Every-Thing Sports

Jermaine Every: 5 things the Texans must do this off season

A healthy Deshaun Watson will be huge for the Texans. Tim Warner/Getty Images

Sunday night, we were witness to another great Super Bowl. Some prisoners of the moment characterized it as the best ever. The storyline of The Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach going from high school coach to Super Bowl winning coach in ten years was fascinating. But let’s get real. Houston Texans fans are waiting to see their head coach Bill O’Brien be the first seed from the Bill Belichek tree to blossom a fruitful harvest on its own.

Now that O’Brien has a general manager he seems to approve of in Brian Gaine, I’m interested in seeing what the two of them can accomplish together. This offseason will be particularly challenging because they’ll be working sans 1st and 2nd round picks in the draft. Aiding in the plans will be an estimated $52 million dollars in cap space (h/t spotrac). There are a ton of different moves needed to be made in order for the Texans to climb the mountain and be the next unlikely Super Bowl winner. Here are five of those moves I believe will help them get to the mountaintop presented in no particular order:

Sign Guard Andrew Norwell

Norwell is 26 years old and is one of, arguably the best offensive lineman on the market this offseason. Many would say anything is better than what they’ve had at guard. Some could argue that throwing big money at the problem may backfire like it has in the past. I advise them to go look at how this guy played in a system conducive to a mobile quarterback and reassess that notion.

Sign Wide Receiver Jarvis Landry

Sure “Juice” had an off-field incident involving domestic violence, but he’s also the kind of guy who could flourish opposite DeAndre Hopkins, or in the slot, that could help this team thrive on offense. He’s caught at least 84 balls every year, twice going over 100, for a Miami team that’s been less than stellar. Playing with Deshaun Watson and being closer to home may assist Juice in taking his career, and this team, to heights unheard of previously.

Invest In A Quality Backup Quarterback

When Watson went down, the offense went with him. Having a backup quarterback that can run the same offense would help things along should Watson not be ready for the beginning of the season, or if he should miss time due to injury. Seattle Seahawks backup Trevone Boykin could be a potential trade target for a relatively low price. Chase Daniel, Joe Webb, Josh Johnson, and possibly even Teddy Bridgewater are all potential targets in free agency.

Bolster Defensive Backfield

Whether it’s through the draft, free agency, or armed robbery, the Texans need to find help at corner and safety this offseason. Jonathan Joseph should be gone, Kareem Jackson should move fulltime to safety and Kevin Johnson has been vastly underwhelming. This leaves openings on the depth chart. Whether it’s Hopkins’ open recruitment of Malcolm Butler, finding a late round gem or a current guy on the roster stepping up, something needs to happen in the defensive backfield because opposing receivers are more open than Bissonnet street walkers on the weekend. EJ Gaines and Tre Boston also come to mind.

Trade A Star

Fred Faour wrote an article about trading Jadeveon Clowney. It may not be the popular thing to do, but he’s the best trade asset this team has to offer. Or perhaps it’s time to see what they can get for JJ Watt. He’s coming off two seasons lost to major injuries so he may not fetch much. The same can be said for Whitney Mercilus. Hopkins is out of the question given the cap hit they’d take after resigning him last season. Beyond those guys, the Texans aren’t in a position to move anyone else and expect anything significant in return. I’m sure there’s a team out there that’d be willing to part with some decent draft picks or players for one of those three pass rushers.

These are just five of the many moves the Texans can make. There are lots of holes on this roster to fill and most of them will not be filled this offseason. Luckily for them, the NFL is built on parity. There are teams who make complete turnarounds in one offseason. Most times it comes with the aid of hitting home runs with draft picks, especially the ones the Texans don’t have. Challenging as it may seem, it can be done. The best thing for fans is to pray Watson comes back healthy and stays that way for an entire season. If that doesn’t happen, all will be for naught.


 

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Tucker looks like the real deal. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Kyle Tucker finally had his breakout season in 2020. The 23-year-old flashed potential to be a legitimate five-tool threat. He slashed .268/.325/.512, swiped eight bags, and played above average defense. Is Tucker's performance sustainable? Not only that, but is there room for growth?

Hard Hit % - 44.5%

Barrel % - 9.1%

K % - 20.2%

BB % - 7.9%
Chase % - 26.2%

The first thing to realize with Kyle Tucker is the small sample size at the MLB level. Despite appearing in three separate seasons, he's played in a total of 108 games, which is obviously quite a bit shy of even one full season. He also has an extremely unique swing that you wouldn't teach to anybody, but it "works" for him. This makes him a tough hitter to judge, as it's uncomfortable judging mechanics that work for him, and it's uncomfortable judging numbers that haven't had time to develop trends.

