NFL PRESEASON

5 Texans preseason Game 1 prime performers

Duke Ejiofor was all over the field. Zach Tarrant/Houstontexans.com

The 2018 preseason kicked off Thursday night with the Texans claiming a meaningless win in Kansas City, 17-10. The numbers on the scoreboard may not matter, but the effort and playmaking from down the depth chart players is vital to the Texans’ season. There were some big plays from offensive rookies and consistent effort from the young defenders. All of that is a good sign going forward.

Here are my choices for players who had prime performances in the victory.

1. Jordan Akins—Tight End

One of the Texans top draft picks this year, there was high hope that Akins would be able to come in and shine as a receiver. He did exactly what was needed when he scored two touchdowns in the first half. They were his only two catches, but he did exactly what the Texans wanted when they selected him.

The first one was a shallow out route near the goal line. He created separation by running right at the linebacker in coverage, forcing him into the wash. Akins made a good catch on a ball thrown to the front corner where only he could catch it. His second touchdown came on a play the Texans hope to see a lot of this season, a tight end open in the middle of the field with good hands and the ability to make a move with the ball. It’s nice to see this kind of result early in the preseason. It means there is a high ceiling and the opportunity to really help the passing game.

2. Troymaine Pope—Running Back

The biggest offensive contributor of the night, this second-year pro put on a show when Lamar Miller’s night ended. He made huge contributions as a receiver, catching 3 passes for 47 yards, allowing screen passes to be effective at slowing the pass rush. He only averaged 3 yards per carry, but managed good yardage at opportune times. The need for a back to spell Lamar Miller is important and Pope made his case to be that guy.

His biggest play of the night came on a 34-yard screen pass that moved the ball from Houston’s 29-yard line to the Chief’s 37-yard line. It was a huge change of field position that eventually led to the second touchdown of the night.

3. Duke Ejiofor—Outside Linebacker

The sixth round pick made his presence felt all over the field early and often in this game. He’s credited three quarterback hits on the night, but he was applying a lot of pressure when he was in the game. His maximum effort will probably be of interest for special teams because his position already has a solid depth chart, but every team needs a guy with that kind of motor.

4. Julie’n Davenport—Left Tackle

Big position of need for Houston. Big debate about how the position will be filled. Big guy took the first game opportunity to say that the position is going to be his. I was looking closely at Davenport’s play in the first quarter, looking at his fundamentals against a generic pass rush. He passed the eye test.

He was quick into his setup on passing plays, moving his feet with the defender and most of the time keeping him out of his chest. On running plays, he was able to get into the second level and attack the linebackers, giving running backs more room to work with. This is still the preseason, so he will need to keep working hard for more complex pass protection, but game one was a great effort.

5. Dylan Cole—Inside Linebacker

The Texans are lucky, they have a great young pair of inside linebackers with Benardrick McKinney and Zach Cunningham. But if Dylan Cole can continue to make plays like he did against the Chiefs he will add another name to that list. He finished the night with three tackles and two passes defensed. In a preseason game that’s a pretty good stat line. It’s even better that one of those passed he blocked resulted in an interception.

This was a full out effort by Cole to be all over the field. He may not have been credited with more tackles, but just like Ejiofor he made his presence felt. If he has developed significantly in year two he can be useful in creative defensive packages. That’s the kind of thing teams crave when looking at the depth chart.

There you have it. My list of prime performers in the first preseason game. There are three more to go and plenty of chances for more names to show up on the radar. It’s a great start to see this kind of performance from these young guys who are needed at positions that were liabilities last season.

Next week the Texans are home against the 49ers. Look for more guys to step up and get their name on the coaches sheet.

 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome