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Cody Stoots: 11 observations from Texans-49ers preseason action

Deshaun Watson played one series. Houstontexans.com

1. Only a handful of what will likely be starters played for the Texans Saturday night. J.J. Watt, Tyrann Mathieu, DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Johnathan Joseph and Benardrick McKinney were among the players held out. Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus also sat out for the defense and Keke Coutee is still out for the offense.

2. Deshaun Watson was in for one series leading the Texans on a scoring drive. His first pass was a quick decision to Bruce Ellington who took it 37 yards for a big gain. Later Watson was a bit behind Braxton Miller leading to Miller getting hit and an incompletion. There was a clear emphasis on quick stuff as Ellington caught another quick one. Ryan Griffin hauled in a big play as he came across the defense and Watson found him for 22 yards. A few more quick strikes had the Texans on third and goal from the one. 

3. With third and goal from the one, the Texans attempted to run a quick play to Bruce Ellington but Troymaine Pope appeared to run the wrong route disrupting the play and resulting in an incompletion. The Texans went for it on fourth down and Watson found Ellington just past the goal line to score the touchdown. Watson seemed to be behind his receivers on a couple of throws but it wasn't anything egregious. 

4. Duke Ejiofor showed up early and often for the Texans but in a different way from last week. He had two special teams tackles and sniffed out a reverse by Dante Pettis, son of Astros third base coach Gary Pettis, for a big tackle for a loss. The pass rushing wasn't as present as last week, however, but, he went against the 49ers first team for a good amount of reps. 

5. Kevin Johnson had a scary moment early in the game. Marquise Goodwin blew past him for a big gain on third down and as Johnson gave chase he stumbled smashing his head into the turf. He was on the ground for a long while and it appeared as though they would cart him out but he popped up and walked off under his own power. He did not return with a reported concussion. 

6. Aaron Colvin had a tough couple of reps tonight against the 49ers slot specialist. Second-year wide receiver Trent Taylor shook Colvin in the red zone for a touchdown beating him by a good margin. Taylor again beat Colvin for a first down on another drive hauling in a Jimmy Garoppolo dart. Colvin was an ace at the slot assignment for Jacksonville last year and has made a lot of good plays in practice. It was likely just a bad day but something to monitor next week against the Rams. 

7. Justin Reid had a bounce-back performance with still some room to grow. It appeared Reid, Zach Cunningham, and Aaron Colvin had a miscommunication allowing 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk to scamper almost untouched for a 24-yard pickup. Reid looked to get lost in the play but that was seemingly his only big mistake. Later, Reid diagnosed a play quickly and blasted the ball carrier stopping them short of a first down. He has flashed plenty of talent but will need to correct the small mistakes. He will be asked to play early in his career a good amount with Kareem Jackson and Tyrann Mathieu being the only safties ahead of him on the depth chart. 

8. Sammie Coates and Braxton Miller had a tough night in their competition to solidify a spot on the team. Coates had a couple of early snags linking up with Brandon Weeden. He also returned a kickoff. In the second quarter, his night ended as Weeden threw him a high pass that went through his hands and he was drilled by the 49ers defender. He wouldn't return due to a concussion. Miller didn't get a lot of opportunities in the game. He couldn't come up with an early Watson toss and with the offense struggling to get into a rhythm he didn't get much action his way. 

9. Rookie wide receiver Vyncint Smith caught the deciding score from Joe Webb on a 41-yard pass play that was reviewed and ruled a touchdown. Smith is an interesting candidate for the team as it is highly unlikely he can make the 53-man roster. He has skills and instincts that earned him the initial investment and with Sammie Coates in concussion protocol for an undetermined amount of time the rookie could see a few extra reps. He is certainly a candidate for the practice squad and could cement that status in the next two weeks of work and the game against the Rams. 

10. Texans rookie safety Justin Reid addressed the new tackling rules and the emphasis of those rules: "We got shown film right before the game started about things that happened in other games," he said. "It's a big emphasis." He said he pulled up a little on his big hit but he said you have to learn how to play around the rule. Showing the team examples is a nice touch. Any new rule is over-emphasized in the preseason but there will be plenty of controversy associated with this new rule in the preseason. 

