They stand at 4-5 and at the bottom of the AFC South, but the Houston Texans have a variety of dangerous offensive weapons. When they come to town to face the Jets on Sunday, they will be out to end their three-game losing streak while also avenging last year's season-opening 24-7 loss to the Green & White in Houston.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine succeeded last year but knows this Texans offense can score in bunches.
"I think they're very confident in what they do," Pettine said Thursday at his weekly news conference. "I think they've had a year now to study what we did to them last year. This is a team that gets in certain formations where they can move guys around and cause them to switch defenders. They did it to us last year."
The most crucial element to Houston's recent success has been wide receiver Andre Johnson, who already has 52 receptions for 781 yards and four touchdowns this year. Matt Schaub, despite battling a knee injury is a Pro Bowl QB. And Schaub will have Arian Foster to hand the ball to. The second-year man out of Tennessee has been a revelation and leads the NFL in both rushing yards (920) and touchdowns (10).
It will be Johnson, however, who gets the most attention — not just from All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis but the entire secondary.
"He's a big part of what they do," Pettine said. "As we've said all along, our job is to mix coverage. We're not going to just say, 'OK, Darrelle, you have him, we're going to play box-and-one, you have him man-to-man all game.' That's not what we do. There's going to be times when he's singled up, a time when he's doubled, and there may even be a call or two where he has three on him."
Unfortunately for Pettine and head coach Rex Ryan, it looks as though they may have two fewer options to utilize in the secondary with cornerbacks Dwight Lowery and Marquice Cole sidelined during the last two days of practice with injuries. Lowery sustained a concussion in the Jets' 26-20 victory over the Browns and is out for the Texans., Cole is still bothered by a hamstring injury from the 23-20 victory over the Lions and hasn't participated in any team drills this week.
"I think everybody is going to have to rally," safety Brodney Pool said. "That's part of being in this business, finding guys that know how to play. You can't have just one or two guys. You have to have more than that. I think we have good depth in the secondary."
Pool is already one of the members of the secondary who also fills in on special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff's units, but with Lowery and Cole potentially unable to play, even more of Pettine's defensive players may have to strap up on special teams. Ryan's right-hand man noted that cornerback and speed whiz Antonio Cromartie has been itching to return punts and linebackers Bart Scott and David Harris can also take on special teams roles.
"It just gets to that time of the year where if you have some injuries on the back end, it's all hands on deck," Pettine said. "It's something that our guys talked about in the meeting and it came up in front of the players. Nobody batted an eyelash. It's part of being a great team, playing team football, and if our guys need to jump in there on special teams, they will."
Coming off of 10 quarters of football in the span of eight days, the Jets are already a bit more pushed to their limits than normal going into a stretch of two games in a five-day span. After playing Houston, the Green & White host the Bengals on Thanksgiving night. Regardless, a staple of the Ryan/Pettine defense is to be rough and hard-hitting, and that won't change even with the extra workload in an abbreviated time period against a formidable opponent.
"We're just going to do what we do best," Cromartie said, "which is go in and play hard, fast, aggressive and physical. That's all we can do besides go in and watch film and see what they do best and take that away."