Texans

Madden NFL: Geriatric Checkers Edition

For the upcoming Texans at Redskins game on Nov. 18, our editors assigned us a challenge: use Madden NFL to simulate the game and attempt to correctly predict the outcome.

It’s a great idea; the game has an excellent record of predicting winners, with correct calls in ten of the last 15 Super Bowls. We leapt at the opportunity, but our XBox is currently having difficulty running Madden, thanks to a minor equipment malfunction.

A new kind of sports science

But we hate to disappoint our editors! We knew it was up to us to devise a different, but equally accurate, simulation. To make it happen, we consulted two good friends of ours, Helen Hopkins and Louise Thomas. Helen and Louise are residents of an assisted living community in Daytona Beach, Florida, aged 68 and 72. They also don’t have an XBox, and they don’t know much about football, but they play a mean game of checkers, and they agreed to be our gladiators in a simulation of the coming confrontation between the Houston Texans and the Washington Redskins.

We took Helen and Louise on a field trip to One Daytona, a shopping center in Daytona Beach. One Daytona is a lovely shopping mall, located across the street from Daytona International Speedway, and they have a checkers set so large it’s visible from outer space. Helen agreed to represent the Redskins, and therefore played white (because this is a home game for Washington, and because we enjoy irony). Louise played black, symbolizing opposition quarterbacks’ bruises after spending a day with the Texans’ defense.

Drama at the weigh-in

Tension was heavy in the air. Both women recognized the burden of their responsibility, and it showed on their faces.

The trash talk began before the opening move. “I hope you got your game plan from someone smarter than your idiot grandkids, bitch,” Louise snarled. “I hope you wore your best adult diapers, because you’re about to need them, whore,” Helen answered through clenched teeth.

The battle

Louise played 11-15, a popular opening move; Helen then responded with 22-18, forming the traditional “Single Corner” opening. The two traded jumps, then plunged into a campaign of brutal ferocity that will be spoken of in hushed tones in their senior community for years to come.

Louise gained the initiative early, forcing Helen into a complex defense after one of her men was caught in an exposed position. Onlookers pointed to this as an allegory on the Redskins’ offensive line, and furious debate ensued.

Louise was the first to king one of her men, and soon had two kings to Helen’s one. In hindsight, Helen admits, it was probably a bad idea to nickname her king “Theismann.” Like the QB of the same name, Helen struggled bravely to escape, but it only took a few moves before Theismann was cornered and fell.

Analysis

After the dust settled, Helen and Louise shook hands and congratulated one another for a hard-fought match. They agreed that their game of checkers proves that the Redskins really have no business opposing a team like the Texans. “They’re outmatched; we can see that now,” Louise said, as onlookers nodded in agreement. “They’re gonna look like a squad of Pop Warner children on the field, and I feel bad about how badly the Texans are about to embarrass them. They should schedule opponents who are more at their level of football, like the Raiders, or maybe that team from Switzerland that I saw on the TV.”

Texans vs Redskins Preview

The Houston Texans, winners of six straight, look to keep things rolling when they travel to Washington to take on the Redskins. Meanwhile, the Redskins look to continue their push in the NFC East following their 16-3 victory over the Buccaneers. Despite being hit hard with injuries, Washington found a way to win, but to beat this Texans team, they will need a lot more punch from their offense.

The Texans’ side of things starts and ends with the play of the offensive line. In the last three games, Houston's front seven has allowed just 10 quarterback hits and five sacks. The improved play up front has empowered quarterback Deshaun Watson, who now looks as healthy as he did when he burst onto the NFL scene a year ago. The run game took a step back against the Broncos, mustering only three yards per rush and 98 yards total against a Denver team ranked 23rd in the league against the run. Facing Washington's fifth-ranked run defense poses a formidable challenge.

While Houston looks for a bounce-back game on the ground, Houston's offense is getting relatively healthier. Barring any setbacks, wide receiver Keke Coutee, who has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, could return. (Coutee is currently listed as questionable.) Running back D'Onta Foreman could start practicing this week, as he continues to make his way back from an Achilles injury. Foreman's return date is still up in the air. Statistically, Houston's offense is in the middle of the pack in passing and rushing yards as well as scoring. Getting Foreman and Coutee back will be just what the doctor ordered to complement a healthy Watson and an improving offensive line.

Washington's offense, on the other hand, laid a turd against Tampa Bay's 32nd-ranked scoring defense. Granted, the Redskins were depleted on the offensive line, but still: only two field goals and one touchdown? Now the challenge gets even tougher as Houston's ninth-ranked scoring defense, led by the resurgent JJ Watt, pays a visit. The Redskins played mistake-free against Tampa Bay and will have to play mistake-free again in order to beat Houston.

Final Take

Redskins quarterback Alex Smith has history against the Texans, going 4-2 with 10 TDs and three INTs. This time around, Smith does not have Andy Reid, nor is Washington's offensive line healthy. On Sunday, Washington was dominated in every area except the red zone and turnovers. While their effort was good enough against Tampa, it will take more than two field goals and a touchdown to end Houston's streak.

While Houston was enjoying their bye, the Colts and Titans won, keeping pressure on the Texans to maintain their division lead. But if Houston's offensive line can continue to play well, establish the run, and continue to play great defensively, then I like Houston's chances of notching their seventh straight win, setting up a huge contest with the Titans in Week 12.

All stats and rankings provided by ESPN

Dissecting the Texans Remaining Schedule

The Houston Texans are on their well-deserved bye week, following their 19-17 win over the Denver Broncos. The win over the Broncos was Houston's 6th straight, and they look to keep their charge towards the playoffs going when they resume play November 18th at Washington. The Texans win streak has caused quite the buzz from whether or not they can win out, to whether this squad is legit enough to contend for a championship. Let's take a look inside the numbers, as well as how the rest of the year will go down.

11/18 AT Washington

The main concern for the Texans will be how they get everything cranked back up after the bye. Houston has been on a roll, so could having a week off slow their momentum? Over franchise history, Houston is 7-9 following their bye week,

My Thoughts: The Redskins are dealing with a barrage of injuries to their offensive line this week, so there's a chance they will be trotting out almost an entirely new group against the Buccaneers. Houston's stout defense could possibly face a diminished Redskins offense, barring any new injury updates. If Washington is still depleted along their offensive line, we know JJ and the boys will be licking their chops.