Hard Hit, Barrel, and Chase numbers are unavailable for the minors, but walk and strikeouts percentages are. This creates the ability to at least look at one trend.

Tucker broke onto the scene in 2018 with a monstrous season for AAA Fresno, the Astros affiliate at the time. In 2018, Tucker slashed .332/.400/.590 with 24 homers and 20 steals. He had an 18.1% K% and a 10.3% BB% that season. In 2019, Tucker struck out a little bit more (21.6%) but also walked a little bit more (11.2%). Tucker's 20.2% K% in 2020 is more in line with his minor league K%, indicating he's adjusted to major league pitching.

Tucker essentially put the pieces of contact ability and quality of contact from his previous MLB stints together in 2020. In 2018, Tucker didn't strike out very much (18.1% K%), but his 3.9% Barrel % didn't strike fear in any opponent.

In 2019, Tucker had a 12.8% Barrel %, and his 92 MPH average exit velocity is the best of his three seasons in MLB, but he struck out 27.8% of the time and walked just 5.6% of the time.

In 2020, there's a marriage between the two. His K% and BB% aren't as good as his 2018 marks, but they're better than his 2019 marks. His exit velocity and Barrel % aren't as good as his 2019 marks, but they're better than his 2018 marks. Tucker became a hitter that was able to do more damage without sacrificing consistency.

Tucker had a xBA of .267, which is right in line with his .268 average. His .459 xSLG lags behind his .512 actual SLG, but it isn't a catastrophic drop. The version of Tucker Astros fans saw is essentially who he is, but how does he improve?

What really unlocked Tucker in 2020 was a change in his setup.

Image via: GraysonSkweres/Twitter/Screenshot

Here he is on August 2nd against the Angels. As you can see, he's standing pretty straight up, and he has a "neutral" stance. Following the game on Aug. 2, Tucker was batting .200/.250/.300 with no homers.

Image via: GraysonSkweres/Twitter/Screenshot

Here's Tucker on August 6th, just a few days later. He's started to close off his stance just a bit, but he's still pretty neutral, and he has a little more forward body lean with his torso. Following the game on Aug. 6, he was batting .214/.267/.357 with a homer.

Image via: GraysonSkweres/Twitter/Screenshot

Now, here's Tucker on August 10th. His stance is considerably closed off, and he's maintaining the forward body lean he adopted on August 6th. Following the game on Aug. 10, Tucker was batting .190/.230/.328. It would be the last time any of those numbers would be that low the rest of the year. He maintained that stance for the rest of the season, and he finished the month of August hitting .272/.333/.588.

The swing change allowed him to be a factor on the outside pitch. Tucker would pull off on his front side, which made it tough for him to keep balls fair on the pull side. He'd often yank inside fastballs into the stands down the right field line. It also made him uncompetitive on outside strikes, as he'd either swing-and-miss, or roll them over into the shift.

After he made the change, Tucker started steering inside pitches fair, and he was able to do something with pitches on the outer third.

The next step is finding a way to continue to diversify his batted ball profile. Tucker's pull percentage in 2020 was 47%. That's a higher pull % than guys like Kyle Schwarber and Matt Olson. It was only 1% lower than Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo.

The one dimensional batted ball profile allows teams to shift Tucker aggressively. Teams shifted Tucker in 74% of his at-bats. His wOBA against the shift is .304. In AB's where teams didn't shift him, Tucker had a .455 wOBA. The shift hurts Tucker more than most as well, because he hits the ball on the ground 39% of the time. Gallo and Olson hit it on the ground 32% and 35% of the time respectively.

Lastly, Tucker's performance on breaking balls leaves a lot to be desired. He crushes fastballs, as he batted .303 with a .574 SLG against fastballs in 2020, with a .292 xBA and .528 xSLG. His .208 AVG and .396 SLG against breaking balls aren't very good, and his .209 xBA and .340 xSLG don't tell a prettier story. His 32% whiff % against breaking balls is nearly double his whiff % on fastballs.

If Tucker can learn to be more competitive against breaking balls and learn to use the whole field, then he'll be a really scary hitter. If he doesn't, teams will be able to gameplan for him, and he'll see streaky production similar to other one dimensional hitters like Matt Carpenter and the aforementioned Gallo and Olson.

While the bat may be streaky, Tucker brings it with the glove and on the bases. He had 5 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) in the outfield in 2020, a 0.6 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), and he was plus-4 in Outs Above Average. His well above average speed and instincts give him the ability to be a rangy outfielder and dangerous baserunner.

Tucker had a breakout season in 2020, but there's still changes left to be made if he wants to be a breakout star and not a one hit wonder.

This is part four of an offseason series covering the 2020 Houston Astros. Be sure to check out parts 1-3 on SportsMap.

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