How the Houston Texans may have caught lightning in a bottle

Houston Texans Tank Dell
Tank Dell was electric in his NFL debut.Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images.

The Texans played their first preseason game of the new era. They beat the Patriots 20-9 in a pretty meaningless game. While normal, well-adjusted onlookers see this as just another preseason game and/or a dress rehearsal, there are some out there who see this as an indictment or preview of what's to come. A LOT of the chatter has been about C.J. Stroud, and rightfully so. He's the number two overall pick and the franchise quarterback for a team that's been looking for one.

Look, I'm not saying he needs to sit, and I'm not saying he's a bust either. What I'm saying is both extremes need to relax. Did he look good? Not really. He played 12 snaps, dropped back to pass six or seven times, got sacked once, completed two, overthrew one, and got the other picked off. The pick was a bad read on what seemed to be a timing route. Stroud threw the ball before the receiver broke and it got intercepted. Guaranteed he knew this the minute he threw it and will study to ensure he doesn't repeat it.

While Stroud didn't look good in his first live action, there were four other things I wrote about that I wanted to watch for during this game. Here's what I observed:

Speed and Quickness: There was a TON of it on the field for the Texans, especially on defense. Tank Dell stuck out on offense. He looks like he'd be trouble to cover in a closet, much less on a football field. On defense, Christian Harris showed some elite athleticism. There was a play on the Patriots' first possession where a RB made a catch on the sideline. In the initial camera shot of the pass being thrown, it appeared as if he was out of position to be able to make the play. He made the tackle from an angle that looked like he covered 10 plus yards in less than a second!

Health: There was only one injury coming out of the game. Fullback Andrew Beck limped off the field after the second half kickoff. The team has reported him as having a minor knee injury. The team held out several guys with injuries, and a few more that were healthy scratches.

Dawgs: I LOVED seeing guys get after it! Tank Dell was the most impressive guy vs. the Patriots. He's going to have the slot WR job locked up very soon. He may even push to start since he's clearly a matchup nightmare. Will Anderson Jr is so quick/fast. His speed/quickness jumps out at you when watching him. Seeing him blow up run plays and cause the QB to get sacked by trying to escape his pressure will be more fun when the games count.

Compete: Watching the game from start to finish, I enjoyed how everyone played hard. You didn't see guys out there slacking. Everyone was engaged. DeMeco was looking like he was having the time of his life. A few times, cameras caught him smiling and high-fiving guys. The interactions on the sidelines were fun to observe as well. Nobody pouted or sulked, and everyone seemed to be having fun.

A couple of things I kept saying was this team looks faster, guys are flying around on defense, and I can see the machinations of what this offense will look like in the future. How far in the future will depend largely on Stroud getting up to speed on the NFL game. Oh, and how well the pieces play around him. I've heard “it looks like a real football team” a few times. This team will be fun to watch. While some of the hype is overblown, it is warranted. The days of embarrassing football appear to be finally over.

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against Seattle. Composite Getty Image.

The Astros were a season low 12 games under .500 (12-24) on May 8th but were able to turn things around and entered the All-Star break with a respectable 50-46 record.

The turnaround can be attributed to better performances on the field by a multitude of players, but there are still things that could be improved to ensure a successful second half of the season.

As it currently stands, Houston is only one game behind the Seattle Mariners in the American League West division race, and the Astros should have key players returning from injury to further bolster their playoff ambitions.

The return of the King

Kyle Tucker has been on the injured list with a shin contusion for six weeks now, and looks to return in the near future.

The Astros have done surprisingly well without their three-time All-Star outfielder thanks to contributions from guys like Joey Loperfido, Jake Meyers and Marcio Dubon in the outfield. Plus, Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, Yanier Diaz and Jeremy Pena carrying the offense while King Tuck is away.

Before getting hurt, the 27-year-old was hitting .266/.395/.584 through 60 games. Houston already has one of the best offenses in baseball, and adding Tucker back would give the Astros another high-quality bat to further bolster their lineup.

The latest update is Tucker has been playing catch and could start a rehab assignment soon if all goes well.

Fix the rotation

Starting pitching has been a major issue this season due to a multitude of injuries.

Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy and J.P. France have all been lost for the year with various surgeries and guys like Justin Verlander and Luis Garcia are trying to work their way back from their injured list stints.

Garcia was recently pulled from his rehab assignment and won’t pitch again until he is ready. Meanwhile, Verlander could be closer to his return and is throwing bullpen sessions as of July 14. Getting both of these pitchers back at some point this season will be a huge boost to this roster.

The current Astros’ rotation consists of Framber Valdez, Ronel Blanco, Hunter Brown, Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss. Although not a bad rotation by any means, the starting pitching depth is getting pretty thin and Houston can ill afford another injury to their staff.

Astros general manager Dana Brown has been vocal about his desire to add starting pitching, and could have some options heading into the trade deadline. Players like Jack Flaherty, Garrett Crochet or Yusei Kikuchi, just to name a few, could be low risk high reward pitchers the Astros could acquire to add depth to their rotation.

Another option would be to call up A.J. Blubaugh from Sugar Land. The 24-year-old has a 6-2 record with a 3.46 ERA in 71.1 innings pitched this season for the Space Cowboys and could be a necessary depth piece to add to the rotation.

Play Astros baseball

The Astros have been playing better baseball as of late and have won 18 of their last 23 games. With players like Kyle Tucker and Justin Verlander potentially returning soon, there is reason to believe Houston can make the playoffs for the 8th consecutive season.

The 'Stros will try to take sole possession of first place in their division from the Mariners when the two teams meet for three games at T-Mobile Park starting on Friday night.

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