Texans GM in the spotlight with the draft approaching

Brian Gaine: All eyes on you at the NFL Draft

Houstontexans.com

Texans GM Brian Gaine is a disciple of the Bill Parcells tree of coaching and football operations. He would rather speak softly, stay out of the public eye and make decisions as necessary without much fanfare or attention. He has done that for most of his career, as the right-hand man to several general managers like Rick Smith, doing the research and dirty work behind the scenes, crunching numbers and reviewing pertinent information. In 2017 he finally got his big break and took the job as Vice President of Player Personnel for the Bills as he was to spearhead the re-build of yet another mediocre roster in Buffalo. Even in his new role, with the big title, it seemed as if he was still waiting for the keys, even though from the outside it looked like he was driving the bus and making the moves for the front office. After a relatively quiet year on the job, Bob McNair and Bill O'Brien came calling, asking him to come back to Houston to replace the guy he once worked for in Smith. Just like that Gaine was headed back to the franchise he helped build for two years, only this time he was going to be front and center, pushing the buttons, pulling the strings and making the moves that hopefully take the Texans to the next level.

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In his first year at the helm, it was pretty uneventful as he was basically doing housekeeping and cleaning up the mess that was left behind by the previous regime. Thanks to a botched move that brought in Brock Osweiler, who was thought to be the quarterback of the future that the team had desperately been searching for, and then the subsequent trade to the Browns that included a top five second round pick as bait to take on the salary and remaining contract, the cupboard was not exactly full. Gaine took a flyer on some journeyman offensive lineman and made a few tweaks here and there while doing his best to salvage a draft that didn't have any high picks and little opportunity to select a franchise changing player, let alone a starter.

Justin Reid and J.J. Watt Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

With that said he did find a diamond in the rough in thirdrd round selection Justin Reid, a first-round talent at safety that somehow slipped down the draft board and right into the Texans hands. Reid has been fantastic, starting 13 games last season and looks to only be getting better as he heads into his second year in the league. Aside from Reid, the new GM got what he paid for and paid the price for the bad moves of the past waiting for his turn to make his mark on the franchise and put his stamp on the personnel that fills out his roster for the upcoming season. That time has come and all eyes are on him starting Thursday night.

Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

After a relatively uneventful free agency period for Gaine and the Texans that saw more players leave than enter the facility on Kirby, the natives are getting restless in H-town and everyone is waiting for some positive and dare I say big-time additions to this team. As the fans watched career Texan Kareem Jackson walk out the door along with former first-round pick Kevin Johnson and veteran safety Tyrann Mathieu, the secondary became a primary concern.

Deshaun Watson Deshaun Watson takes his act to New York. Tim Warner/Getty Images

That would be a priority all by itself but the below average offensive line took a step back last season from the mediocre unit that was in charge of protecting franchise QB Deshaun Watson two years ago. Gaine tried cheap fixes with journeymen and underachievers and got exactly the results you would have expected. He has brought in another batch of recycled veterans to try and fill the many holes left in those two position groups as we all have patiently watched another off-season unfold with little excitement and a lot to be desired. The next big opportunity starts Thursday night with the first round of the NFL Draft. Gaine and his staff have a tall order to fill as they try and use a full compliment of picks to start to rebuild what was lost and add quality starters and depth to a squad that desperately needs them. Let's hope after the festivities in Nashville conclude and all the picks are in, we can start to see the plan in place taking shape and the improvements and additions on the way in the form of promising young talent poised to be valuable contributors sooner rather than later. With seven total picks including four in the top 90 overall, the time is now to make your mark and the appropriate moves, Mr. Gaine.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

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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.

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