LANCE ZIERLEIN'S Z REPORT

It's too early for O'Brien and Watson's struggles to create panic

Deshaun Watson will get better. At least he should. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

I’ve had two days to talk on the radio, answer texts, and sift through tweets about the Texans loss to the Patriots in week 1. Texans fans definitely aren’t happy, and with good reason. The Patriots are now 10-1 lifetime against the Texans averaging 32.5 to the Texans 19 in those games. Ass-Kickings, Incorporated.

Yes, it was “SOT” (same old Texans) once again. Yes, once again Bill O’Brien failed to handle his business when an important game management situation presented itself. You don’t care about the team if these things didn’t bother you on Sunday and didn’t leak over into Monday.

But some of what I’m hearing? Wow! Just hit YouTube for some old school hip-hop and search “EPMD” and “Chill” and you’ll get to where you need to go because, baby, this sports life might not be for you based on some of the rhetoric and analysis I’m hearing.

Watson never got comfortable

Look Deshaun Watson just had an off game. It happens. We know O’Brien didn’t have a good game, but his quarterback didn’t either. He struggled to get through reads and find his targets with the same quickness that we saw at times last year.  He also got caught throwing from off-platform angles (basically means he’s off-balance and feet weren’t set) which caused throws to drop short of their target.

Watson was also hesitant to make his decisions on where he wanted to go with the football. This isn’t a huge surprise given the fact that he was making just his seventh start in the NFL and playing in just his eighth game. No quarterback is a finished product in their seventh start. None. And when you have to face a Bill Belichick-coached team with the entire season to prepare for you? Forget it.

I had someone tweet to me that Bill O’Brien needed to do a better job of calling plays to get receivers open. The job of the receiver is to get open. Pass plays are designed to create stress on defensive backs with their route combinations, but it’s still the receiver’s job to get open the same way it is Watson’s job ot make reads and throws. It’s O’Briens job to call the best plays for the personnel on the field and for where the Texans advantages are.

R-E-L-A-X

Here are the facts:

  • Deshuan Watson was playing his first game in 8 months.

  • Deshaun Watson had limited reps in the preseason and looked rusty.

  • Deshaun Watson was making just his seventh career start.

  • Will Fuller, the defensive field stretcher and big play talent was hurt (again).

  • O’Brien and Watson combined to average over 34 points per start in 2018.

  • O’Brien and Watson combined for 21 total touchdowns last season.

Being pissed at O’Brien for the game management issues and the inconsistent performances of this team are completely understandable. Pretending that game one of 2018 matters more than the previous seven games that O’Brien and Watson had together is just nonsensical. ESPN analyst and former Pittsburgh Steeler safety Ryan Clark said the Texans shouldn’t do what Bill O’Brien tells them. He seemed to intimate that Watson’s off game was on O’Brien. Guys…. It’s one game.

Can we let Deshaun keep growing? Can we at least get to get two or three? This may not turn into a winning season and O’Brien might get show the door sooner rather than later, but Watson had a bad game and it’s going to get better.

It better.

 

J.J. Watt is headed for illustrious but strange company

Maximize opportunity before Watt gets wasted

Houstontexans.com

Thursday the reality of what J.J. Watt is facing really hit me. The Houston Chronicle reported Watt had a minor offseason knee surgery. The last three years prove he's far from immortal, though the once incredible career is back on track. For how long, no one knows. Then I finally realized it.

J.J. Watt is on pace to be the greatest defensive player to never play for a conference championship or a Super Bowl.

I started digging into the lists of the all-time great defenders and the best pass rushers in the game's history. Most of the players who would easily be considered a great on defense have at the very least won a Lombardi. If they haven't won the big trophy they've either played or been one game away.

Two names stick out on the all-time greats list. Deacon Jones played three postseason games all in the divisional round. Dick Butkus never played in the postseason. You have to go to 24th all-time in sacks, Pat Swilling with 107.5, to find a sack leader who hasn't at least played in a conference championship or better.

It's a line on almost every great's resume and Watt's missing it.

Watt's only 30 sacks away from the top 20 in career sacks. His three defensive player of the year awards in four years cemented an era of dominance rarely matched in NFL history. He will put on the gold jacket one day. It would be bittersweet to find himself among those greats having never played in a game with that level of importance.

Unless he plays in one.

Brian Gaine and Bill O'Brien can't mess this up or they will be accessories to a sports crime: cementing Watt's place as the all-time great without a huge game to his name. The Texans enter one of the most important offseasons in franchise history. They have to find a way to protect Deshaun Watson as he's the key to making sure Watt's schedule pushes beyond 16 games each year. It's no easy task, but go do it. Make the defense's job just a little easier with some powerful offense.

Give Watt and company just a second more too with better secondary play. Help him out with a better pass rush next to him and not just opposite him. There's so many things the Texans have to get right with their massive cap space and three picks in the top two rounds.

It won't all be Gaine and O'Brien's fault if they don't do it, however they have a chance, with Watson and the rest of this team, to make sure a truly significant game appears on the schedule for Watt. Just one conference championship appearance, then, who knows. Maybe the big one and the Lombardi trophy.

Now here's a thought that will shake all Texans fans.

If the Texans don't nail it this offseason and show the next few seasons they're not legit threats, maybe Watt fills the hole in his distinguished career elsewhere. Reggie White left in his 30's. DeMarcus Ware found glory with the Broncos after a long Cowboys career. It isn't unheard of to see one franchise's legend don another team's colors.

I'm not sure what would hurt Texans fans more. Knowing Watt never played in the biggest games with the Texans or seeing him get to one of those games with another team. It's the hope neither of those things happen. There are almost never happy endings in football, but Watt's story deserves one or more of those chapters.

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