Plenty to work on for a few players hoping to make the team

11 Texans-Packers observations

11 Texans-Packers observations

Observations from the Texans preseason opener against the Packers.

Coutee's injury

The Texans might have escaped a serious mishap with Keke Coutee their standout slot wide receiver. He later tweeted, then deleted, he believed his injury wasn't serious. He is a key player for this offense so his health is a huge story going forward.

Crockett claws for more

There is still hope for the young players trying to make the Texans at running back. Duke Johnson only solidifies the second spot, not the third. Crockett had some solid runs.

Max it out

Max Scharping handled himself well in his return home. Plenty of friends of family and he had some nice push on the right side. He looked better today than he has in some practices and he picks things up quick. I am excited to see what he looks like against a stout Lions front in joint practices.

Busted but balling

Tyron Johnson was able to cobble together some catches on some not so good plays for the offense. The above play was a broken one but he kept his focus. Later he came back and won a rep to catch another. He has had a solid camp.

Hot and cold for Tytus Howard

Howard played a ton at left guard even after the starter tonight at left tackle, Matt Kalil, left the game. He did ok. Some nice reps but he had a goal line whiff. When he played left tackle he didn't allow much pressure but one play didn't look great. He has played so much more guard than tackle this seems ambitious to now ask him to play tackle.

Lonnie gets beat

One of the Green Bay touchdowns came at the expense of rookie cornerback Lonnie Johnson. The Packers wideout had plenty of space to work and Johnson just misplayed it a little as the Packers player came down with the score.

Mancz hobbles off

Backup center Greg Mancz was injured and didn't return to the game for the Texans. He has been playing a ton with presumed starter Nick Martin also hurt. Zach Fulton is the team's third center. Mancz has not had a very solid camp. This team needs Martin to get back and play well.

Decent start for Roby

Bradley Roby had some good work in the game. The Packers were able to complete a few on him but he also came up and made some stops. He sticks with guys he will just need to make a play or two.

Akins plays well

With no Jordan Thomas and no Kahale Warring the bulk of the fun tight end work went to Jordan Akins who had a couple of catches. He made a couple of defenders miss and fought for a first down. He's a solid player.

Higdon's here

Karan Higdon had some nice plays tonight on special teams and running the ball. There is a long way to go as he is behind after missing some work in the spring but there's a chance for him.

It's not nothing

I get it is preseason and the games don't matter. Bill O'Brien's challenge was a horrible challenge and in a real game would have been terribly costly. It is practice for something like that as well and the Texans, again, bungled it.

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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