FALCON POINT

Fred Faour: Other than not being able to count on oft-injured CB Johnson, Texans are on pace for the opener

Kevin Johnson had a rough year last year and a tough night on Saturday. Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

The Texans are halfway through the preseason and are in the stretch run to real football. The best news is they have remained relatively unscathed on the injury front. They suffered one significant one Saturday night when cornerback Kevin Johnson went out early with a concussion.

This was going to be a key year for Johnson. He played all 16 games as a rookie, but just six in his second year and 12 last year in a season that was a complete disaster. As a first-round pick with multiple injuries and performance issues, Johnson is very close to getting the dreaded “bust” label.

It is his second concussion, and came on a play where he was badly beaten. Johnson appears to be OK, but concussions are dicey, and there is no way of knowing when he will return. Johnson has shown flashes at times, but coming off a rough season and multiple injuries, it is safe to say the Texans can’t count on him. Considering it is one of the thinnest positions on the roster, it is an unfortunate turn of events.

It means Aaron Colvin likely starts alongside Jonathan Joseph, but now Johnson Bademosi moves up a spot. Bademosi is a terrific special teams player but a below average corner. There does not appear to be another answer on the roster unless Kareem Jackson moves back from safety, but that would weaken what appears to be a strength. 

The Texans are having former Ram Kayvon Webster in for a visit. He played in 11 games last season and is also coming off an injury. He is nothing special, but likely better than any options on the roster.

Veteran Dominique Rogers-Cromartie remains available as well.

Other than Johnson, none of the key injured players from last year have seen much time. In reality, they should not. Deshaun Watson has played two series, and there is no reason to put him back out there. Same goes for J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus.

Watson looked sharp in his work against the 49ers, but starting quarterbacks are supposed to do that in preseason games. The good news is he is moving well and looks ready for the regular season.

The key over the next two games will be to keep the important players healthy, and see who earns the bottom roster spots.

What have we learned so far?

Pretty much what we already knew. The biggest question marks coming in were offensive line, running back depth behind Lamar Miller and depth on the corners. With Johnson’s injury, the latter becomes an even bigger issue.

The OL has looked OK in the first two games, but we really won’t learn much about this group until the real games start.

After Miller, the Texans don’t appear to have anything above mediocre players at running back. This group could look a lot different if D’Onta Foreman is able to return, but he is coming off an Achilles injury and should not be counted on.

Still, Watson appears to be healthy, and J.J. Watt has looked good in camp, even if he hasn’t played a game, so there are positives. But until they play for real, most of the big questions will remain unanswered. 

Meanwhile, Brandon Weeden has looked pretty solid as Watson's backup. Obviously if Watson is down for any extended time, the Texans are in trouble, but if you had to play Weeden 2-3 games, you would feel much better than you did last season. The interior defensive line and linebackers also appear to be much deeper this season.

The Johnson injury is the one added concern, and hopefully it can be remedied by adding another player. Or maybe he recovers quicker than expected. But if that is your biggest problem when the season starts, you can live with it. 

In fact, you probably should have expected it.  

 

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Houston gets the lopsided win

Valdez, Astros dominate the Angels in 10-0 rout in Anaheim

Framber Valdez was dominant against the Angels on Monday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With a series win at home over the weekend, the Astros started their final regular-season road trip on Monday, squaring off against the Angels in Anaheim. They held the momentum firmly in their favor all night, dominating both sides of the game to start the series with a victory.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 0

Astros' Record: 89-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (11-5)

Losing Pitcher: Jaime Barria (2-4)

Siri leads off with a bang

With Jose Altuve being given the night off, Houston gave Jose Siri a shot at the leadoff spot, and he delivered to start the opener in Anaheim. He launched a missile to left field, 426 feet, to put the Astros in front 1-0 before the Angels could record an out. Later that same inning, they strung together three singles, the third being an RBI by Carlos Correa to double the lead.

Valdez goes seven shutout innings

That gave Framber Valdez a lead to work with as he stepped on the rubber in the bottom of the inning, and he didn't give it up as he would post a dominant start. He started with a 1-2-3 first, worked around a couple of singles in the second, then used a double play to face the minimum in the third.

He retired Los Angeles in order again in the fourth, stranded a two-out single in the fifth and a single and a walk in the sixth. He had his worst inning of the night in the seventh, giving up a leadoff single then loading the bases on back-to-back two-out walks. He'd escape the jam, though, keeping the shutout alive and finalizing his impressive line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 98 P.

Astros take the opener in lopsided fashion

Houston tacked on an insurance run in the top of the eighth, getting a one-out double by Correa to set up an RBI single by Marwin Gonzalez, pushing the lead to 3-0. Things escalated from there, as another single put two on base for Martin Maldonado, who blew the game open with a three-run homer to make it a six-run lead.

Brooks Raley took over for Valdez in the bottom of the inning, and with a 1-2-3 inning, made it his eighth appearance in a row without allowing a run. The Astros didn't let up in the top of the ninth, getting two hits and a walk to load the bases before a grand slam by Gonzalez made it 10-0 and gave him 5 RBI in a two-inning span. Seth Martinez, called up by the Astros earlier in the day, made his big-league debut in the bottom of the ninth and closed out the lopsided win to put Houston's magic number at 6.

Up Next: The second of this four-game set will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Tuesday. Jose Urquidy (7-3, 3.38 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, going opposite Packy Naughton (0-2, 4.32 ERA) for the Angels.

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