Redskins quarterback Alex Smith does have history against the Texans, though he does not have Andy Reid coaching him, nor does Smith have the supporting cast he had with the Chiefs. In his regular season career against the Texans, Smith is 4-2 with 10TD's and 3INT's.

The Redskins are a solid 5-3 who could pose a challenge to the Texans, especially if Alex Smith can make plays with his legs and establish a rhythm, as well as Adrian Peterson having a monster day running the ball. The bye may slow down the Texans momentum a bit, but Watson's healthy and the defense is playing great. Houston may run away with the game, but knowing how all but one of their wins have been by one score, I think this one will be close.

11/26 Home against Tennessee

Following the matchup with the Redskins, the Texans have a three-game home stretch. Two of those games are against the Titans and Colts with the Browns sandwiched in the middle. What could possibly be better than a primetime game against the arch-rival Titans? The Titans handed the Texans one of their three losses, Week 2 behind Blaine Gabbert: 20-17.

Prediction: When referencing division matchups, numbers go out the window. It's all about pride, and if two teams are in contention, jockeying for playoff seeding. Having already lost to the Titans, if the Texans are going to wrap up the division, they must get the split. Houston is currently 6-3 overall, 2-1 inside the AFC South, and 5-2 against the AFC as a whole. Losing to the Titans again could give everyone in the division the belief that the division title is still attainable. The Titans are not an offensive juggernaut, but they do boast the NFL's number one scoring defense (I am intrigued to see how they fare in Foxboro.) Mike Vrabel has done a good job coaching the Titans, and it is always a battle when the Titans and Texans square off. Now, however, the Texans have more to gain this time around than Week 2. Houston grinds out their 8th straight, and this win essentially gives the Texans a vice grip on the division.

12/2 Home against Cleveland

Cleveland is a decent team led by rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, however, they are the most poorly-run organization in professional sports. Recently, the Browns not only fired head coach Hue Jackson but also offensive coordinator, Todd Haley. Cleveland is a team who is a couple of bad breaks in games away from being .500 (or even first place.)

Prediction: This game has trap tattooed all over it, and if the Texans come out lollygagging and let Cleveland believe they can snatch this game, Houston is doomed. However, since they are chasing the AFC South crown, along with chasing down the Chiefs and Patriots for the top two spots in the conference, this Texans team is mature enough to handle a lowly Cleveland team at home.

12/9 Home against the Colts

The Texans wrap up their three-game home stand against the team which ignited their win streak. The Colts stormed all the way back from 18 points down to go to overtime, ultimately coming up short. The over-analyzed play call from Colts head coach, Frank Reich, could have resulted in a tie, had he punted rather than electing to go for it on 4th down. I still believe Reich going for it was the right call: Luck was on a roll, and the issue was more of a matter of execution. The Colts did not execute the play, and the Texans won the game. The Colts right now are 3-5, and their postseason chances hang on the next two games as they face the Jaguars and Titans.

Prediction: Whether the Colts are still in the race or not when they face Houston, they have Luck back; as long as he is healthy, the Colts are a team to watch out for. Like the first meeting, this game could become another shootout. The Texans are much better now, and defensively are one of the best in the league; Watson will outlast Luck at home and Houston gets the sweep.

12/15 AT the Jets

Here is something no one is accustomed to: a Saturday game in the NFL. Like the matchup with Cleveland, this game is yet another trap. Facing a bad team with a rookie quarterback, knowing a matchup on the road against the defending champion Eagles follows, the Texans maturity will be tested. The question will be, can the Texans avoid overlooking the Jets?

Prediction: Playing on Saturday will throw both teams off a bit. For Houston, if the streak is still intact, the top two seeds should still be in play. With that in mind, Houston will come out and handle their business and should be 11-3 heading into the final two games.

12/23 AT the Eagles

Two days before Christmas, we get to unwrap a matchup with the defending champions. Though the Eagles are not as hot as they were a year ago, they still are a force to be reckoned with. This game is more of a Bill O'Brien playoff tune-up game, as he goes against Doug Pederson, who is one of the best coaches in the game. O'Brien will either face Andy Reid or Bill Belichick in the playoffs, assuming the Texans get there. How he fares against Pederson in a hostile environment, two games before the playoffs, will be a telling sign of what could happen in January.

Prediction: Two days before Christmas, on the road, against the defending champions, the Texans are going to not only have to play their best game, but also coach their best game. The division by now will probably be wrapped up for Houston, and if the Texans are still within reach for the AFC's top two seeds, this will be a big game for them. Honestly, I think the streak ends; as good as the Texans are, the Eagles will probably be needing this game more for their playoff hopes. Depending on how the Chiefs and Patriots are playing, this loss could guarantee Houston plays Wild Card weekend.

12/30 Home against the Jaguars

At this point, this game is probably meaningless for Houston. If it isn't, something went very wrong for the Texans. For the Jaguars, depending on what transpires in the next few weeks, this could be a game they need for a wild-card spot, or they could simply be playing for pride. If, for some reason the top two seeds in the AFC are still up for grabs, then the Texans need to do everything they can to win. Would the Texans rather go on the road and freeze their buns off in Foxboro or Arrowhead? Or would the Texans prefer to be warm and toasty, and let their fans blow the roof off of NRG? The only way starters play significantly for Houston is for the chance to be the number one or two seed.

Prediction: The outcome of this game simply comes down to what playoff scenarios are on the line for both teams. Before the season started, I predicted the Texans would go 12-4 and I am sticking to it. Houston will go to the playoffs having their best season under Bill O'Brien. Whether they are a number 1, 2, 3, or 4 seed is yet to be determined.

Wrapping Up:

Dez Bryant blowing his Achilles in his first practice as a Saint is yet another reminder in the NFL to never take anything for granted. On paper, the only game outside the division Houston could, and likely will, lose is against the Eagles. Barring anything catastrophic, of course, this team has a similar feel to 2011 where things are starting to click. This time around, I hope the Texans can remain healthy enough to see where this ride ends.

Texans: Just Win, Baby!

What the Texans have done has been legendary.

