Signs the line is about to get right and Mercilus will stay hot off the edge

Could the offensive line be settling in for Texans?

Texans Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney

A little Texans six pack for you on this Friday. The Texans play the Falcons on Sunday at NRG stadium.

Do your eyes deceive you?

Lookie there! The Texans are 8th overall in the advanced metric. The stats don't match the eye test right now though.

The Texans are still 31st in QB Sacked Percentage according to TeamRankings.com.

Not every hit or sack is created equal, and it isn't like Watson gets crushed every time someone gets to him. But, they add up. He still takes too many hits. There are positives though and there is a chance this improves.

ESPN's stats have Tytus Howard as the second-best tackle in football in the above metric. They have guard Max Scharping fourth in the same metric. Greg Mancz will not be back at right guard with his concussion. Zach Fulton will be back at right guard.

Laremy Tunsil has been extremely solid at left tackle since the first game as well.

There is hope the Texans figure this offensive line situation out. Atlanta is a full sack worse per game than last year's team and last year's team was putrid in rushing the passer. If the Texans can't keep Watson upright against Atlanta they may never keep him clean.

October encore?

Whitney Mercilus just came off his best four-game stretch of his entire career. The closest thing to what he did in September is the end of 2015 where he had five and a half sacks but certainly not as many forced fumbles and no interception.

This is what people thought Jadeveon Clowney could do on a regular basis. Mercilus is playing the right position and he has worked almost everyone he has come up against. This week Jake Matthews is the opponent for Mercilus. The son of Oilers legend Bruce Matthews has been decent this season checking in about average on the season according to Pro Football Foucs. He's allowed two sacks and 10 total hurries.

Mercilus is fifth in the NFL with five sacks. He has the most pass rushing snaps from the right side of a defense. This could be a solid opportunity to keep his hot start going.

Texans to honor McNair

The man who brought football back to Houston will be honored at halftime of Sunday's game. Robert C. McNair will see his name up in the Ring of Honor next to Andre Johnson. McNair has thankfully been remembered much better than some of the things he made headlines for in his final year or so.

McNair's actions spoke louder than his words and his actions said he loved Houston and his football team. It wasn't always easy for fans to get along with his patience as an owner, but there is no doubt the city of Houston is a much better place thanks to McNair.

Keke Coutee's chance to shine

Just three catches on seven targets for 18 yards. Not ideal for a player who was ready to breakout after a stop and start season last year. Coutee hasn't quite found his groove with Deshaun Watson and the time missed could be factoring into the issues.

With Kenny Stills recovering from some leg injuries Coutee could take over some of the workload at wideout. If he got clicking, and then Stills returned, the offense would be incredible. It will be interesting to see how the Texans account for Stills' absence. He and Coutee are different players so there has to be some small adjustment at least if Stills can't go.

New old guy on the block

He might be 38 but Mike Adams has gotten better with age. In fact, his best seasons came after the age of 33. It is hard to determine exactly what his role will be as the team's top three safeties are all healthy right now. It is never a bad idea to bring in reinforcements when the Falcons, Chiefs, and T.Y. Hilton coming up the next three weeks.

And I was all like Julioooooo haha

The above video was awesome until you realize Malcolm Butler and the Titans defense shutdown Julio Jones and ended his touchdown streak. Alas, he is still a monster scoring 12 touchdowns in his last 13 games and totaling up 1,182 yards.

I have no idea how the Texans plan to slow down Julio Jones. He might be too fast for Johnathan Joseph and he might be too experienced for Lonnie Johnson. Not to mention, Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley are dangerous as well. Oh, and Austin Hooper can crush from the tight end spot.

This will be one of the toughest games all season for the secondary. If Romeo Crennel can't scheme something up the Texans could find themselves needing to win a shootout on Sunday.

Oh and if you don't get the reference in the title click here.

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold β€˜Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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