EARLY EXIT

5 things the Texans need to address in the off-season after losing to the Colts

The Texans could not cover tight ends all season, and it bit them again Saturday. Tim Warner/Getty Images

The off-season is here early for the Texans.

The season ended with a thud on Saturday, as they simply were outplayed in almost every way in a 21-7 playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

The Texans fell in a 21-0 hole early and never recovered. The Colts did not punt until there was less than 11 minutes left in the third quarter. The Texans defense was better in the second half, but when the game was on the line, they had no answers.

In the first half, when it was decided, we saw a lot of familiar problems that haunted Houston all season. The Texans once again had nothing to stop T.Y. Hilton and Andrew Luck. They could not cover the tight end. They got no pressure on the quarterback. The defense could not get off the field on third down. They had untimely bad penalties on both sides of the ball.

On offense, Deshaun Watson and Deandre Hopkins needed to be brilliant, and they were not. Hopkins looked hobbled and had just 37 yards on five catches. Watson completed 29 of 45 passes for 235 yards, one TD and an interception. He rushed for 76 yards on eight carries but was sacked three times and pressured throughout the game.

The result is a roller coaster season that comes to an early end. The Texans looked dreadful in an 0-3 start, then reeled off nine wins in a row before the defense struggled mightily down the stretch.

The Colts move on and will face Kansas City next week. For the Texans, the attention now turns to what the do in the off-season. Here are five things they need to address:

1) Get a legitimate NFL offensive tackle. Two if possible. That was an issue all season, and it needs to be addressed with high draft picks, free agency or even a trade. One big addition can make the entire line better. This is a must before next season or they will get Watson killed. Last year's third-round pick, Martinas Rankin, will likely be an above average guard at some point. With him, Nick Martin, Senio Kelemete, Zach Fulton and Greg Mancz, there is enough to put together a decent interior. The two outside positions, however, HAVE to be upgraded.

2) Revamp the secondary. They need to get faster at cornerback, and find someone who can cover T.Y. Hilton. Jonathan Joseph still understands the game, but he no longer has the coverage skills to be a No. 1 corner. Aaron Colvin was a free agent failure. You could do worse than bring back Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson at safety, but they need at least two new corners. Free agency is the most likely path here.

3) Changes on the coaching staff. Bill O'Brien won't be going anywhere, but he needs to make changes on his staff. It's probably time to let Romeo Crennel ride off into the sunset. He has been an excellent defensive coordinator for a long time, but he is 71 years old, and the game might have passed him by. They never made any changes in how they defended the Colts in particular, and tight ends in general, until the game was decided. There will be some very good defensive minded coaches available that have been head coaches. A new scheme and some new thoughts could do wonders for the Texans. A new voice on the offensive line would not be a bad idea either. An offensive coordinator with head coaching experience could also make Watson even more dangerous.

4) Figure out what to do with Jadeveon Clowney. His contract is up, and he is going to want to be paid Khalil Mack money. Truthfully, he is not worth that. A franchise tag and then a trade is certainly worth considering. Ideally, he would be re-signed, but not in a record-breaking deal.

5) Add another set of wheels in the backfield. Lamar Miller is solid, and maybe D'Onta Foreman fills this role next season. But he missed almost all of 2018 with an Achilles injury and who knows if he will ever be 100 percent of what he was? Some reliable depth would be a welcome addition.

The good news is they are set at the most important position on the roster, quarterback. They are probably OK at wide receiver if Will Fuller can return healthy next season. If not, perhaps Demaryius Thomas will. Keke Coutee has potential if he can stay healthy. They will have enough cap room to make significant additions on both sides of the ball.

But there is a lot to be fixed. And the Colts - who were clearly the better team this year - should be even better next season. Jacksonville might bounce back. Who knows how many more All-Pro type seasons J.J. Watt has left in him? The window for this team is right now and big moves need to be made.

The Texans did not get the job done in 2018, so there will be a lot of work to do in the off-season.

An off-season that started too early.

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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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