THE PALLILOG

How the Texans could turn things around sooner than you think

This happens every year in the NFL. Composite photo by Jack Brame

The Texans could be a surprisingly good team in 2021. It's unlikely, but that's what would it make a surprise! Feast to famine, famine to feast teams occur every year in the NFL. The league is structured to foster such possibilities. It's not a fluke that since the Texans became the 32nd franchise and the eight four teams per division alignment was established, every season at least four of the 12 (starting this year 14) playoff teams were different from the prior season. This is the 43rd consecutive season in which at least one team went from missing the playoffs the year prior to division champ. The Steelers and Washington Football Team did it this season.

So why not the 2021 Texans? Well, a bunch of reasons, which in part explains why new General Manager Nick Caserio got a six year contract to leave his role as Bill Belichick's right hand man in New England and run his own show for the first time. For several weeks I've been calling 2021 a redshirt year for the Texans' new Head Coach and GM. The thin roster, salary cap mess, and no first or second round draft pick this year make the rags to relative riches story tougher to pull off.

As for the HC gig, the Caserio connection makes many think Patriots' offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is the connect the dots hire. Meh. McDaniels sure got a lot less smart with Cam Newton as his quarterback rather than Tom Brady. On the subject of connecting dots, meet Bills' offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. He has the same agent as Caserio and Svengali Jack Easterby. Daboll has done a tremendous job developing third year mobile and strong-armed Buffalo QB Josh Allen into a top five MVP candidate. Daboll would seem a strong pairing with Deshaun Watson.

At the Texans' Caserio introduction press conference, he and Cal McNair should be pressed on why the Texans' are the only one of the six teams presently without a head coach to not book an interview with Chiefs' offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy. No way is Bienemy clearly the right choice, but to not even interview him (if that is to remain the case) is conspicuous.

As for Watson's alleged rumination of seeking a trade…if true, whatever. He's under contract for the next five seasons. The only reason for the Texans for even milliseconds to consider trading Watson is if Jacksonville offered Trevor Lawrence and multiple other high picks. I don't know that the Jaguars would trade Lawrence for Watson straight up.

Failure to launch

The Rockets are out of the gate 2-0 vs. Sacramento, 0-4 vs. everybody else. Now they get 6-2 Orlando followed by consecutive games against the Lakers. The Magic isn't really that good and just lost point guard Markelle Fultz to a torn ACL. The Lakers' roster is better than the one that dismantled the Rockets in the playoff bubble as a small stepping stone enroute to winning the NBA title.

The trade market for James Harden remains soft. Barring the smoking of a giant peace pipe the Rockets best hope re: Harden is that an underachieving team or three get panicky over the next month or two. Off early season returns Daryl Morey's Philadelphia 76ers aren't a great candidate. The Sixers are 7-2.

Other than his Westbrook-ian three point shooting John Wall has generally looked pretty good and Christian Wood like a solid investment but the Rockets still don't have the top end talent of the top contenders. That they may be a little deeper than the last couple of seasons is more an indictment of how weak the bench was those seasons. David Nwaba and Jae'Sean Tate would not be getting significant run with many good teams.

Roll Tide

I'll take Alabama over Ohio St. 38-27 in the National Championship game Monday night, after which Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian leaves to start his head coaching job at Texas with an absurd six year 34+ million dollar contract. That's on the UT tab on top of the 15 million Tom Herman gets to not coach the Longhorns going forward. In six full seasons as a head coach (five at Washington and one at USC) Sarkisian lost a minimum of four games per. Without success at a much higher rate, working for overbearing UT boosters (oh yeah, and the University) certainly isn't a low stress task. Hopefully Sarkisian's problems with alcohol are permanently behind him.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. The Mets landing Francisco Lindor from the Indians makes George Springer winding up a Met seem even more likely.

2. The Astros have still done next to nothing to improve their roster. But that's still true for numerous teams this offseason.

3. Most interesting Wild Card weekend games: Bronze-Steelers/Browns Silver-Bills/Colts Gold-Titans/Ravens

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The Houston Texans have just a couple of practices before their preseason debut. Here are 11 observations from Tuesday’s workout.

1.The offense stunk on Tuesday. It was inconsistent and resembled more of last year’s disappointing performances than any other practices in this training camp.

2. Davis Mills and his receivers had a few miscommunications on Tuesday. Mills sailed a pass to nobody when he and Brandin Cooks weren’t on the same page. There were some other throws to nowhere in the day. It was something that hadn’t been present at all in training camp to this point.

3. There were a few “good coverage” notes on Tuesday. Not to say there was one specific player, but a handful of team-level efforts that led to the note.

4. It wasn’t all wrong from the offense. After a pass to nowhere Davis Mills and the offense bounced back. It was a second down during a team drill and Mills fired a pass to Chris Moore for six yards. Rex Burkhead would pick up a first down on a rush a play later. A non-positive play last year on first down doomed this team. That hopefully won’t be the case for this year’s team.

5. Chad Beebe is going into his fifth season in the NFL, his first with the Texans. The former Vikings pass catcher has flashed a few times in training camp. He has an uphill battle being new to the team but is trying to make himself a factor.

6. Phillip Dorsett had a big catch over the middle. Davis Mills stood back and delivered as the offensive line held up and Dorsett reeled it in for a huge gain. No defenders were around him. It is between Dorsett and Chris Moore for the chance to be the slot wideout opening day. With Dorsett’s return to practice, it is becoming a fun camp battle.

7.Speaking of returns to practice, Tytus Howard was back. Howard has his reps managed and after practice, offensive line coach George Warhop Howard was “getting his wind” back. When Howard was having his reps managed rookie tackle Austin Deculus played at right tackle. Deculus looks much more consistent than minicamp and OTAs.

8. Kenyon Green is still out with an injury. It is getting to a critical time where the time missed might prevent the first-rounder from starting week one. Max Scharping hasn’t looked bad in his chances with the first team. Offensive line coach George Warhop said they believe in Green and his ability and he has been in meetings to stay up to date.

9. Ka’imi Fairbairn was perfect in one of the special team periods. He drilled all five kicks, each further than the last, and was crushing the football.

10. Derek Stingley was very sticky in some early reps on Nico Collins. The third overall pick is so smooth when he is working. Later his coverage forced a throw from the offense that had no chance of being completed.

11. The play of the day was made by Derek Stingley. The offense was about five or six yards out of the end zone needing a touchdown to win. With six seconds left on the clock, any completed pass that wasn’t a touchdown was game over. Davis Mills dropped back a step and fired to Nico Collins who Stingley covered. The rookie kept the second-year player out of the end zone to earn the defense a win. This was one of the better Stingley days and he did a lot of work. At one point, it looked as though he and Rex Burkhead had some words and almost led to an offense and defense scuffle, but it stayed to just some shouting. The rookie shined today.

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