Other injuries and issues pile up for Texans in dress rehearsal

Disaster in Dallas as Miller is lost for the year

@brgridiron/B/R Gridiron

For thoughts on the other AFC South news of the night check out SportsMap on Andrew Luck's retirement

Starting RB Lamar Miller tears ACL

The first carry of the preseason saw Lamar Miller get drilled and get injured. He was carted off. Miller is done for the season more than likely and potentially is done in a Texans uniform. His contract expires at the end of the year.

Miller was set to be the lead back but perhaps he would have been more effective than ever sharing some of the workload with fellow running back Duke Johnson. Now begins his long road to recovery from a seemingly major injury.

Don't use Duke that way

Duke Johnson can not be used like Lamar Miller has been used the past few seasons. I often liken Miller's usage by the Texans to driving a sports car and taking it off-roading. If the Texans use Duke Johnson that way they aren't maximizing his skills and are doing their offense a disservice.

Adding someone to the running back room or trusting someone currently on the roster to be the new Lamar Miller will go a long way to making sure Johnson is maximized.

Running backs on the roster

Taiwan Jones is likely making this team primarily for his special teams but he is the lone back on the roster outside of Duke Johnson with any real NFL experience. The problem is, it isn't really running back experience. He's had limited work carrying the ball, primarily contributing on the roster as a special teams player. This player could also be Buddy Howell but I am guessing Jones' experience has him winning out over Howell.

Damarea Crockett and Karan Higdon are still fighting to see who will be the youngster who makes the team. I don't know that there is a huge difference between the two but safe to say whichever one can pass block better will make the team. That was a Lamar Miller specialty and not really something Duke Johnson should be doing.

Off the roster options

Jay Ajayi is the biggest "name" available. He is coming off an injury and it isn't a good sign he hasn't been anywhere near a team yet. I can't imagine he is a true option.

One thing to remember about any of these free agents is there is a clear reason they haven't been in or near NFL teams.

The likely option is a free agent signing of a veteran after the rest of the teams in the NFL make cuts. There is also the possibility of a late round pick sent for one of those players. Below are some names I would think about and why they make sense.

Carlos Hyde - unlikely to make the Chiefs roster

Philadelphia's leftover backs - They have a ton of backs in camp and will likely only keep four. There would be some NFL experience with almost any of their cut players.

Frank Gore - might miss the Bills roster with T.J. Yeldon, LeSean McCoy, and rookie Devin Singletary in Buffalo.

Davenport's start baffles

Bill O'Brien proclaimed Roderick Johnson needed to repeat his impressive performance from the Lions game. Then, Julién Davenport started at left tackle against the Cowboys. He didn't look as solid as Johnson had at the spot. He's behind Johnson and Kalil at left tackle now.

I am making an assumption here but with Davenport getting a shot at the starting spot with Kalil out, for whatever reason injury or not, it feels like Johnson is closer to Davenport than Kalil. Meaning, to me, O'Brien is telling the truth about Kalil being the left tackle.

Nick Martin's game return underwhelms

Nick Martin has regularly been a below average center in the NFL. He was the 17th graded center according to Pro Football Focus. He was the 24th graded center in run blocking. On the play where Lamar Miller was hurt he was blown off the ball by the Cowboys defender.

Martin is a veteran now and with the potential for two rookies starting next to him he needs to be average or better this season. I am willing to excuse some of the hiccups tonight as rust after practicing only a bit this preseason.

Fulton and Kelemete should be fine

Bill O'Brien said after the game Zach Fulton and Senio Kelemete should be fine after both hobbled off the field. Fulton is an important player to this line as he his one of the only guards who has experience and has played well this preseason. He is also the team's backup center with Greg Mancz hurt. I am also not so sure he isn't better than Nick Martin.

Kelemete is on the bubble for this team but other injuries along the line and his versatility could save his spot for now. He has shown little this preseason compared to Fulton, Tytus Howard and Max Scharping. Though Saturday Scharping had a long day.

"The ball's in his court"

Former NFL general manager Michael Lombardi expects the Texans to move Jadeveon Clowney though in a baffling prediction he thinks the Texans might be targeting a wide receiver. If the Texans trade Clowney for a wide receiver that would be one of the most baffling trades in recent sports history.

Clowney, of course, has to sign his franchise tag to be traded. So until he does that the Texans really can't do anything. They can bring the idea of the next team to Clowney, but he will have to like it. Also, the team trading for Clowney can't sign him to a long-term contract either. Moving Clowney at this point is getting a return of quarters on the dollar. Not quite pennies, but not his true value either.

"Again, until he decides to come in and sign the tender, really the ball's in his court relative to playing for the Texans and all those things, just like it's been since the beginning of training camp. He's a franchise player and so until he comes and signs the tender, really there's nothing really else to talk about."

O'Brien was asked about Clowney's timeline and indicated he had no idea when Clowney would arrive.

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Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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