Whether you feel love, hate, or indifference to this Texans team, you can’t deny what they have been able to accomplish in the past six weeks. Currently, your Houston Texans are riding a 6-game win streak after starting the season 0-3. No team has rattled off six wins after starting the season with three straight losses since the New York Giants accomplished this feat in 1970, via Kriste Rieken. After defeating the Broncos on a last-second missed FG by Broncos kicker, Brandon McManus, the Houston Texans moved to 6-3 and now have a comfortable lead in the AFC South.

I won’t sit and pump sunshine and rainbows. These wins have been hard-fought, extremely difficult wins for this team to compile. The offense has sputtered, the defense has looked broken, and they have played down to their competition. Throw in some questionable play calling, and this team seemed destined to be at the bottom of the league.

Yet, here we are. Be it grit, determination, or just plain luck; this team has been able to win. We can sit and compare them to the Rams or Patriots. We can break down every stat under the sun. Football is about making plays, and the Texans have made enough of them to rack up six wins in a row. Now, the Texans must continue to win and separate themselves from the rest of the division.

The Texans are currently in the driver’s seat and control their own destiny. They are entering a much-needed bye week, and are coming up on the part of the schedule that is in their favor. In the remaining seven games the Texans face the Redskins, Titans, Browns, Colts, Jets, Eagles, and finally, wrap it up at home against the Jaguars. Only the Redskins and Eagles are .500 teams out of the bunch and pose the only true tests to the team.

If the Texans ever want to make noise in the playoffs, they need to go 6-1 in a convincing fashion and enter the postseason red-hot. If the Texans can win the next six out of seven games, not only will they go into the postseason as a 12-win team, but they may be flirting with a first-round bye, a first in this team’s history. So, to put it simply: the only thing the Texans need to do is… Just Win, Baby!

Stats Courtesy of www.HoustonTexans.com

Texans: Tyler Ervin Out and DeAndre Carter is in

On Tuesday afternoon the Houston Texans made a somewhat of a surprising move in releasing former fourth-round draft pick, Tyler Ervin. Ervin was drafted out of San Jose State in 2016. Ervin spent the large majority of his time on the field returning kicks for the Texans, eclipsing over 1100 kick return yards* over his 3-year career in Houston.

He very seldom saw time in the backfield, only attempting five rushes for 15 yards* and 14 receptions for 91 yards. The speedster’s primary role was to return kicks, which never really took off for him. Ervin was hampered by injury in the 2017 season when he tore his patellar tendon in Week 4.

One area the Texans have appeared to focus on this season really is the special teams unit. They are continually bringing in free agents to try out. These players come in with the hopes of grabbing a spot on special teams and continue their NFL career. This became evident early this season and even pre-season with the signing of veteran NFL QB Joe Webb, who has a reputation as a journeyman special teams ace.

This week the Texans made a move to upgrade the return game by cutting ties with Tyler Ervin and claiming WR DeAndre Carter from the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad.

Carter has spent time with the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers practice squads before making the Eagles 53 man roster this season after a flashy preseason. So far this season Carter had ten punt returns for an avg. of 10.3 y/r and ten kick returns for an avg of 20.4 y/r with a long of 30 yards*. So why Carter over Ervin? Well after watching some quick footage on Carter a few things became evident.

Carter appears to have more commitment when hitting a lane and getting downfield faster, whereas Ervin appeared timid at times. Carter also seems to have a much stronger build and ability to break arm tackles, something that Ervin often would allow to end his returns short of their potential. Carter also had some flashes in the preseason of a strong-handed receiver out of the backfield and when split out too. Something the Texans could use to their advantage to give Deshaun Watson yet another weapon.

I have been very pleased with the moves first-year GM Brian Gaine has made this season, and this one so far on paper appears to be a good move. I'll be very excited to see how Carter is used in the offense if at all with Keke Coutee still nursing a hamstring injury.

While Carter’s return numbers are not much better than Tyler Ervin’s, he could potentially blossom into a good return specialist, something the Texans have been without over the last few years. Carter’s first test will be against a Washington Redskins team that has allowed a league-low 40 yards* on seven returns this year.

* All stats per NFL.com

Texans: Contenders or Pretenders?

Are the Houston Texans “Contenders” or “Pretenders?” Is Houston’s six-game win streak all smoke and mirrors, or are they really putting the NFL on notice to generate respect? Starting the season off 0-3 against Tom Brady, Marcus Mariota, and Eli Manning and not putting up a single W, seemed to spell disaster for the Texans’ 2018-2019 season. Then something in Week 4 clicked, as the Texans have rattled off six straight wins against some decent (but not brag-worthy) opponents.

The Texans stumbled out of the gate against the New England Patriots, having no answer for Rob Gronkowski and of course, the arm of Tom Brady. Watson threw for a meager 176 yards on a 17/34 passing day. Next up was the Texans first divisional opponent, the Tennessee Titans, led by former Texans Defensive Coordinator, Mike Vrable. The Titans absolutely embarrassed Houston with a trick play on what appeared to be a punt, but turned into a 66-yard touchdown pass from Byard to Cruikshank early in the game.

Houston’s worst loss of the season came against the Eli Manning-led Giants. This week, Eli suddenly turned into his brother Peyton, and torched the Texans for 297 yards and two touchdowns to pair up with rookie RB sensation Saquon Barkley’s 82 yards and lone rushing touchdown. 0-3 was not exactly the start Bill O’Brien was looking for after coming off a very disappointing 2017 campaign.

I for one was ready to write this season off, and was already looking forward to the draft in September. Then October rolled around, a new Texans team appeared, and boy was I wrong! The Texans started by knocking off their divisional opponent, the Indianapolis Colts, and then grabbed the bragging rights over Texas from the Dallas Cowboys. Next, the Texans obtained a sure-fire win against Buffalo, which was followed by a surprising win against the imploding Jaguars. Their streak continued with a very convincing win over Brock Osweiler and the Miami Dolphins, and most recently pulled off a squeaker in Mile High over the Denver Broncos.

So what changed? Did the offense suddenly become unstoppable? No. Did the defense turn into the Legion of Boom? No. Did Bill O’Brien become some football mastermind? No. To me it’s been a combination of opponent coaching mistakes, inferior talent on the other side of the ball, some very good play-making from several players, and just some down right, knock down, hard fought football from the Texans to rack up six straight wins.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying the Texans didn't earn these wins, but also I'm not saying they did, either. I guess what I'm trying to say is, they've done just enough to win these games, something already difficult to do in the NFL, for a shocking six straight weeks.

