The Pallilog

Charlie Pallilo: At least some big names should be on the field for Texans this weekend

J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney should see time. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The third NFL preseason game is typically the least unwatchable of the four. The Texans-Rams game would fill that prescription provided J.J. Watt plays at least a few snaps. There are wackier predictions out there then one suggesting the Texans and Rams could meet in late August, then again in early February in Atlanta. It might take a meeting in Super Bowl LIII for the two quarterbacks taken first overall in the 2016 and 2017 drafts to share the field. The Rams Jared Goff was a bust of a rookie, then with much better coaching and talent around him a breakout star last year. The Texans have less star level talent, so their highest of hopes ride overwhelmingly on Deshaun Watson being healthy and fantastic.

Other than arguably the Jaguars, the Rams were the biggest team story in the NFL last season. After 13 consecutive years without a winning season, the Rams exploded into the highest scoring team in the NFL en route to an 11-5 finish.

Over their 82 seasons as a franchise from Cleveland to California to St. Louis and back to California, the Rams have won 555 games and lost 559. So if they match last season’s 11 wins they’ll climb back over .500 for their history. The only time the Texans’ franchise record has been over .500 was after their inaugural win over the Cowboys in 2002. The quickest the Texans can again get over .500 for their history is by going 16-0 this season, 16-0 next season, and then winning their first four games in 2020. Yeah, it’ll take a while longer.

Ringing it in again

When the Astros scheduled their fourth replica ring giveaway night for this coming Monday, it was not a coincidence that the pick was a Monday night game with the school year underway all across Houston. A game that would otherwise have had thousands of unsold tickets quickly became a sellout. It’s an absolute win-win; the Astros reap some nice additional profits and more fans get the coolest of ballpark giveaways.

Monday darn sure wasn’t picked with the idea that it would be the opener of a huge series with the Oakland A’s who are strongly challenging the Astros for the American League West title. But here we are. It’s late August not late September, but Monday’s game should have the most playoff feel to it of any at Minute Maid Park until the playoffs.

Growing pains

The Astros hoped for help Thursday night from St. Pius High School graduate Kohl Stewart who made a start on the mound against the A’s. Stewart didn’t get the win but his Twins did. In 2013 Minnesota drafted Stewart fourth overall. He had the option of going to play baseball and quarterback at Texas A&M. Aggieland was enticing, but a signing bonus from the Twins of more than four and a half million dollars was more enticing. Stewart was not having a good season in the minors, giving up well over a hit per inning with a 4.47 earned run average split between AA and AAA. Since the Twins’ season is down the drain, they called him up two weeks ago. Three starts in Stewart’s ERA is 6.94.

No shot of watching this

I’m not sure what if any television I’ll be watching come Nov. 23, which this year is the day after Thanksgiving. Could have the Big 12 regular season title on the line that night as Oklahoma plays at West Virginia. The Rockets will be playing at Detroit. I know what I will NOT be watching. Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson in their sure to be overhyped heads up match in Las Vegas. Billed as nine million dollars, winner takes all. In the spirit of Las Vegas, the best bet is it’s not really winner takes all. Sponsorship money, appearance fees, and other revenue streams. Former supermodel Linda Evangelista once said she wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning for less than 10-grand per day. You think Tiger or Phil would let a bunch of others profit while one of them gets zero? If so, can I interest you in some Las Vegas oceanfront property?

Nine million bucks is a notable chunk even to guys each worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but the selling of this as some golf ballsy stress test? Neither Tiger nor Phil is risking a penny. Worst of all, Woods-Mickelson will air on pay-per-view. Come on! And no thanks.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Urban Meyer sure seems the opposite of an honorable man. But hey, great football coach!  2. Big time college sports has cheating galore, but I’d still be surprised if Jimbo Fisher and his new A&M staff were brazen and stupid enough to have done what ex-Ag Santino Marchiol alleges.  3. Best ever palindromically surnamed NFL players: Bronze-Doug Harrah Silver-Jim Otto Gold-John Hannah (all o-linemen!)



 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

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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