Every-Thing Sports

Adding speed was a priority for the Texans, but there are drawbacks

Composite photo by Jack Brame

Last season, the Kansas City Chiefs proved speed kills. They hoisted the Lombardi Trophy on the back of a team built around an offense whose foundation is speed. They nicknamed their offense, or skill position players, the 'Legion of Zoom' because of said speed. No matter how big a hole they dug themselves into, that speed and explosive offense could dig them out of. The Texans saw it firsthand in their playoff loss. After being up 24-7, they ended up losing 51-31. The Chiefs repeated this feat in similar fashion against the 49ers in the Super Bowl. Going into the 4th quarter down 20-10, they rattled off 21 unanswered points to win 31-21.

The NFL is a copycat league. Suffice to say, Texans Grand Poobah Bill O'Brien decided this offseason to attempt to replicate that model. While this is different from their usual Patriots love fest, it is still an attempt to copy another team's identity instead of establishing their own. Whenever a team tries to replicate what another team has done to be successful, they often fail. The question is: do the Texans have enough speed on offense to cause mismatches and be just as explosive as the Chiefs?

Quarterback position is close

Patrick Mahomes has proven himself via winning league MVP and then Super Bowl MVP in consecutive years. He's accomplished enough to warrant the "face of the league" talk he's received. Deshaun Watson seems to be on the verge of being the Peyton Manning to Mahomes' Tom Brady. He may not have as talented of a roster, but he's enough of an enigma himself to elevate the guys around him. Watson is the kind of guy that wants it so bad, he'll play well and win in spite being held back due to his coach and GM being a buffoon.

Receivers are meh

When looking at the receiving corps around the league, the Texans' group is average at best. Too many guys with questionable injury history, or their best days seem to be behind them...or both. I saw a tweet earlier that embodies the gist of this article. It talked about the speed at receiver the Texans have and displayed their 40 times. I quoted it and said it was from their respective combines. Not to say this group isn't still explosive, but they all have their issues. This group lacks a true top dog and doesn't have anyone that sparks real fear in defenses. They have potential, but that same potential gets coaches and GMs fired. Let's not even address the tight end position. The Texans have thrown spaghetti at the wall there, whereas other teams have invested wisely.

Running backs?

Duke Johnson was underused last season. David Johnson hasn't been good since 2016. This is the combo the Texans are counting on going into next season. While I believe they can be good enough to get the job done, I'm not sure. A trade for a more stable and solid vet would make me more at ease (Leonard Fournette). However, given the talent at other positions, the running backs may only serve as the parsley flakes in the full meal presentation. Meaning they're a compliment, not a focal point.

Offensive line

Trading for and extending Laremy Tunsil came at an extremely high cost. Not to mention spending a 1st and a 2nd round pick on two other starters on the line last offseason. This line is coming together and could prove to be one of the better young lines in the league. They are athletic and can be nasty. This is the second most important position group on this side of the ball behind Watson. If they play well and up to their collective potential, I see great things happening. However, if they fail to live up to that potential, look forward to an arduous season.

There's so much hanging in the balance when it comes to this team's offensive explosion. All the what ifs can be put to bed if the main triggermen (Watson and O'Brien) are in sync. If O'Brien can tap into Watson's next level abilities, this offense can be scary. With the way things have gone the last couple years, things may be very average. I pray I'm right on the former and that the latter is a thing of the past. This offense reminds me of that awesome v6 engine with all the potential in the world. All it needs is a few add-ons and it could run the racetracks for years to come.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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