Now we sit in the bye week, which couldn't have come at a better time in the season, as the Texans are pretty banged up and getting thin at some very key positions. So how does the rest of the year look? Well, if the team can get some key players back (Jonathan Joseph, Aaron Colvin, D’Onta Foreman, Zach Cunningham, and potentially Jermaine Kelly), I’d say they have a real shot to finish the season out with at least ten wins. They have three divisional games left: the Jets, Browns, Redskins, and defending Super Bowl Champs, The Eagles. Don’t let these teams fool you: the Browns have lost several close games; the Eagles are battling; and the Titans just made Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys look absolutely foolish on their home field after one of the worst offensive starts I’ve ever seen.

The Texans will have their hands full with the Redskins and Adrian Peterson, despite some recent injuries to a few members of Washington’s offensive line, and a defense with former Texans’ safety, DJ Swearinger. Definitely a winnable game, the Texans could very well bang out ten straight wins and lock up the AFC South in early December. Now that’s fine and dandy, but will they truly be satisfied with another AFC South banner? Of course not.

This season around the NFL has had its twists and turns, shocking winners, upsets, blowouts, and excitement. When the playoffs arrive, if the Texans continue to improve with the addition of veteran wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, and JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney continuing to attack opposing QB’s, I could see the Texans making a decent run into this year’s playoffs. Guys like Kareem Jackson, Deandre Hopkins, Tyrann Mathieu, and Lamar Miller will have to continue to get better and keep opponents on their heels.

Of course, those potential playoff opponents will likely include Kansas City, New England, and possibly Pittsburg or Cincinnati. Can Houston compete with these teams? Yes, if the team can stay healthy, and things continue to click for them. I would, however, be cautiously optimistic that this trend of wins continues, but don’t get your heart broken if things go astray.

Until I see Bill O’Brien make a dramatic change in his predictable play calling, I cannot see the Texans making it past the first round of the playoffs. Watching the tape of the Denver game, the Texans ran the ball on first down seven (7) times in the first two quarters of football. That’s seven out of a possible eleven first down plays Houston ran. Bill needs to mix in more plays on first downs; maybe with the addition of Demaryius Thomas, the Texans will be able to do so. I would love to see the tight ends be more involved in the passing game, especially considering the flashes we've seen from rookie TE Jordan Thomas. I understand they have been cautious with the offensive line being so inconsistent, but week by week, that group has been improving and keeping Watson upright more and more often.

So in conclusion, are the Houston Texans “Contenders” or “Pretenders?” With everything seeming to come together at the right time for them at this point in the season, the Texans are contenders. They are three wins away from matching Bill O’Brien’s best season. There are several winnable games on the docket; this is a very hungry team, with a previously un-seen type of camaraderie. Players are getting healthy, rookies are getting better week by week, and veterans are returning to form. These are all signs pointing to Houston making a push for the playoffs, and a strong one at that!

* All stats from NFL.com

Watson's Rookie Season

At the conclusion of Sunday's matchup in Denver, Deshaun Watson has completed his rookie season. Rookie Season, you ask? Yup, Deshaun has finally completed 16 games in the NFL. Yea, its spread out over two seasons, but it’s finally our first true benchmark to measure Watson against the best QB’s to step on the gridiron.

It hasn't exactly been all MVP performances and highlight reel film, but to say Watson isn't putting the league on notice is foolish. Deshaun Watson has amassed 4,088 yards passing, 36 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, and a 101.7 quarterback rating per NFl.com. So how does this stack up against some of the all-time greats? Well, Peyton Manning recorded 3,739 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 28 interceptions. Tom Brady threw for 2,849 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions in his first 16 games. Now I'm not saying Watson is the next “GOAT,” but he’s certainly put up a good case for becoming a top quarterback in the NFL for the foreseeable future!

Now, of course, everyone knows about his injury in Week Nine during practice, in which Watson suffered his second ACL tear, downing him for the remainder of the season. One thing that quickly gave most hope was their memory of what Watson did in college after suffering a torn ACL at Clemson. Watson tore his ACL in 2014, missed one game, then played against South Carolina. In that game, Watson threw for 269 yards, two touchdowns, and amazingly still rushed for 13 yards and two touchdowns as well. I believe that gave everyone in Houston hope that it wouldn't take long for Watson to return to form and help lead their beloved Texans down the field again.

Of course, there have been some bad things from Watson, but he’s a rookie, so I’m not entirely surprised. Watson has this incredible ability to escape pressure that he somehow sees with the eyes in the back of his head. However, sometimes it appears he tries to do too much and runs into more trouble than he should put himself into. What do I mean by this? Watching recent games, Watson has a habit of running into sacks. Now I know everyone is going to want to place the blame on the offensive line; I implore you to trust me that it's not all their fault, regardless of how you feel about that group's lackluster performance over the last two seasons.

Watson has been sacked an astounding 49 times in his first 16 games. That is a ton of hits to take for a QB in today's NFL! Just this past week, off the top of my head, I can think of two plays where he was “sacked” in which it appears he held onto the ball too long instead of dumping it off and moving on. This area is where Quarterback Coach Sean Ryan and Head Coach Bill O’Brien can work with Watson the most and help him turn that corner to become a prolific passer in the NFL, and stay healthy!

Now I don’t want it to seem like I’m some QB guru, and that I know exactly how to turn Watson into the best QB in the league because I don’t, or I would be getting paid a ton of money, and my phone would be blowing up! These are just general observations from re-watching game tape, and keying in on some things.

With only 16 games under his belt, a 9-7 record, arguably the best hands receiver at his disposal, the recent addition of Demaryius Thomas, and Will Fuller coming back next year, I fear the best is yet to come from the young QB, and that should put fear in the souls of defensive coordinators around the NFL.

The Bit: What to Think of These Texans?

The Bit: Bye Week Edition

@jchasteenwriter

So here we, as fans, sit with a team that is 6-3. This is a Texans team that is honestly a play or two away from being 9-0. This is a team seated two games atop the AFC South, a team who’s never been out of a loss, a team who’s won SIX straight games, and a team who now displays a record that, on paper, they should have.

To go on further, this is the same team that is also a play or two away from being 2-7. This Texans team underperformed on offense (and maybe even defense) their first five games, was out-coached for five of the six first games, and was down to one offensive threat until they traded for Demaryius Thomas to replace often-injured Will Fuller.

