COUNTDOWN TO THE SEASON

Cody Stoots: The 11 most important Texans not named Deshaun Watson

DeAndre Hopkins might be the most important Texan not named Watson. Tim Warner/Getty Images

Obviously, Deshaun Watson is the most important player on this team. There won't be any debate. They're sunk without him. So these Texans players find themselves as the most important Texans players after QB1:

1) DeAndre Hopkins

Hopkins is the most important Texans player behind Deshaun Watson. His 94 receptions, 1,370 yards, and 10 touchdowns is the Hopkins average if you take out the year he couldn't get on the same page with Brock Osweiler. He is QB-proof, again except for Brock, having had success with every quarterback he has ever played with. He was amazing with Watson last year and should be even better this year. He could put up numbers as impressive or more than last year's figures. The offense is built around Watson but the passing attack is built around Hopkins. The defense though will need their own Mr. Consistent...

2) Jadeveon Clowney

Clowney finds himself constantly one step away from a game-breaking play. Those other times he is terrorizing the rushing attacks of other teams. The pass rushing is almost to an elite level for him. The new deal lingers and if for some reason the money isn't on the table making it hurt at the next negotiation will be Clowney's goal. If the new deal is in place then a happy Clowney loves football and is ready to dominate. 

3) Whitney Mercilus

Him being this high on this list might surprise some but it shouldn't. Two seasons ago in J.J. Watt's absence, the defense found themselves as one of the best in football and Mercilus was one of the main reasons. With 2018 being the next to last year on his contract think of this upcoming season as a contract year for Mercilus. His current deal has been a steal for the Texans. A huge year could see Mercilus head to the negotiating table with a chance to make sure he finishes his career well paid and as a member of the Texans. 

4) Will Fuller 

Fuller has to have a full and competitive season for the Texans to be one of the best teams in the AFC. He was fantastic in his limited work with Watson totaling all seven of his touchdowns and 125 more yards working with Watson than after the quarterback's season ended. He is there to create a matchup problem for defenses and take some pressure off Hopkins but he will need to evolve. Fuller can't be a one trick pony and will need to be a complete wideout to help the Texans establish their offense. 

5) Aaron Colvin 

Colvin and his role with the team will help determine how the secondary is going to approach most opponents. He has been one of the best slot corners in the game but he wasn't brought over to be just a slot corner for the Texans. Colvin will need to be a consistent playmaker, on and off the box score, to make sure the Texans can stymie opposing offense for just that one extra moment to allow a hopefully healthy pass rush to earn sacks and disrupt pass catchers. He's easily the most talented cornerback on the roster. 

6) Tyrann Mathieu

The Honey Badger has played safety the most of all the safeties on the Texans. Let that sink in. Now realize as far as starting safety experience he will outrank the next few names combined. Kareem Jackson is now at safety as is Treston Decoud. Corey Moore was demoted last season after the New England game. Justin Reid is a rookie. The constant comments that Mathieu would focus heavily on safety now make more sense. Mathieu will have to be an immediate impact player for Romeo Crennel's defense. 

7) Lamar Miller

The No. 1 RB had no 100-yard rushing games last season. He also checked in with a career-low 3.7 yards per attempt. The offensive line was not effective last year so that has to contribute to it but Miller is also quickly approaching the time in his career when most running backs break or lose a step. The heaviest workload of his career what his first with Houston and last year wasn't good. Foreman is injured and the rest of the running backs are unremarkable. It is on Miller's shoulders to get this rushing attack going. 

8) Ryan Griffin

He is really important and don't you dare laugh at this. The Texans face a premier corner in six of their first nine games. Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Janoris Jenkins, Tre'davious White, and the Jaguars duo all show up in the first two months of the season. With those guys slowing down DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller the focus of the other secondary members the Texans will have to make sure Griffin gets going. He has played five seasons and the next three guys on the depth chart combine for two, with Stepehen Anderson having those two and the two rookies Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas behind him. If Griffin isn't good it will be hard for Watson to get going early in the season. 

