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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Correa could be on his way out. Composite image by Jack Brame.

It has not been the best of times to be a star athlete in Houston. In the last year, Jadeveon Clowney and DeAndre Hopkins were solid off for a warm bucket of spit. George Springer won't be back. James Harden and Russell Westbrook rumors are rampant. J.J. Watt might be moving on as well.

Now, reports are the Astros are listening to offers for Carlos Correa.

Predictably, Astros fans are livid. And if it's true, they should be concerned about the bigger picture.

Trading Correa makes sense - if you have no plans on keeping him after next season, as was clearly the case with Springer. If the Astros can get a haul and replenish the farm system, it would be the right move, especially considering Correa's injury history.

But in the long run, it does not bode well for the direction of the team. All recent indications are that the Astros are going cheap.

They would still be a competitive team without Correa, but it would be yet another indication their World Series window has closed. Alex Bregman could slide over to shortstop, but who would play third? And they only have one starting outfielder on the roster as it is. Putting together a competitive lineup around Bregman, Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, Yuli Gurriel and Yordan Alvarez would still be possible, but if the Astros aren't going to spend money, that could be problematic.

The writing was probably on the wall when the team hired James Click as GM from the notoriously frugal Tampa Bay organization. The good news is the Rays have been successful. But this is a new direction for a team that was not afraid to spend big money to make runs at the World Series.

If they lose Correa, they lose a team leader, one of the few players who embraced the villain role in the wake of the cheating controversy and was not afraid to speak out. But he has never lived up to his MVP potential, has battled injuries and will command big dollars on the open market. He is still young enough to become that kind of player, and someone will gamble big money that he will.

Sadly, if this rumor is true, it won't be the Astros.

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