I am one torn Texans fan because I can’t tell if the Texans are a fraud, or if they are what they should be. Looking back to OTAs, I would have pegged the Texans as having a 6-3 record at their bye week with losses to New England, Dallas, and Jacksonville.

As week 10 of the NFL approaches, the Texans are ranked 14th in total yards and scoring offense per game and defensively are ranked 9th in total yards and 7th in points allowed.

I’d say the defense is right on schedule, but the offense has some slack to pick up, as most of us expected a top-five offense based on the sample Watson previewed last year. In their defense, if you take away the first three abysmal loses and the awful offensive showing against Buffalo, they are playing better in all phases of their game, and that offense (yes, credit to Lamar Miller for showing up for two whole games) is what is expected, no matter the opponent.

The optimist viewpoint of the first half of the 2018 Houston Texans is this: they control their own destiny. Offensive kinks seem to have been ironed out, starters have been lost, and some gems have been found. The offensive line is playing like a gelled unit now. Watt is BACK. Watson has worked on his turnovers and limited the number of unnecessary hits taken.

This is a team that has eight games to keep improving, because let’s face it—the only good team they’ve played is New England, and that may be the BEST team they play until the playoffs. Washington, Indianapolis (yes, they’re improving each week as well), and Philadelphia will all be tests to show us how our team stacks up against talented squads. So pay close attention to those games.

The realist in me wonders: how would Houston stack up against New England (again), Kansas City, or any of the NFC juggernauts? If that doesn’t make you a little nervous, then let me know which happy pills you’re taking, so I can partake and chug the entire bottle.

Win Streak Hits Six as Texans Survive

It was not the prettiest of afternoons for the Texans.

Outside of the thrashing Houston gave Miami in Week 8, and the beatdown in Jacksonville, all of Houston's wins have been by one score. Nonetheless, thanks to a missed 51-yard field goal from Brandon McManus, Houston notches their sixth straight win improving to 6-3 heading into their bye. With the win, the Texans not only seized full control of the AFC South but are also very much in distance of nabbing one of the top 2 seeds in the AFC.

Offensively the Texans got again another good game in pass protection, from their offensive line. Quarterback Deshaun Watson was hit only four times, all four quarterback hits were sacks*. The pass

protection has steadily improved, though against what was the 27th ranked run defense, Houston struggled to run the ball effectively. Lamar Miller after exploding the past two games with 100 yards in each contest, only mustered 21 yards on 12 carries*. Alfred Blue was a little more effective with 15 carries and 39 yards, even Watson who did not have any designed run plays delivered 38 yards on six carries.*

Houston's defense was effective against the run as they have been much of the season, limiting the Broncos to just 75 yards on the ground. Broncos quarterback Case Keenum did everything he could to stick it to his former team, he made quick reads and getting rid of the ball quickly which helped negates Houston's defensive front from fully wrecking the game.

Wrapping up

Close games can go either way if Sutton catches Keenum's perfectly thrown ball in the end zone in the first quarter we could be sitting here discussing an entirely different result. Then there is the usual reliable McManus having the worst game of the season going 1/3, including missing a 51-yard attempt to win the game Honestly when McManus walked on to the field, I thought the streak was coming to an end. After all, he has been one of the best kickers in the game, but you know the Texans are rolling when one of the best kickers misses a kick well within his range. Though it is worth noting McManus following the loss to the Texans, is now 2/5 kicking the ball in his last two games.*

The Texans enter their bye playing good football, but with plenty of room to grow. Offensively the Texans need the offensive line to continue to improve to keep Watson clean but also be more consistent in the run game. The bye will certainly aid Watson and Thomas further develop their chemistry so that they can be on the same page. Following the bye, Houston could see two key players return from injury when they take on Washington. Wide receiver KeKe Coutee who has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, and second-year running back D'Onta Foreman can start practicing following the bye. Whether Foreman suits up against Washington remains to be determined, but having both Coutee and Foreman return would be an added boost to Houston's offensive attack.

The playoffs are very much a reality for the Texans. The question now is, can Houston take it another level and win the city's first ever Super Bowl?

*=all stats and rankings sourced by ESPN

Texans vs Broncos Preview

The Houston Texans will put their five-game win streak on the line at Mile High against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Like Thursday night's matchup against Brock Osweiler, the Texans again will face a former quarterback in Case Keenum. However, unlike Brock, people in Houston still cheer for Case to succeed ever since his days at the University of Houston, except this upcoming Sunday that is.

This game will be won by the team who can win in the trenches as both teams have defensive fronts capable of wrecking the game. While the Broncos are 2nd in the league in sacks with 24, and 11th overall in pass defense allowing 237.5 yards a game, and their pass defense is pretty stout, their soft spot would be against the run, as Denver is 27th in the NFL against the run. Therefore, it is imperative Houston comes out physical and establishes the run not only to stay out of 3rd and long situations, but also to prevent Von Miller and that Denver pass rush from pinning their ears back and going after Watson.

Case Keenum faces no picnic either, as Houston's defense has been one of the best all season. Led by the resurgence of JJ Watt, Houston is 10th in the league in sacks, are are just outside the top 10 in passing yards a game allowed. However, Houston is also 7th in rushing yards allowed per game. Houston's got the edge in scoring defense allowing 20.9 points a game, while Denver is 14th allowing 24.3 points per game.

Keenum, like most other quarterbacks, can hurt you with a clean pocket. Therefore it is important Watt and Company establish their presence early and make Keenum’s day as uncomfortable as possible.

Returning to the Texans’ offense, quarterback Deshaun Watson is a full-go to fly for Sunday's game. How Watson fares in the altitude remains to be seen, but the fact he can fly is a good sign that his lung and ribs are healing well. Of course, having a mini-bye week might have helped the healing process.

Making a move to help their franchise quarterback, the Texans added wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to fill the void after Will Fuller was lost for the season. Adding Thomas will help ease the pressure off of Hopkins, as well as improving the short to intermediate passing attack. Thomas is probably more ecstatic about the deal than anyone else because he now gets the opportunity to play with a stud quarterback. Since Peyton Manning retired from the NFL, Thomas has endured a struggle similar to Hopkins pre-Watson: playing with three different quarterbacks in three seasons.