9) J.J. Watt

Watt is of course very important. If he is good, the Texans should dominate people on defense. If he isn't good then the looming cloud of a forgotten Watt will be there all season. Watt and his teammates will answer questions of why the old Watt isn't on the field. Also, there isn't a lot of good depth behind him. He needs to be good, take up some of the important snaps on defense, and not be the Watt of old but be a good player. 

10) Benardrick McKinney

He played better in 2016 than he did last season but he still earned a huger contract this offseason. He can't be just good enough for the Texans anymore. Yes, Zach Cunningham and Dylan Cole compose a decent amount of talent behind him, but McKinney has the significant experience. He is reliable but the Texans didn't pay for their middle linebacker to be reliable. If McKinney isn't better than 2017 the Texans and the fans watching him might be thinking buyer's remorse. 

11) Julién Davenport

He makes the list because he is the only member of this turned over offensive line without some significant experience. There isn't a backup plan for left tackle. The Texans have focused on him and with or without earning it he takes over at left tackle for better or worse. The leash won't be short either. The positive for him is no elite pass rushers show up early on the schedule. He has six weeks to get comfortable before the Jaguars terrifying defense shows up.

So there you have it. The most important Texans after Deshaun Watson. Watson's injury would be devastating and sink the team but the Texans don't have the talent to afford one of these key players to miss significant time. 

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Springer had two homers Sunday

Springer helps lift Astros to series win over D-backs

Photo by Bob Levey / Getty Images

With a win on Saturday to tie the series 1-1, the Astros took the field at Minute Maid Park for the last time of 2020 on Sunday. A victory would give them the series against Arizona and move them one step closer to securing one of the two playoff spots for the AL West's highest-record finishing duo. Here are the quick highlights from Sunday's rubber game:

Final Score: Astros 3, Diamondbacks 2.

Record: 27-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-1, 2.41 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Junior Guerra (1-2, 3.04 ERA).

Urquidy goes six while allowing two runs

After three scoreless innings on both sides, Arizona would start the scoring in the top of the fourth. They would load the bases with no outs against Jose Urquidy, getting back-to-back singles to start the frame before Urquidy issued a walk. He would get out of the jam with just one run allowed, though, thanks to a timely double play and a flyout to end the inning.

The D-backs ambushed Urquidy in the top of the fifth, getting a leadoff solo homer to double their lead to 2-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings while allowing just the two runs. His final line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 90 P.

Springer takes it into his own hands

After tagging him with eight runs on August 4th in Arizona, the Astros were unable to figure out Madison Bumgarner on Sunday, going scoreless over his five innings on the mound. They went to work against Arizona's bullpen in the bottom of the sixth, starting with a near-conventional homerun turned inside-the-park homer for George Springer to start the inning, cutting the lead in half 2-1.

They went on to load the bases with two outs but would strand all three runners to keep it a one-run game heading to the seventh. Andre Scrubb was first out of Houston's bullpen and had a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. In the bottom of the seventh, Springer tied the game with his second homer in as many innings, this time over the right-field fence, making it 2-2.

Astros grab the late lead, take the series

Scrubb would retire one more batter, getting a groundout to start the top of the eighth before Houston moved on to Blake Taylor to face the top of Arizona's order. He would keep it a tie game, working around a two-out infield single to end the inning.

Houston would get the go-ahead run in scoring position in the bottom of the eighth, with Alex Bregman getting hit by a pitch then moving to second on a walk to Michael Brantley. They'd go on to load the bases with another walk and one out, setting up a go-ahead sac fly by Carlos Correa to take a 3-2 lead.

That presented another chance for a save for Ryan Pressly, which he would notch as the Astros would take the final two games of the three-game set to win the series. The win moved them up to 27-26 on the year, keeping them a leg up on the Mariners for second place in the AL West.

Up Next: Seven games remain in Houston's regular season, all on the road, with a three-game series in Seattle against the Mariners and then a four-game set in Arlington against the Rangers. The opener in Seattle will get underway at 8:10 PM Central on Monday and features the pitching matchup of Marco Gonzalez (6-2, 3.49 ERA) for the Mariners and Lance McCullers Jr. (3-2, 4.87 ERA) for the Astros.

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