BALDY'S BREAKDOWN

Brian Baldinger: The evolution of Deshaun Watson starts with this new key offensive element

Image via: NFL YouTube/Screenshot. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Houston Texans are going to play a season without DeAndre Hopkins for the first time since 2012. Hopkins, considered by many to the best wide receiver in the league, was traded to the Arizona Cardinals in a deal that still enrages Texans fans and will continue to do so for a long time. How will life without DeAndre Hopkins impact the production of quarterback Deshaun Watson as the young signal-caller enters his fourth season in the league? NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger recently watched game film with Watson and Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner for season three of Game Film which airs every Saturday at 7:00 on the NFL Network and Baldinger believes that Watson will be able to adapt his game without Hopkins.

"Look - DeAndre was his go-to guy," Brian Baldinger said on The Jake Asman Show on Gow Media's SB Nation Radio. "He had 150 targets last year, third down, fourth down if you need a play, the ball was going to DeAndre, but he's going to have a lot more speed on the field this year. If you look at Brandin Cooks, Kenny Stills, Will Fuller, and even a slot receiver like Randall Cobb that he's never really had before. Speed is going to be the thing."

Can the potential speed that general manager and head coach Bill O'Brien added help make up for the production that Hopkins would account for?

"When teams really tried to take DeAndre Hopkins out it was really easy for Deshaun to decipher that and know where to go with the ball," Baldinger said. "Speed can open up things, it can take the top off defenses, it can keep the safeties deep. It is going to be a different way and I think he will adjust. At first yes, he will miss that safety blanket that DeAndre was but I think as he gets to build some timing with Cooks and with all three receivers together provided that they can stay healthy, I think you'll see a guy that is going to be able to adjust and still play at a high level."

When Baldinger got to sit down with Watson and breakdown film with him, he knew right away what makes Watson such a dynamic young quarterback: his brain.

"When Deshaun Watson came in the room to do the film session with Kurt Warner and me, he changed the room, he just has a presence about him," Baldinger said. "You can feel it. He really explains what he sees. He really sees the field well. He really knows how teams are trying to play him because they play him differently than they do other quarterbacks in that division. He sees it pretty quickly. He's a very difficult guy to trick or disguise things against. He sees what you are doing and knows how to beat it."

You can listen to The Jake Asman Show weekdays from 8 AM-10 AM Central on SB Nation Radio.

You can listen to the full interview with Brian Baldinger below:

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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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