Injuries

The Texans will see the return of TE Ryan Griffin, who has missed the previous two games with an illness. RB D'Onta Foreman will not start practicing until after the bye week, as he continues to rehab from the Achilles injury he suffered last season. WR Keke Coutee is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury. Though with the acquisition of Thomas, along with a bye following Sunday's game, Houston may sit him out.

S Andre Hal, G Zach Fulton, and LB Brian Peters are all listed as questionable for Sunday's game.

Final Thoughts

Adding Thomas was a great message sent to the players from the front office. It shows that the Texans are not only willing to fill a need, but also show they are driven to win. Despite the offensive line playing great this past couple of games, it would have been nice to see the Texans get greedy and add a tackle or guard; someone to boost them up front, because outside of playing good defense, the Texans’ fate rests on the health of Watson.

The altitude will be a factor, as it always is, with the visiting team at Denver. But if the Texans are able to keep Watson clean for a third week in a row, along with playing with energy the entire 60 minute, the Texans will have a great chance of entering their well-deserved bye on a six-game winning streak.

*Stats and rankings from ESPN

My Texans Weekly Mock Draft

Texans’ fans: this series will be a weekly 2019 mock draft for our favorite team. The mock draft will not have any impact from free agency or trade rumors. As the Texans season moves forward and they accumulate wins or losses, the draft slots and draft picks will be affected. I based each pick on the Texans needs, prospects, draft stock, and fit for the current team’s defensive and offensive schemes. 

The Texans’ needs are simple: Offensive Lineman and Corner. There is no starting Left Tackle on the Texans roster currently. The interior lineman position has been shaky at best. The Texans’ O-line has to be one of the most inconsistent lines of all time. In the 2019 mock draft, I prefer to use their first round draft pick on an Offensive Tackle.

The cost to the Texans for winning games is lowering their draft slots. To simulate the draft, I used a computed online live draft at fanspeak.com. So, when the Texans’ pick came up, all of the top rated OT were gone. Teams like the Jets, Cardinals, Colts, and Browns all might be looking for OT in the 2019 Draft. Talent like Jonah Williams, Greg Little, and Trey Williams will be gone very early in the first round of the draft. Unless the quarterbacks in the 2019 class really start shining, and quarterback-needy teams fall in love with them, other talented positional players will be off the board quickly.

Here We Go!!!

First Round Selection at 20th Pick - CB Deandre Baker - Georgia

Measurables – Height: 5’11”, Weight: 185lbs., 40 Yard Dash Time: 4.55, Reach: 34”

Deandre Baker was rated higher than other OT at 20th. Baker is one of the top-rated cornerbacks coming out of college this year. Andraez (“Greedy”) Williams gets the hype and attention, but Baker is just as talented and flashy. Not necessarily a ball-hawking corner, Baker plays his man and the ball quite well. Pass deflection ability is key in a league where the passing game is highlighted. Baker’s selection would allow the Texans to move Jonathan Joseph to second corner and Aaron Colvin can then play in his natural position as slot corner.

Second Round Selection at 47th Pick - OT Andre Dillard - Washington State

Measurables – Height: 6’5”, Weight: 305lbs., Wingspan: 83”

Andre Dillard is nice second-round talent. Dillard is in the conversation of Best Left Tackle in the draft class. With his quick feet and superb hand placement, he could be the Left Tackle for the Texans for the next 10 – 15 years. With Watson’s abilities and playing style, he will need a LT that has more quickness and is lighter on their feet than a traditional LT. Dillard has very good upper body strength. That strength will be needed when handling NFL-level top pass rushers that can bull rush.    

Second Round Selection at 53rd Pick - RB Bryce Love - Stanford

Measurables – Height: 5’10”, Weight: 202lbs., 40 Yard Dash Time: 4.35

Bryce Love should replace Lamar Miller and should pair with D’Onta Foreman. Barring any setback, I can see him going higher in the draft. If he is there in the third round for the Texans, he could be a must-draft for them. Love is a running back with a track and field background. Love has the speed to break away from defenders.  He also has the toughness to be a three-down back with pass-catching abilities, which has been missing from this Texans’ offense.  Stanford is known for running a profile-style offense. That style will suit him well transitioning from college to NFL.

Third Round Selection at 84th Pick  - G Ben Bredeson - Michigan

Measurables – Height: 6’5”, Weight: 310lbs, Wingspan: 81”

Ben Bredeson is a former OT that has moved inside to guard. He is projected to be a left guard that has great strength with power at the point of attack. Bredeson has very good lateral movement from his days at tackle. He truly battles against every defender that lines up in front of him. He positions himself well in pass-blocking situations. 

Properly balanced while run blocking, Bredeson seems under control and stable doing both.  He will need to improve on next-level blocking. He should be a force to go with Dillard on the left. Pairing him with Nick Martin and Zach Fulton could make the interior an impenetrable wall for years to come. Drafting Bredeson helps Head Coach Bill O’ Brian solidify the line and have some permanent players in their positions.

Fourth Round Selection at 123rd Pick  – CB Amani Oruwariye - Pennsylvania State

Measurables – Height: 6’1”, Weight: 201lbs., 40 Yard Dash Time: 4.57

Amani Oruwariye would be another player to add to the depth of the corner position. Without a lot of proven stars or talent at the corner spot, Oruwariye could have his chance for some real playing time. Oruwariye has great length and a very high awareness of the ball.  A proven tackler that fights off blocks well, Oruwariye has the strength and size to be a hard-hitting corner. A bit raw without a lot of starts under his belt for being redshirt senior, Oruwariye has great potential.

Fifth Round Selection at 161st Pick  –Edge Rusher Christian Rector – Southern California

Measurables – Height: 6’3”, Weight: 275lbs., 40 Yard Dash Time: 4.77

The Texans’ base front is 3-4, like we always hear, but a team can never have enough edge rushers.With Christian Covington not playing well, and being a healthy scratch on certain games after his return from injury, Christian Rector could be used as the main back-up at defensive end, with Duke Ejiofor emerging as star. Ejiofor and Rector could be the best natural-skilled pass rushers on the team. Picking a true 3-4 DL, will be quite different from what the Texans have been doing lately: converting talent to fit their schemes. Rector has the power and speed to be strong against run. His quickness, finesse, and power can be valuable in the passing game. As a former basketball player in high school, he definitely has the footwork to improve his pass rushing skills.

