The Texans are looking good after their eighth straight win.
Following an impressive 34-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans, the Houston Texans are enjoying one of the best seasons in the Bill O'Brien era. Some saw the victory as a welcomed shift from what the normal game script of a Texans win usually is. Seven of the ten games this season have been decided by seven points or less which is pretty much what we have come to expect. Conservative is a tag that has been attached to this Texans team, but tonight was an example of how explosive this team could be. So, what is the Identity of this Houston Texans team?
In most local circles, the Texans game plan has been a broken record for years. Conservative on offense and lean on the defense to bail them out. Run on first and second down to set up a potential long third down. It was not because it was successful in my opinion, but because it was safe. The defense was clearly head and shoulders above the offense, and Bill O'Brien knew it. Sure, he would sell the fans in every press conference about playing complementary football, but that was never the product on the field. The arrival of Deshaun Watson amongst others has changed that narrative. The offense now has the tools necessary to be explosive and bail out the defense on a bad day. The only question now is can Bill O’Brian adjust to what he has on the field.
Per PickingPros.com in 2016 the Texans ranked 29th out of 32 teams in passing yards and 19th in rushing yards per game. With those numbers, you can understand why the Texans would also rank 29th in points per game. When you look at the talent in critical positions back, then I feel it is easy to see why the offense was so inept. Fast forward to 2018 and those numbers change drastically to 19th in passing per game and 15th in rushing yards per game. Those numbers equate to 14th in points per game which is more than enough to work with for one of the top five defenses in the league.
So, If the offense is that much improved why do all their games still feel the same? Obliviously, the big wins over the Titans and Dolphins are the exceptions to the rule. Breaking down the rest of the games, however, much of the game plan looked and felt the same. Run the ball to manage the game to limit the mistakes. That was the conclusion I kept finding myself coming to repeatedly. With that being said, is that the true identity of this Texans team, or is that what Bill O'Brien is comfortable with because it has served him well with lesser talent?
I ask this Question because if you watched either of the two primetime games I mentioned or the even the New England Patriots game from last year, you know that it doesn’t have to be that way. The emerging star that is Deshaun Watson has proven that he is capable of leading a high-powered attack. He has elite weapons at his disposal capable of exploiting a weakness of defense regardless of where it is on the field.
The sting of losing in the postseason still seems fresh, the offseason is now upon us.
The Houston Astros have some work to do if they are to challenge the new champion Boston Red Sox for the title next season. With free agency in full swing, general manager Jeff Lunhow is sure to work the phones to see what’s available, while also trying to retain some of his own free agents. While its no secret that everyone loves the big sexy free agent to walk through their clubhouse doors, the best addition is homegrown talent.
Thanks to the great work by the Astros front office, and scouting department, the answer to some of the offseason questions might be on the way to a ‘Juice Box’ near you. His name is Forrest Whitley. So, to quote the great film G.I. Jane, “Are you ready for the next evolution!”
Forrest Whitley is not only the Astros top prospect. He is the best pitching prospect in all of baseball. There are some that compared him coming out of high school to the very successful pitcher that wears the number 35 for your Houston Astros. Maybe you’ve heard of him? His name is Justin Verlander. The kid is a mountain, standing six foot seven inches tall. That’s a very intimidating dude standing on the bump coming at you with a serious arsenal of pitches including an above average fastball that can touch 98.
He backs that up with a really sharp curveball that will only get better once the spin rate masters in Houston get their hands on him. He completes his repertoire of pitches with a slider with great movement off the plate and a change that really hasn’t been seen too much because quite frankly he hasn’t needed it. Now that you have the tale of the tape lets talk about how he is dominating the Arizona Fall League.
Going into the AFL Whitley was known as a big strikeout guy and had the numbers to back it. He did not disappoint in the desert heat striking out the first seven batters he faced in his first game. Over five games he would strike out 23 batters in 17 1/3 innings pitched. That effort earned him a place in the AFL fall stars game which is reserved for the top performers throughout the entire league.
This upcoming spring training will be huge for Forrest to see if the dominance he displayed in the minors and the Arizona Fall League can translate into big league success. For a team that could be without possibly three pieces of its rotation from last year, his arm will be a premium addition at a very inexpensive price. If he can make the team and be even half of what Justin Verlander is at his age, the Astros should be in a fantastic spot to make another run at a title.
The Houston Rockets secured their first win of the new season on Saturday in Los Angeles defeating the Lakers 124 to 115.
James Harden proved why he is the reigning MVP, taking over down the stretch to keep Lebron James winless on the season. Harden would finish the night with 36 points, seven rebounds and six assists. On a normal day, his efforts would be the headline from a fast-paced, exciting, up-and-down game. Harden, however, would not be who everyone was talking about the morning after this game.
The headline from this game was an eventual brawl that broke out between Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo. What started as a foul committed by Brandon Ingram on James Harden, turned into a massive argument by most of the players on the court over the call. While players and referees were trying to restore order, Rondo reportedly spat on Chris Paul which started a full-fledged fist fight between Rondo and Paul.
By my score card, Paul was ahead on points because he was the busier fighter, landing more power shots. Ingram would try to land a sucker punch late before all three players were ejected. Video evidence then surfaced to support Paul's claim that Rondo spit on him.
The altercation would result in suspensions of four games for Ingram, three games for Rondo, and two games for Paul. The Rockets felt the impact immediately while playing the second night of a back-to-back with the Clippers. They would lose that game 115 to 112, despite another terrific effort from James Harden. While the suspension for Paul is the shortest of the trio involved, I feel the impact is greater because of how much it seems that the Rockets need to gel as a team.
With the new additions to the roster It is clear early on that the team does not have the rotation configured to maximize its effectiveness. Going into the season most talking heads assumed the defense would suffer with the changes to the roster. In examining the first few games, it is actually the offensive efficiency that is lacking. In the Wild West, every loss is magnified; losing to a team like the Clippers shouldn’t happen, given the talent on the roster. However, this team has shown over the past few seasons that bumps in the road here or there can be overcome. One thing is certain, this season’s start is not the one Rockets fans were hoping for.