NFL’s unlikely new starting quarterback

Let’s meet Andre Johnson’s new quarterback (for now), TJ Yates

That’s Matt Schaub(notes) pictured above on the left, sharing a postgame fist-bump with his replacement’s replacement, first-year quarterback TJ Yates(notes).

Schaub, of course, is done for the year, placed on injured reserve due to Lisfranc ligament damage in his right foot. Matt Leinart(notes) was Schaub’s backup, but he apparently suffered a season-ending injury on Sunday, likely fracturing his collarbone.

So … Yates it is. Brett Favre(notes) isn’t walking through that door (although Sage Rosenfels(notes) might, if he’s healthy enough). Let’s get to know the rookie before he breaks, too.

Yates was a fifth-round pick out of North Carolina, and the pre-draft scouting reports were not entirely glowing. Here are a few notes from Rivals:

Smart, tough and has shown improved poise in the pocket. … Fine short accuracy. … Has a rag arm — balls tend to hang up in the air. Limited athletic ability. Inconsistent footwork diminishes accuracy, and it really wanes outside 15 yards. Streaky, plays too hot and cold and confidence issues have shown in his play. Heavy-footed, cannot escape the rush and has been slowed by injuries.

Regained his confidence and came on strong as a senior but has limited upside to develop and will only fit into a short-to-intermediate, West Coast passing game as a game-managing reserve.

Gary Kubiak obviously never planned to have Yates game-managing this early in the kid’s pro career, but that’s the hand he’s been dealt. When Houston selected Yates back in April, he drew a few comparisons to Schaub. Yates ran a pro-style offense at North Carolina, and throughout his career, the Tar Heels’ roster was loaded with pro-quality players (Hakeem Nicks(notes)Greg Little(notes) and Johnny White(notes), to name three). It’s also worth noting that Yates holds every significant UNC record for pass completions, attempts and yards. His accuracy improved in every season at the collegiate level; he delivered a 66.8 completion percentage on 422 attempts as a senior. So that’s plenty encouraging.

The most optimistic scouting spin I’ve found on Yates was this ray of sunshine from ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer:

“This guy is a special player,” said Dilfer, who played 14 years in the NFL and quarterbacked theBaltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl title. “You look for a couple of things for a future starter — unique physical traits and a tremendous will and intangible makeup. TJ Yates has both. This kid is the toughest kid in the draft at quarterback outside Jake Locker(notes). I would love to coach me some TJ Yates.”

There’s hope for competence, at the very least.

But still, prior to Sunday’s narrow win at Jacksonville, Yates’ most recent game action was in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl last December. Yikes.

In Yates’ NFL debut, the rookie went 8-for-15, passing for 70 yards, connecting twice withAndre Johnson(notes). To no one’s surprise, the Texans dialed up more running plays than passes (31 to 28). We should probably expect a similar run-pass mix in the weeks ahead, even though Houston will face a pair of top-five run defenses in their next two games (vs. Atlanta, at Cincinnati). At some point in the near future — if not in the regular season, then certainly in the playoffs — the Texans are going to need Johnson, their All-Pro receiver, to make a few plays. He actually worked with Yates quite a bit during his rehabilitation from hamstring surgery, so it’s not as if those two are just meeting for the first time.

But c’mon, none of us are as confident in Johnson today as we were a week ago. He was targeted only three times in Sunday’s win, and you worry that the Texans will basically only go to the air as a last resort over the season’s final five weeks. In the fantasy playoffs, Weeks 15-16, Houston draws two of the league’s most generous rushing defenses, Carolina and Indianapolis; it’s reasonable to assume that the Texans will only throw in those contests when they need a break from the monotony of 6-yard runs. If you’ve been patiently waiting for Andre to rescue your fantasy team during the season’s most important stretch, well … you’d better hope that Dilfer had the right take on Yates. And it would sure help if the Panthers and Colts can somehow force Houston to put the ball in the air 30-plus times, though that seems unlikely.

If anyone has some Yates propaganda to share with the group, your comments would be most appreciated…

By rapt143 Posted in Sports

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