How the Houston Texans may have caught lightning in a bottle
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.