Sixth Round Selection at 194th Pick  – OL Kendall Baker – Georgia

Measurables – Height: 6’5”, Weight: 305lbs., 40 Yard Dash Time: 5.27

Baker currently plays Left Guard for Georgia, but with his size and lateral speed, he can easily move to a Tackle spot. At tackle, his lean frame and quickness could be used as a swing tackle or as depth for the Texans. He plays very aggressively and has a strong punch to run, stopping defensive tackles from getting to the ball carrier. Following Head Coach O’Brian’s philosophy for the O-line, he has the versatility to play Guard, as well. He will have to add some weight on his frame to play inside. Running backs can find holes when they run his direction, but he will need work to get his strength where he needs to be to handle NFL-level talent.     

Sixth Round Selection at Pick 237th – OL Dewrin Gray – Maryland

Measurables – Height: 6’4”. Weight: 336lbs. 40 Yard Dash Time: 5.25:

Derwin Gray is big, stout offensive lineman. Gray has shown the ability to play Guard and Tackle. He run blocks well, has excellent movement for man of his size, and was once a starter at LT for Maryland. Early in his college career, Gray showed he could play the LT position. Gray’s true position for NFL coaches is at guard with his wide frame and powerful first step in the run game. He blows off defenders to make running lanes for his running backs. An offensive lineman with his natural skills and size could have a long-term home on a roster with work and great effort.

The Texans have some holes in their roster that need to be addressed. This draft class should be able fill some of their needs and contribute.  During the free agency period, there will be some players added and lost to fit the needs of the team. Some of these prospects could see the field starting Day One. With the new additions, the Texans should improve their team and push further in the playoffs in 2019.

Source: fanspeak.com

What did the Texans Get in Demaryius Thomas?

On Tuesday, October 30th, hours before the NFL trade deadline was set to expire, the Texans acquired five-time Pro Bowl selection, Demaryius Thomas, from the Denver Broncos. It needs to be said, all of this is pending a physical before it’s official. Assuming Thomas passes the physical, he’ll join the Texans, who, coincidentally are scheduled to travel to Denver to take on Thomas’ former team, err, current team. I have no clue until after the results of the physical.

Does Thomas even fly to Houston for the physical? Seems redundant. What if he fails the physical? Is this the reverse Robert Horry-Matt Bullard trade? Rockets fans will remember when Horry and Bullard were traded for Sean Elliott. Elliott failed the physical, so, Horry and Bullard returned to Houston as the trade was voided. Horry became more aggressive and the rest is history.

Okay, obviously, I got a little sidetracked with nostalgia. Assuming Thomas passes the physical and joins the Texans, the question moves to “How will it work out?” We could turn to Twitter where there is tons of instant reaction from people that quickly Google stats and records, but what if you wanted to dig deeper and ask “What’s the whole story?” I’m not sure if I can get into the entire story, but I’ll look at some areas of concerns and other areas of optimism regarding Thomas the Texan. 

The first question is always: compensation. The Texans will receive Demaryius Thomas and will flip spots in the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft with the Denver Broncos, along with sending Denver the Texans’ 2019 fourth round pick. Flipping seventh round picks is a footnote on this deal and is basically the equivalent of the pickle that they include with the packaging of your sandwich order at most delis. The meat of the deal is obviously, the fourth-round selection.

Fourth-round selections are usually viewed as developmental players with backup potential, special teams, and/or potential ability to become a starter. Demaryius Thomas is a needed puzzle piece, an upgrade over the current roster choices, and a no-brainer for a team that is in the thick of the playoff race in the AFC and looks to move into a stranglehold position on the AFC South, with the Broncos, basically, pulling out the white flag and sending Thomas to their opponent for this week.

So, not only do the Texans get an extended break after their Thursday Night win over the Dolphins, they now find an above-average starter who will be an instant weapon for the young quarterback, Deshaun Watson, who gets the most out of every player. That will sound like music to the ears of Demaryius Thomas, who has lived the inverse career of his new teammate, DeAndre Hopkins, to this point.

While Hopkins played with guys that would be great in the CFL, he didn’t get a franchise quarterback until 2017, and yet, he still produced. The question has been asked, what would Hopkins’ numbers look like if he had a quarterback like Deshaun Watson throughout his career?  Well, look no further than Demaryius Thomas’ early career success. After playing for the best regular season quarterback of all-time, Peyton Manning, Thomas received passes from the scraps of NFL quarterbacks, which rivaled the level of passers that Hopkins saw B.D. (Before Deshaun.) 

In the Case of Keenum (apologies) and Brock Osweiler, they received the same inconsistency and still performed, even if it was not at their peak.

We can delve into the financials of the deal a little later, but with all of the talk of Thomas losing a step and falling off, I was curious as if this was “group think” based on lack of production or factual. To try to form a researched opinion, I have compared the stats that Demaryius Thomas put up within the seasons in which Peyton Manning was the quarterback primarily, as opposed to when he wasn’t. Is the influx in numbers more about the accuracy of the pass, protection, etc.? Or has Demaryius Thomas truly lost a step at age 30?

Demaryius Thomas

2010 -  22 receptions  -  39 targets  -  283 yards  -  12.9 apc  -  2 TDs

QBs  -  Kyle Orton / Tim Tebow (Rookie year for DT and only played in 10 games)

2011 -  32 receptions  -  70 targets  -  551 yards  -  17.2 apc  -  4 TDs

QBs  -  Kyle Orton / Tim Tebow  (Missed first 5 games of the season)

2012 -  94 receptions  -  141 targets  -  1,434 yards  -  15.3 apc  -  10 TDs

QBs  -  Peyton Manning

2013 -  92 receptions  -  142 targets  -  1,430 yards  -  15.5 apc  -  14 TDs

QBs  -  Peyton Manning

2014 -  111 receptions  -  184 targets  -  1,619 yards  -  14.6 apc  -  11 TDs

QBs  -  Peyton Manning

2015 -  105 receptions  -  177 targets  -  1,304 yards  -  12.4 apc  -  6 TDs

QBs  -  Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler both split the season almost evenly

2016 -  90 receptions  -  144 targets  -  1,083 yards  -  12.0 apc  -  5 TDs

QBs  -  Trevor Siemian / Paxton Lynch

2017 -  83 receptions  -  140 targets  -  949 yards  -  11.4 apc  -  5 TDs

QBs  -  Trevor Siemian / Paxton Lynch / Brock Osweiler

2018 -  36 receptions  -  56 targets  -  402 yards  -  11.2 apc  -  3 TDs

QBs  -  Case Keenum (through 8 games)

If we are saying that Thomas lost a step because of the lack of production this season, then we would have to say that he lost that step after 2014. He was 27 years old after that season. Is it perhaps more believable that when Peyton Manning declined during the 2015 season and Brock Osweiler started over half of the games, that the decline may have come from horrific quarterback play? 

