Watt, Foster only part of Houston 'problem'

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Watt, Foster only part of Houston 'problem'

There are two players people always mention when jawing about the Texans.
One, on defense, is J.J. Watt.
Nobody in the NFL had more sacks in the regular season than Watt's 20.5. Throw in 16 passes defensed, four forced fumbles, and 42 quarterback hits, and you've got a guy who can really disrupt offenses.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick knows it as well as anyone else. He also knows it takes more than one player to make a Top 10 defense.
"Hes a great player, dont get me wrong. Hes made more big plays than probably anybody defensively this year in the league," he said. "But Antonio Smith, Brooks Reed, Connor Barwin, Whitney Mercilus, they have a lot of other good players too. Watt is a focal point on that defense no question, but you cant ignore the other guys either, theyre all part of the problem."
On the other side of the ball is Arian Foster.
The Texans running back led the AFC in carries (351) and touchdowns (15), and was second in yards (1,424) during the 2012 regular season.Another tremendously talented player for Houston; another "problem." But again, to Belichick, Foster is important as a key cog within the larger machine.
"Not only the yards that he gains but how the running game controls the game for them, how it sets up their play-action passes, how it puts them in third-and-short situations. Theres no question that hes the key guy for Houston and their offense, but his production also complements the other players as well and the other parts of the game.
"Hes playing behind three Pro Bowl guys on the offensive line with Chris Myers, Wade Smith and Duane Brown. I think he also does a good job of making yards on his own and hes got good blockers in front of him. There are a number of problems they present offensively: the quarterback, the tight ends, big receivers, a great receiver in Andre Johnson, strong running game, good offensive line, theyre well coached theyre very good in all those areas."
Belichick got specific when spreading the love around.
Tight end Garrett Graham, out with a concussion in Week 14, is another body Houston will have at its disposal on Sunday. His numbers (28 catches for 263 yards and three touchdowns) aren't impressive on their own, but just having him on the field multiplies the Texans offense.
"I think one thing is it gives them the opportunity to put three offensive weapons on the field at once. Thats something they really werent able to do in our game. The difference between Graham and fullback James Casey tight end Owen Daniels is out there most of the time but Graham and Casey, theyre both good players and they complement each other too. They can have all of them out of there together or they can pick one or the other and use their strengths.
"It gives them more weapons and theyre able to change up some of their looks or change up their personnel groupings and get them all out there together. Theyre all good players so its a different matchup, one we prepared for in our first game, we just didnt get it."
Preparing for every possibility is truly the problem.

Haggerty: Loss of Colin Miller not a significant one for Bruins

Haggerty: Loss of Colin Miller not a significant one for Bruins

There will be some that will absolutely crucify the Bruins for losing Colin Miller in Wednesday night’s expansion draft, and rail against an asset that was lost for nothing. Those people will also miss the absolutely essential point that the whole raison d’etre for an expansion draft is to remove assets from each of the 30 NHL teams, and do it without a cost for the benefit of the new franchise opening up shop in Las Vegas.

It could have been much worse for the Black and Gold as some teams were shipping first round picks to Vegas to shelter their own players from expansion selection, and other teams were losing essential players like James Neal, Marc Methot and David Perron from their respective rosters. The B’s didn’t entertain overpaying simply to avoid losing a useful player, and clearly, they did lose a talented, still undeveloped player in the 24-year-old Miller, who now may be flipped to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a side deal with Vegas.

But let’s be honest here. A whole lot of people are vastly overestimating a player in Miller that’s long on tools and very short on putting them together, and they’re also vastly underestimating Kevan Miller. The younger Miller can skate like the wind and has a bazooka of a shot when he winds up and fires his clapper at the net.

But despite those clear offensive talents, Colin had the same number of points as stay-at-home defenseman Kevan this season despite the bigger, stronger and older Miller playing three less games this season. Kevan also had more goals (five) and more points (18) than Colin did two years ago in his rookie season for Boston.

This isn’t to say that Colin doesn’t have more discernible offensive skill than Kevan when it comes to moving the puck or creating offense. He does, but all that talent hasn’t manifested into real points, real offense or anything else for the Black and Gold over the last couple of seasons. At a certain point, a prospect like Colin needs to put all the tools together into production on the ice if he wants to become the sum of his hockey parts, and that hasn’t happened in two full seasons in Boston.

Instead, Miller continues to struggle with decision-making with the puck, consistency and finding ways to turn the quality skating and shot package into any kind of playmaking on the ice. Miller had his challenges defensively and he was never going to be the most physical guy on the ice, but those could have been overlooked if he was lighting it up in the offensive zone on a regular basis.

Plain and simple that wasn’t happening, and over the last season 20-year-old Brandon Carlo and 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy passed Miller on the organizational depth chart for right shot defenseman, and either Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller would slot in as the third pairing D-man on the right side. It’s clear at this point that Colin Miller needs more time and patience if he’s ever going to develop as a late-blooming defenseman at the NHL level, and he wasn’t going to get those opportunities to develop in Boston.

So how good can Colin Miller really be if he was about to get buried on a Boston defensive depth chart without much hope of being in the starting six every night unless he was able to magically transform himself into a top-4 guy on the left side?

Clearly, there is risk here as Miller could move on to Toronto, develop into the player that posted 19 goals and 52 points in the AHL a couple of seasons ago and torment the Bruins for the next five-plus years. It would become another arrow in the quiver of those critics looking to hammer GM Don Sweeney and President Cam Neely at every turn, and it would generate massive “Why can’t we get players like that?” homages to the legendary Bob Lobel all across New England.    

But there’s just as good a chance that Kevan Miller will still be throwing hits and soaking up heavy minutes of ice time for the Bruins three years down the road, and that Colin Miller will be out of the league after never harnessing together his considerable talent. Perhaps Sweeney could have been better about securing an asset for Miller ahead of the expansion draft if he knew he was going to lose that player for nothing to Vegas.

The bottom line is that the Bruins were going to lose somebody to Las Vegas in the expansion draft, and the Golden Knights weren’t going to do them any favors by taking on misfit toys like Jimmy Hayes, Malcolm Subban or Matt Beleskey. They did instead lose a player with plenty of raw talent in Colin Miller, but it’s not exactly somebody that’s going to be missed in Boston once Carlo and McAvoy start showing just how bright the B’s future is on the back end starting next season.