TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW

Cody Stoots: The best and worst position groups for the Texans

Will Fuller needs to by dynamic for the Texans. Photo by Edward Clarke

The Texans head to West Virginia this week to start their away portion of training camp. As training camp starts the Texans have a few position groups they can rely on and a couple of position groups they are going to need to get a lot better in the coming weeks. 

Best offensive position group: Wide receivers

The Texans boast one of the best pass catchers in football in DeAndre Hopkins but outside of him, the team has a lot of maybe mixed with some hope. Maybe Will Fuller will stay healthy and be the dynamic gamebreaker the team has to have to succeed. He was amazing with Deshaun Watson at quarterback finding the end zone frequently. He has to show up more consistently but the talent is there. Bruce Ellington got to the team in the middle of camp but still turned in his most impressive year as a pro. It wasn't spectacular; he totaled just 330 yards in 11 games, but with the team committing to him in the offseason and some stability on offense Ellington maybe can be a veteran piece for the offense.

The hope comes in the form of Keke Coutee and Braxton Miller. Coutee is a rookie but his skills are the first true slot presence the team has had in Bill O'Brien's tenure. Miller has been a project for a while. The current front office didn't invest in him but if there is anything there this would be the time to show it. He has psychical gifts but there is no more learning curve for his position change. This is his fourth year playing wideout and training camp is now or never. 

Worst offensive position group: Running backs and offensive lineman

The Texans may have one of the worst running back groups in football. Let me first explain why the offensive line isn't here solo. There is at least some investment in some players who have had a semblance of success in the opportunities they had. Plenty of Saints fans and media lamented the potential loss created by the Texans signing Senio Kelemete and his versatility is an asset as a potential backup and maybe starter should someone falter. Zach Fulton will hopefully not be Jeff Allen 2.0 as he came over from the Chiefs on a similar deal after having a similar amount of success. Greg Mancz and Nick Martin provide playing experience and depth at center. The tackle situation is a disaster with Seantrell Henderson who hasn't played much in the NFL between injuries and suspensions and Julién Davenport has played very little. 

The running backs to me is a bigger disaster than the offensive line. Yes, they produced some results last year that had them as a middle of the road team but how much did Deshaun Watson and his mobility help? If he isn't used as a runner as much can the middle of the road results be produced again? I don't believe so. This concern all goes away if D'Onta Foreman is inexplicably ready to play right away after his season-ending injury last year. Without him though the running back room is one of the more unimpressive in football. Lamar Miller just came off one of his worst seasons as a pro. Alfred Blue was unimpressive last season. Tyler Ervin isn't really a running back. The rest of the young players have a very limited track record. Without Foreman, this is the worst position group on the team. 

Best defensive position group: Linebacker

It might be cheating to put all the linebackers together AND include Jadeveon Clowney, but, this is the strength of the defense. There is proven success and potential at every linebacker spot. Clowney and Whitney Mercilus provide plenty of pass rush while Benadrick McKinney and his new contract patrol the middle. Zach Cunningham and Dylan Cole provide solid talent with McKinney inside. The spot opposite Clowney is the "weak" portion but there are some interesting candidates to start opposite him. Brennan Scarlett has been with the team for a few years while rookie Duke Ejiofor could push for time. There are very few questions at this position.

Worst defensive position group: Cornerback

This was a position of concern before Kareem Jackson and Treston Decoud moved to safety. Johnathan Joseph is back again but coming off a rough year for him. He had zero interceptions outside of the Cleveland game and finished the year with just nine passes defended. Kevin Johnson has failed to stay healthy and took a step back last year. Aaron Colvin is new to the team and it seems could start the year without a defined position. He could end up being the best cornerback in this group. Johnson Bademosi is the special teams ace. The rest of the candidates for the last one or two spots are Dee Virgin who had a little success in the preseason last year and a couple of rookies from San Jose State in Jermaine Kelly and Andre Chachere. If Joseph doesn't have one last veteran resurgance and Kevin Johnson doesn't bounce back this group will have a tough time. 

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Houston's offense had another strong day at the plate in Seattle against the Mariners on Wednesday. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

After striking a deal with the Mariners before Tuesday's game, along with a reported deal with the Marlins on Wednesday before the finale, the Astros continued to try and bolster their bullpen with fresh arms while also focusing on this series against Seattle. Having won the night prior to even it up, it came down to the rubber game on Wednesday afternoon to decide the series.

Final Score: Astros 11, Mariners 4

Astros' Record: 63-40, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-5)

Losing Pitcher: Yusei Kikuchi (6-6)

Astros continue to score runs in Seattle

Just like in the earlier games in this series, the Astros had no problems offensively. They strung together four consecutive one-run innings, starting in the top of the second when they loaded the bases, then got an RBI groundout by Myles Straw to go up 1-0. In the top of the third, Yuli Gurriel drove one in on a two-out RBI double, bringing in Jose Altuve, who led the inning off with a double of his own. Chas McCormick led off with a single in the fourth, then later scored on an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz.

The fourth run in as many innings came in the top of the fifth, as Gurriel would notch his second RBI with a solo homer to start that inning, pushing the lead to 4-0. They didn't stop there, and neither did Gurriel, as he would get RBI number three on the day as part of a four-run top of the sixth, with RBI hits him, Altuve, Diaz, and Carlos Correa, doubling the lead to 8-0.

Odorizzi gets to the sixth before allowing two homers

The run support gave Jake Odorizzi plenty of leeway, which he didn't need until the bottom of the sixth. He held Seattle scoreless over the first five frames, allowing just four baserunners on a hit by pitch, a walk, and two singles, all peppered over that span and erased in each inning. Kyle Seager would get the Mariners on the board in the bottom of the sixth, blasting a one-out solo homer to cut the lead to seven runs at 8-1. After a single in the next at-bat, recently traded Abraham Toro made it four games in a row with a homer, this one a two-run shot to cut the lead to 8-3 and end Odorizzi's day. His final line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 95 P.

Houston wins the series

Houston brought in Brooks Raley to finish the sixth, issuing two walks but stranding them to keep it a five-run lead. Myles Straw helped push that back to six in the top of the seventh, reaching on a single to start the innings, then stealing both second and third to get in position for Diaz's third RBI of the day, a groundout to make it 9-3. Cristian Javier was the next reliever out for the Astros, but he would not make it through the bottom of the seventh, allowing a single and three walks, the third with the bases loaded to bring in a run.

Bryan Abreu was brought in to get out of the jam, getting a strikeout to end the seventh. Then, in the top of the eighth, Kyle Tucker would put two more runs on the board with a two-run homer making the lead seven runs at 11-4. Abreu remained in for the bottom of the eighth, erasing two one-out singles to get through the frame. Brandon Bielak took over in the bottom of the ninth to close things out, posting a 1-2-3 inning to wrap up the win and give Houston the series victory.

Up Next: Houston will travel down the coast to San Fransisco before getting a day off on Thursday. They'll pick up an exciting three-game series with the Giants on Friday, with the opener slated to start at 8:45 PM Central. Framber Valdez (6-2, 2.97 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, while San Fransisco's starter is TBD.

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