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.

 

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Composite photo by Jack Brame

Former Astros manager Andrew Jay Hinch is on a short list of candidates to become manager of the Detroit Tigers in 2021.

The question is, after being suspended and later fired for his role in the Astros sign-stealing scandal, does A.J. Hinch deserve to manage again in baseball?

It's weird to think because so much has happened in 2020, but Hinch was suspended and fired only nine months ago. His banishment, however, ends in a matter of weeks with the final out of the upcoming World Series. At that point, he will be available to manage the Tigers or any other team. There's a possibility that the Mets are interested. Some were hoping it'd be the Astros, but the Astros are committed to manager Dusty Baker for next year. After that … never say never.

Shortly after getting the Astros ax, Hinch went on MLB TV and apologized for his role in the Astros cheating scandal. Although baseball's investigation said the garbage can banging scheme was "with the exception of (Astros coach Alex) Cora, player-driven and player-executed," Hinch took responsibility as manager and didn't challenge his punishment. No players were punished.

"I still feel responsible and will always feel responsible as the man out front," Hinch said. "As the leader, I was in charge of the team. I put out a statement to apologize. But there is something different to doing it on camera and putting a face to an apology, and saying I'm sorry to the league, to baseball, to fans, to players, to the coaches.

"It happened on my watch. I'm not proud of that. I'll never be proud of it. I didn't like it. But I have to own it. And the commissioner's office made very, very clear that the GM and the manager were in position to make sure that nothing like this happened. And we fell short."

In effect, while Hinch didn't authorize or participate in the sign-stealing scandal, he didn't do enough (really anything) to stop it. He is the rare case of being a guilty bystander.

To be clear, Hinch has not been offered the Detroit manager job. However, he has more experience and more wins under his belt than most of the other candidates being considered.

Hinch's reputation is blemished, but his credentials can't be disputed. During his five years as Astros manager, the team never had a losing season, won 100 or more games three times, including a team record 107 wins last year, made the playoffs three times and won a World Series.

Has baseball forgiven Hinch, and does he deserve another chance to manage in the big leagues? This is America, the land of forgiveness and second chances.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

Hinch knew his team was cheating and didn't do enough to stop it. There's no defense for that. But I think he's paid enough of a price to get back in baseball.

Mike Tyson raped a woman, went to jail, and now he's practically America's sweetheart. Hillary forgave Bill. We not only forgave Confederate leaders, we built schools and statues to honor them. Martha Stewart went to jail for insider trading, now she's back on TV baking crumpets. Ozzy Osbourne was arrested for pee'ing on a monument outside the Alamo, there is no more sacred place in Texas, and now he sells out concerts at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

Pee-wee Herman, well, let's not say what he was caught doing, but he's planning to tour the U.S. celebrating the 35th anniversary of Pee-wee's Big Adventure movie.

Remember, Hinch was suspended for a year. It could have been worse. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to ban people for life. Since becoming the commish, Manfred has permanently banished two people: former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa for hacking into the Astros computer database, and former Atlanta Braves general manager, John Coppolella for signing international players illegally.

Manfred also has temporarily banned Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman for shouting inappropriate comments at female reporters last year. Taubman is eligible to apply for reinstatement after this year's World Series. However, if he commits one more violation of baseball rules, he will be banned for life.

Lifetime bans aren't as unusual as you might think. Since baseball's beginnings in the 1800s, dozens of players, managers and team owners have been banned, mostly, like Pete Rose and the Chicago Black Sox, for gambling-related offenses.

A.J. Hinch copped to his crime, suffered the consequences, now it's time for him to manage a baseball team again. It's not like he'd be landing a plum job with Detroit. The Tigers are out of this year's playoff picture. They lost 114 games last season. And were 64-98 the two years prior. Managing the Tigers will be punishment enough.

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