THE PALLILOG

Charlie Pallilo: Texans will go as far as their health will carry them

Deshaun Watson's health is the biggest key for the Texans. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Hi. It’s been a while. Hey, I used one vacation day in 10-plus months so summertime was my time to catch up on time down. Besides, while I love living in Houston, leaving for any place cooler in July is a smart play. The Texans aren’t in West Virginia for training camp again this year for the scenery. And on we go…

There is a ten-ton elephant of an issue in the room that impacts the Texans’ 2018 prospects more than do the next five issues combined. Will Deshaun Watson stay healthy? In four years as Head Coach Bill O’Brien’s offense has ranged from mediocre to atrocity, except for during Watson’s five game explosion last season. The guy was torching the NFL, then Watson suffered his second ACL tear and the Texans’ offense and season were as hopeless as former General Manager Rick Smith’s typical third round draft picks. New GM Brian Gaine imported multiple question marks as possible new offensive line starters. The answers from the likes of Senio Kelemete and Seantrel Henderson might not be great, but they can’t be worse (right?) than what the Texans put out most of last season. Watson will not survive having to run around and make chicken feathers out of chicken you-know-what on a series-in series-out basis. A healthy Watson is not going to come close to having the Texans average the 39 points per game they did during his five game phenom run (remember the Texans went 2-3 in those games). But one can conceive a 10 or 11 win thrill ride with him.

A horrifying reminder that Brandon Weeden is Watson’s backup.

If right now you could lock in a 14 game, nine sack regular season from J.J. Watt, would you take it? I would in a heartbeat.  After playing every game of his first five seasons, the majority of the time at an all-time great’s level, Watt’s last two years have been a disaster. He is now 29 years old. After two major back operations and last year’s horrible leg injury Watt is unlikely to approach being the dominant force he once was. In the four and a half games he played before the injury last season Watt was very average. Sacks are far from everything in judging a defensive end, but they darn sure aren’t nothing. Nothing was Watt’s sack output. Was he just more slowly than desired rounding back into form, or did the cruel combo of traumatic injury and Father Time shove him irretrievably past his prime? If superduperstar Watt is a goner, a merely above average J.J. can still add value to a defense that needs it.

Turning back the clock

In 2008, the Rockets adding Carmelo Anthony would have been spectacularly exciting. In 2018, well… You may know that I am a Syracuse University alum, so Carmelo will always hold a verrrry warm place in my heart for the national championship he was primarily responsible for delivering for the Orange back in 2003.

Anthony joining the Rockets is interesting for the “let’s see how this works” aspect of it. Any idea that Carmelo, Chris Paul, or anyone else may hold that the Rockets now have a Big 3 is ridiculous. Anthony is 34 years old, has never been noted as a defender, and for his career is a mediocre 3-point shooter. He could be a valuable role player, but will he accept the role? Melo chafed, and did not thrive in a complementary role alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George for Oklahoma City this past season. Anthony’s play in the Thunder’s first round playoff loss to Utah was downright awful.

Frankly, James Ennis is probably the more significant Rockets acquisition, because if Daryl Morey turns out to have successfully replaced the 3 and versatile D roles vacated by Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah A Moute’s free agency departures, it’s Ennis with the more matching skills.

Add in the Rockets not reaching contractual accord, yet, with Clint Capela, and this has not been a stellar offseason. If Capela really rejected five years $85 million, he needs to get a grip. There was basically no market for him in restricted free agency. If Capela signs the one year 4.75 million dollar tender offer he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. That could be a big uh oh. The Rockets’ chemistry, mojo, esprit de corps was so magnificent last season. It will be difficult to match in 2018-19.

Lots on the Astros next week. And everyday I’m on the radio show 11-1.

Buzzer Beaters

 1. Don’t panic yet, but Carlos Correa having back issues at 23 is definitely troubling.  2. I love Alex Bregman’s fire (and talent), but he was wrong about the fan interference call in Denver Wednesday night.  3. Best summer fruits: Bronze-Blueberries Silver-Honeydew Gold-Watermelon

 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING

Not my job: Texans no match for the Ravens

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Texans fell to the Ravens 33-16 in a game they had a shot at winning. Most of you reading this will probably think I'm crazy for saying that. I assure you, I meant what I said. One of the reasons they didn't was because Bill O'Brien made a few questionable decisions that cost this team.

The first was the 4th & 1 decision. Deciding to go for it was bad enough. They were down 3-0 near the end of the first quarter with the ball on their own 34-yard line. This is not a situation that calls for a gamble or statement play. The play call itself was okay I guess: a play action bootleg with two short options. It was read and played perfectly by the Ravens defense. Deshaun Watson had nowhere to go with the ball and had to throw it at Darren Fells' back before getting sacked. That led to a quick Ravens touchdown and an early 10-0 deficit. I seriously think he has PTSD after that playoff loss to the Chiefs when it comes to fourth down calls. Bumbling Bill strikes again!

When they got the ball back, they scored a touchdown thanks to more play action passes and pre-snap motion. It was as if Bumbling Bill realized his offensive line was outmatched by the front seven they're opposing. Sure Watson is mobile and looks like a magician escaping sacks, but misdirection helps throw the defense off and keeps Watson from breaking into 177,000,000 pieces. Oh, and the quick reads were a good idea as well. Too bad Bumbling Bill went away from that and opted for longer developing routes. Or will he blame it on Timid Tim Kelly? Or was Waiting Watson holding onto the ball too long? I blame all three.

Also, can we stop starting drives with the predictable run, run, pass combo please? First down should be play action rollout with Watson having the ability to choose to run if it's there. More run/pass/option plays need to be called as well. Incorporate more things that we saw when Watson was on his way to winning rookie of the year before his knee was sacrificed for the Astros.

Credit where it's due: the end of the first half to get a field goal with a minute and change left was good to see. Typically, these situations tend to make Bumbling Bill come out. I liked the quick slant to Cobb with no timeouts. They were able to spike the ball and get the field goal up.

The game was still within reach at 23-13 in the beginning of the fourth quarter. On a 4th & 1, they gave up a 30 yard touchdown run on a direct snap to Mark Ingram. I saw gaps on both sides of the defensive line pre-snap. Sure enough, Ingram got a lead block from the Ravens human plough of a fullback and that effectively put the nail in the coffin at 30-13. I know the tendency is to quarterback sneak or run up the middle, but don't leave gaps along the defensive line trying to stack the middle. First time defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver will take the L on this one.

Overall, I'll give O'Brien and his coaching staff a C- this game. Mistakes were made that could've cost them a legit shot at winning, but the Keke Coutee fumble return for a touchdown wasn't their fault. The play calling menu was brought to us this week by Craft Pita via the "What's Eric Eating" podcast. Tune in next week for another "Not my job!"

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