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Texans preview with Houston Chronicle blogger Steph Stradley

By Jay Skurski

It's homecoming week for Bills defensive end Mario Williams, who returns to Houston to face his former team on Sunday.

That was a big topic of conversation with Steph Stradley, who blogs about the Texans for the Houston Chronicle. We also talked about the dynamite start to the season for J.J. Watt, how former Bills coach Wade Phillips has been to transform the Houston defense, and some offensive issues for the Texans, like whether receiver Andre Johnson has lost a step.

Some highlights of the conversation are below, while the entire conversation can be found at the bottom of this post.

Question: What type of reaction can Mario Williams expect on Sunday?

Steph Stradley: "I’m afraid it might be a little negative. He never really got off on the right foot with Texans fans in general, mostly because the fans didn’t expect him to be picked. Though he has been great at times with the Texans, there were times where they had bad defenses for so many of those years he was with the team. He was injured for part of that time, and he said a few things after he left Houston that don’t sit very well with people, so I’m guessing it’s not going to be terribly positive."

Q: J.J. Watt has the look of the defensive player of the year. Has he been as dominant game to game as the stats would suggest?

SS: "Very much so, and probably even more than the stats would suggest. I think a case can be made that he might be the MVP of the league. It’s kind of a down year for quarterbacks and really, he has done so much for this Texans defense, even with the absence of Brian Cushing in recent weeks. He’s doing things at the position that very few people have ever been able to do because it’s not a position that is a statistics kind of position. I’ve never seen anything like it, and he’s only in his second year. Last year, he made a difference even without a full training camp. He’s a tremendous combination of size and athleticism, and nobody works harder than he does."

Q: How has defensive coordinator Wade Phillips turned the Texans’ defense around so quickly, and where are any weaknesses on that side of the ball?

SS: "I think the Wade does is he sees what kind of players he has and works to their strengths. He looks at what opposing offenses do well, and then tries to take that away from them. From a game-plan standpoint, he does a really good job of game-day playcalling, and adjusting to things.

"If there is a weakness of the defense, I would think it’s two-fold. One is you sometimes wonder if they sell out too much for the run. They’re very aggressive against the run, but sometimes they allow some big runs while they’re being aggressive. They don’t have a traditional 3-4 nose tackle up front who’s a big guy. Sometimes teams can right straight up through the middle of the defense.

"I think the other issue is when they face a good team that runs four wide receivers, if the opposing team is good at that, that can be a bit of test, because it’s testing some of your third and fourth quarters.

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |