11 observations from the Texans' 37-21 win over the Jaguars

11 observations from the Texans' 37-21 win over the Jaguars
Texans beat the Jags, 37-21. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans began their 2021 campaign with a dominating win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

1. The Texans are so much better coached in almost every facet of the game. There was a low bar from the Bill O'Brien-coached teams, but you can tell how there is a better sense of football in just one game under new head coach David Culley.

2. Tyrod Taylor was cool under pressure and took safe shots as he was getting tackled a few times he got rid of the ball. His mobility is a clear asset, and he kept a few plays alive allowing the offense to make a play.

3. Huge credit is due to offensive coordinator Tim Kelly. The way Kelly operated the offense is exactly how a lightly-talented team should operate. Kelly used all his players in different ways and different formations. He was rarely predictable and gave plenty of different looks for the Jaguars' defense.

4. Brandin Cooks was not able to be defended by anyone in training camp and the preseason. Rarely were the Jaguars able to cover him on Sunday. His chemistry with Tyrod Taylor is clear as he kept plays alive and had two enormous catches that set the Texans up deep in Jacksonville territory.

5. Nico Collins made a rookie mistake in the end zone as he pushed off and drew a flag. The penalty eliminated a chance at seven points and the Texans settled for a field goal. He will learn, but against better opponents than the Jaguars, settling for field goals after a turnover could be costly.

6. The offensive line played well. Sure, Tyrod Taylor had to use his feet a few times to escape pressure, but he was lightly pressured compared to some previous seasons. One of the big positives, much less pressure from up the middle. Marcus Cannon played right tackle rotating with Geron Christian as he works back from his injury.

7. Maliek Collins had two bad penalties. Each of his roughing the passer penalties turned stops on third downs into a new set of downs. The Jaguars would then score on the drive as it continued. The margin for error against better teams will be slimmer, Collins could have easily avoided both of those.

8. The Texans got a little greedy in the second quarter. After stopping the Jaguars on a third down, Houston elected to accept a holding penalty and push the Jaguars back ten yards but repeated the third down. The ensuing play saw one of two roughing the passer penalties give Jacksonville a new set of downs. Don't get greedy over ten yards.

9. It was the first three-interception performance of Trevor Lawrence's life according to the Jaguars quarterback. Lawrence was moving away from pressure and tried to complete a pass on the run and he did, to Houston safety Justin Reid. Lawrence would toss two more bad interceptions.

10. There were still some moments the Jaguars were running free or open against Lovie Smith's defense. Jacksonville had a horrible number of drops and mistimed route combinations. This game could have and likely would have been a lot different, and closer, if Jacksonville could have executed half of those plays. Smith will need to tighten up some of the zone play.

11. Overall, not a lot of warts on this win. A lot of the hopes the team placed in veterans raising their overall execution level as well as taking near full advantage of the mistakes of the Jaguars led to the first victory of the season.

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It's not time to panic, yet. Composite Getty Image.

This is not a column for fanboys or sugarcoating. To this point in the season the Astros stink like rotten eggs. They stink like Angel Hernandez’s umpiring. They stink like Bill O'Brien's general manager skills. The Astros are a bad team right now. That’s notably different from being a bad team. Their 4-10 record is well-earned and it is definitely possible that the Astros’ run of high quality and annual playoff appearances crashes and burns this season. But it’s laughable to declare so after just 14 games of the 162 scheduled have been played.

Last June the Astros had a lousy window in which they went 3-10. In August they had a 4-8 funk. In September it was a 3-9 stretch of collapse. The 2022 World Series Champions had a 3-8 hiccup in April, and a 2-6 blotch overlapping July and August that included getting swept in a three-game series by the then and now awful Oakland A’s.

Now the Astros are back home (Oh No!) for six games, three vs. the Rangers then three with the Braves. The Rangers lead the American League West but are just 7-6, so despite their cellar-dwelling status, the Astros are just three and a half games out of first. A winning homestand is obviously the goal. No, really. 3-3 would be ok, even though that would just about clinch a losing record heading into May.

Mandatory aside: spectacular weather is the Friday night forecast. Stop being stubborn and lame, Astros. Open the roof! I don’t mean just for the postgame fireworks.

On the mend?

The Astros’ track record of downplaying pitching injuries that turned out to be major certainly causes angst as we await Framber Valdez’s return from a sore elbow. If Valdez ultimately winds up out for months, the Astros’ starting rotation is in deep trouble. Even more so if upon the approaching delayed start to his season, 41-year-old Justin Verlander pitches to his age in terms of results and/or durability. However, if Valdez is ok within a month and JV is solid, those two, and Cristian Javier can stabilize the rotation quite nicely.

The Astros started three guys in the last four games who belong in the minor leagues. It was a sad sign of the times that the Astros were reduced to calling up Blair Henley to make the start Monday in Arlington. Except for Rangers fans and Astros haters, it grew uncomfortable watching Henley give up four hits, walk three, record just one out, and wind up charged with seven earned runs. But it’s not Henley’s fault that he was thrust into a role for which he was utterly unqualified.

Last season at Double-A Corpus Christi, Henley’s earned run average was 5.06. Because of the crummy state of the Astros’ farm system, Henley failed up to Triple-A Sugar Land to start this season. After one not good start for the Space Cowboys, “Hey, go get out big leaguers Blair!” Henley turns 27 next month, he is not a prospect of any note. If he never again pitches in the majors Henley forever carries a 135.00 ERA.

But you know what? It was still a great day for the guy. Even if undeserved, Henley made “The Show.” For one day on the Astros’ 26-man roster, Henley made over four thousand dollars. To make him eligible for call up, the Astros first had to put Henley on their 40-man roster and sign him to a split contract. That means that until/unless the Astros release him, Henley’s AAA salary jumps from approximately $36,000 for the season to over 60K.

Lastly, while Henley’s ERA could remain 135.00 in perpetuity, at least he’s no Fred Bruckbauer. In 1961 Bruckbauer made his big league debut and bade his big league farewell in the same game. He faced four batters, giving up three earned runs on three hits and one walk. Career ERA: Infinity! Bruckbauer is the most recent of the more than a dozen pitchers to retire with the infinity ERA.

Spencer Arrighetti’s debut start went much better. For two innings, before it unraveled in a seven run Royals third. Arrighetti has good stuff, but not great stuff. Control has been an issue for him in the minor leagues. Without better command Arrighetti cannot be a plus starter in the majors.

Then there’s Hunter Brown. We could go decades without seeing another pitcher give up nine runs and 11 hits in two-thirds of an inning as Brown did Thursday. It had never happened in MLB history! To this point, Brown is an overhyped hope. ERA last July: 5.92, August: 6.23, September 1 on: 8.74. Three starts into 2024: 16.43.

Jose Abreu watch

It's still early enough in the season that even just a couple of big games can markedly improve a stat line but Jose Abreu continues to look washed up at the plate. Three hits in 37 at bats (.081 batting average), with the most recent hit a questionable official scoring decision. Manager Joe Espada has already dropped Abreu from fifth in the lineup to sixth, then seventh, then eighth. Two more slots down to go, Joe! Continuing to act like Jon Singleton could be a competent bat in the lineup is just silly though.

Catch the weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week now generally goes up after Sunday’s game (second part released Tuesday, sometimes a third part Wednesday) via YouTube: stone cold stros - YouTubewith the complete audio available via Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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