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

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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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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