After being inactive in a combined 11 games over his first two NFL seasons, Thomas is the NFL active Ironman at the wide receiver position with 115 consecutive games played. The next closest is Golden Tate with 102, who, oddly enough, was also traded on Tuesday. Tate went to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a 2019 third round pick.

article-jayson-pic

Thomas is also the NFL Ironman at the receiver position for consecutive starts, with 104. He almost doubles the next closest on the list, and almost quadruples the player who is third on the list.  

article-jayson-pitcure2

DeAndre Hopkins would come in at number two on this list if he hadn’t sat out a meaningless Week 17 game against the Colts at the end of last season. Going into that game, Hopkins had started every game of his career since entering the NFL. He was 79 of 79. He’s currently started 87 of a possible 88 games in his career.

It’s easy to see why Brian Gaine, Bill O’Brien, and the Texans decided to add Demaryius Thomas, opposite Hopkins. In Thomas, the Texans may not have added a replacement that displays Will Fuller’s 4.3 speed, but one strength Thomas has over Fuller is being able to stay on the field, and he does that better than anyone at his position.

After watching a little bit of film on Demaryius Thomas from the 2018 season, I believe that he’ll be able to fill a role similar to what Sammy Watkins provided for Kansas City against the Broncos last week. 

While it’s true that Thomas may not take the top off in the same manner as Fuller, there are several other areas that he can contribute in immediately:

- Versus Off-man, he’ll thrive in hitches and rolling outs.

- He can still kill with a double move to get over the top. (Watch late 2nd quarter vs. Jets where the safety was dead, but gets away with a blatant two-handed hit to the chest of Thomas to slow momentum enough to stop the would-be walk-in touchdown.)

- He can find dead spots in the zone with ease.

- He has good physical separation at the top of the route.

- In all seriousness, he is now one of the Texans’ best blockers. He can inline on down blocks like an extra tight end to assist with the running game, and he can throw off defenses with the personnel grouping.

- Slant and drags: my evaluation on Deshaun Watson coming out of college mentioned that his number one strength when throwing is the quick, accurate slant. The 6’3 - 230 pound Thomas will thrive on this, and drags underneath with physical yards after catch.

- Texans’ red zone struggles will receive a boost with another big target that can make contested catches, despite struggles with drops. He’ll also assist with blocking on quick screens, run routes, and down blocks from the slot.

After the brief film study, digging around on drop of production and thinking through his possible fit with the Texans, I would easily say that this was a no-brainer for the Texans. I would go even further by saying that I would be shocked if he’s not extended with the Texans or at the very least play through the 2019 season with the Texans.

If I were to have one concern with Thomas and his immediate fit, it would be in the area of option routes. We’ve seen numerous star receivers struggle in offenses with option routes. It’s not a major concern for me, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some miscues between Watson and Thomas early on.

In my opinion, the Texans just moved up to being the second-best team in the AFC, behind Kansas City and ahead of the Chargers and then the Patriots. The Texans killed two birds with one stone in the acquisition of Thomas as they also weakened the Patriots by not allowing them to pick up the much-needed, big-bodied receiver for the aging Brady.

Instead, Houston’s offense will be 3-D (Deshaun, DeAndre, and Demaryius) the rest of this season.

Too Hot To Handle 2018 - 10 - 19 Episode 34 - Astros Eliminated

Jacob Payne, Trey Campbell, and Keith Quigley

Topics:

04:09 - Astros Eliminated

14:39 - Fan Interference

15:49 - AJ Hinch Outmanaged

21:15 - Barrel Fire Shot Take (Raiders Fire Sale, Rockets Won't Win 50, Deshaun Watson Will Suffer Season-Ending Injury in Jacksonville)

38:00 - Texans/Jags Preview

52:45 - Does Jesus Have Interns?

55:30 - More Upsetting (Threatening Fans Who Interfere or Telling Kids to Shut Up at Sporting Events/ALCS Cheating Scandals)

Jadaveon Clowney Named AFC Defensive Player of the Week

Hide your quarterback! Hide your running back! Hide your first-round offensive lineman! Jadeveon Clowney’s 2018 stat line reads as follows: four tackles for loss, four QB hits, two sacks, one fumble recovery for a touchdown. Clowney is back.

Not all sacks are created equal

Clowney had two sacks on the day, but one of them happened at a critical moment of the game. The play happened in overtime with one minute and fifteen seconds left til the game would end in a tie. The Colts had been moving the ball down the field. It was second down and eleven yards to go at the Colts thirty-six yard line. Clowney, lined up on the right side of the formation, and came around on a twist with Whitney Mercilus.

At six foot five, three hundred and thirty pounds, the highly regarded first lineman taken in the 2018 NFL draft, Quenton Nelson, set his hips to block Clowney. They met at the point of attack. And BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL, Clowney had the POWER to completely bulldoze Nelson out of the way. He closed the gap with bad intentions, and sacked Andrew Luck for a loss of ten important yards. This was important because it created a third and twenty-one situation. The Colts then completed a seventeen-yard pass on the very next play to make it fourth down and four yards to go. The Colts had to make the decision to go for it on fourth and four to have a chance to win the game with a field goal, or punt it away and play for the tie. They chose to go for it, and did not make it. Clowney’s sack gave the Texans just enough breathing room to a secondary that was giving up chunks of yards to back-up receivers.

The rust is off

With off-season knee surgery, and limited participation in the preseason, the rust had been thick for Clowney. He told reporters “I’m coming along, I haven’t done a lot since the beginning of the season, no training camp, all of that, but like I said, this game should be a lot better for me. I’m expecting a lot better game out of myself this week, so just looking forward to the game.” Well, he shed that rust off like Forest Gump shed off his leg braces. He kept Andrew Luck running and running and running.

Like this.