arguably the best corner tandem in the NFL that is quite a feat. Many BRB faithful got to see Hopkins with their own eyes during open practices, and by all accounts he was just as amazing in person while catching everything thrown his way. Expectations literally could not be higher, and I really can't wait to see him and Harrison Smith (who I would like to add got robbed for DROY) square off twenty yards down field.
3) The Vikings have had their issues at quarterback, to say the least. Oddly enough, there appears to be a bit of grumbling from some of the Texans' faithful about their quarterback, Matt Schaub. From an outsider's point of view, it appears that Schaub has been a pretty solid quarterback. In my best Seinfeld voice, I have to ask. . .what is the deal with Matt Schaub?
It really depends on who you ask. There is a perception in a lot of fan bases that elite quarterbacks are easy to find. They aren't. We tried. We got David Carr. Matt Schaub is the upper middle class three bedroom house of quarterbacks. Is he a penthouse in the city with a rooftop pool? Nope. Is he enough to keep us happy while our ritzy beach mansions (Watt, Foster, Cushing, Johnson, etc) win us a Super Bowl? Definitely. The bottom line is that there are a lot of teams out there that I'm sure would take Matt Schaub over what they have in a heart beat (I'm sure some of your own readers would take that deal as well). He's not Drew Brees, but he doesn't need to be. All Schaub has to do is execute a play action fake and hit a wide open Andre Johnson for enough 20 yard gains until Kubiak starts feeding Foster in the red zone. He does those things just fine, so I'll take it.
4) Give us a guy that's under the radar on the Texans' roster that Vikings fans should keep an eye on in the pre-season opener?
Brandon Brooks at right guard. He got taken in the third round in 2012 despite not even getting a combine invite because of his physical freakishness (A sub 5.00 forty at 346 lbs on top of 36 on the bench) and had a lot of development to do before getting on the field. When Brooks finally did drop the weight and earn some snaps he was simply phenomenal, and going in to camp at an even lighter 325 lbs a lot of fans wanted to see what he could do as a starter. All accounts from practice has Brooks trading wins and losses with J.J. Watt, even frustrating Watt to the point of shouting obscenities after reps. If he can anger J.J., then he must be doing something right. I am eager to see if he gets any snaps against Kevin Williams, who is as good a barometer as you're ever going to get from the defensive tackle position.
5) Is J.J. Watt actually human. . .or is he, like Adrian Peterson, some sort of alien life form/cyborg?
I hope he isn't, because if he is actually a man then I suddenly feel a lot worse about myself. How can you be that talented, physically gifted, humble, and nice at the same time? It's just not fair, man.
Thanks to Brett Kollman from BRB for taking the time to answer these questions.