11. "I'm not sure, he's at the hospital right now," said Bill O'Brien of Kevin Johnson after the win against the 49ers. "I think he's doing OK considering what happened. I think he's going to be OK." Johnson's health is paramount because the Texans aren't deep at cornerback. Johnson Bademosi isn't an every down player, though he had an interception against the 49ers. Dee Virgin hasn't impressed to a great degree and other players haven't shined. If Johnson is out for an extended time expect to see more than a few free agent names associated with the Texans. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent. 

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Baseball is right around the corner. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

The Texans and Rockets are disasters, so bring on the Astros! Even if they weren't disasters, bring on the Astros! Their spring training opener is Sunday, their regular season opener one month from Monday. Alexander Pope wrote "hope springs eternal." I hear he played a pretty decent shortstop. All 30 Major League Baseball teams can be hopeful in March. The Astros have plenty to be hopeful about and plenty about which to be wary. A couple of early storylines: 1. Yuli Gurriel admitted he was unacceptably overweight last season. It would be great for the Astros if that explains most of Gurriel's pathetic performance as opposed to age catching up with him. 2. Jose Altuve is in great spirits and health. His MVP level days of 2016 and 2017 are likely gone for good, but getting the Altuve of 2018 or 2019 would be a tremendous boost. The Altuve of 2020 was one of the worst players in MLB.

And now to the dueling debacles…

Rough stretch for the Rockets

The Rockets are awful. They sit with 11 wins and 19 losses. Just three seasons ago they lost 17 games the entire season. They are routinely non-competitive. They lug a nine game losing streak to the court Friday night in Tampa against the Toronto Raptors. Among the losses are blowouts by 20, 22, 25, and 29 points. All of those routs came against teams with losing records. By NBA standards the Rockets' roster stinks. The injured Christian Wood is the only player they have who is or projects to be an average or better starter. John Wall's contract is an anvil.

That they are this bad is actually one of the few silver linings to the Rockets' near term future. The Rockets only retain their first round pick this summer if it falls in the top four of the draft. The Rockets currently have the fourth worst record in the NBA, just one half game ahead of third worst! Where the pick falls comes down to which draft lottery ping pong ball combination is drawn, but the worse their record the better shot the Rockets have of being in the top four. If not in the top four, the Rockets settle for the lowest of their own, Oklahoma City's, or Miami's first rounder. That's probably the Heat pick, and probably not in the top 15.

The longest losing streak in Rockets' franchise history is 17. During their expansion season the San Diego Rockets lost 17 straight. The longest losing streak in Houston Rockets' history is 15 games during the 2001-02 season. They finished the season 28-54. How many of their five most frequent 2001-02 starters can you name? Answer below.

The worst team in Rockets' history was the tanking and awful 1982-83 club that finished 14-68. Longest losing streak that season? 10. The first 10 games of the season.

Releasing JJ Watt might have been a mistake

The Texans are poised to add yet another feather to their dunce cap if J.J. Watt signs with the Packers, Bills, Titans, Roughnecks, Inmates (The Longest Yard) or anybody else for 15-plus million dollars per season. Such a deal would indicate at least one team would have been willing to give up a decent draft pick (say a third rounder) for Watt and the one year 17.5 million that was left on his contract. If the Texans think they score points for doing Watt "a solid" in setting him free they are absurdly mistaken. The Texans need all the draft capital they can get. J.J. Watt will always have a hallowed place in Texans' lore but they owed Watt nothing. Over the last five seasons he played just three seasons worth of football and was paid 82.5 million dollars for them.

More Deshaun Watson drama

Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson reportedly directly told new Texans Head Coach Edward Smith that Watson has no interest in playing for him. It's nothing personal against David Culley (Edward Smith captained the Titanic) but Watson wants the Texans' organization permanently in his rearview mirror. We'll see if Cal McNair and new General Manager Nick Caserio have the stomach to not trade Watson through the draft. If the Dolphins offer Tua Tagavailoa, the third and eighteenth picks in the first round, the fourth pick in the second round, and their first round pick in 2022, the Texans should make the trade and move on.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Rockets' starters by most starts in 2001-02: Cuttino Mobley (74) Kelvin Cato (73) Kenny Thomas (71) Steve Francis (56) Moochie Norris (26).

2. It can't soothe Rocket fan nerves that the best bet for the Eastern Conference Final matchup is James Harden's Nets vs. Daryl Morey's 76ers.

3. Most frustrating 2021 Houston-visiting player appearances: Bronze-Harden the Net Wednesday Silver-George Springer the Blue Jay in May Gold-Watt the Titan this fall? Would he really sign with the Titans?

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