SCOUTING THE COMBINE

Lance Zierlein: Some potential offensive line targets for the Texans

The Texans offensive line has been in shambles, even before they traded Duane Brown. They will be monitoring the combine. Tim Warner/Getty Images

So long, suckers! I’m off to Indianapolis for the 2018 Combine. As many of you already know, by morning I’m a sports talk host on “The Bench” with John Granato from 7 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. each weekday. However, the rest of my day (at least from November through April) is filled with watching college game tape and writing the player profiles for NFL.com. I’m also responsible for the team needs of all 32 teams which certainly helps with my mock drafts.

I can sense that there is no buzz surrounding the 2018 NFL Draft here in Houston, and why would there be any? The Texans are without a second round pick because Rick Smith felt like he had to give it away to trade away the contract of Brock Osweiller (rather than just sucking it up and taking a reasonable cap hit) and the first rounder was spent securing Deshaun Watson which was a plus move by the former GM.

If you are going to be watching the Combine coverage, check it out on NFL.com or the NFL Now mobile app because your boy is going to be part of the broadcast. Even if you are just watching on NFL Network, it’s my job as a local with inside player knowledge to give you a heads-up about offensive linemen who won’t get Deshaun Watson killed and who might be good fits for the Texans based on the draft picks they have. With three picks in the third round, the Texans have some ammo to move up into the second, so I will include a few second round types as well.

Guards / Tackles

Because the tackle position is so coveted (and light in talent this year), players will likely be pushed up the draft board so we’ll include some tackles the Texans may have to trade up for. As for guards, it is easier to find starters in the middle round so I would be less likely to trade up for a guard.

Jamarco Jones, OT, Ohio State: I’m a little higher on Jones that others, but that’s a relative term. He’s got good arm length and decent quickness and should have enough anchor and athletic ability to become a starter at left tackle. He’s not always pretty, but guys get blocked.

Will Richardson, OT, N.C. State: He’s not the greatest athlete, but he’s good enough to handle right tackle duties. He’s been well-coached and is an adequate run blocker with a strong punch in pass protection. Richardson also has the ability to play guard.

Joseph Noteboom, OT, TCU: I will tell you right up front that I thought Noteboom looked more like a later round pick when I studied him on tape, but his solid Senior Bowl practices has made me reassess  who he can be. Noteboom has long arms and good foot quickness and showed better power than I expected. He could be a third round target by the Texans.

Braden Smith, OG, Auburn: This guy is a weight-room monster and proved against Alabama that he has the strength to fight power with power. The downside? He’s a little inconsistent in pass protection and that is one of the big concerns the Texans have had with Xavier Su’a-Filo. Smith is projected to be a mid-round pick.

Austin Corbett, OG, Nevada: I can almost promise you that Bill O’Brien and his staff will like Corbett. He has good size, big hands and has the ability play tackle or center if you need him to in a pinch. Corbett is a good athlete and he’s very smart. I think he’ll be an average run blocker in O’Brien’s scheme, but an above average pass protector.




 

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After the big offensive showing to take the opener on Thursday, the Astros entered Friday's game at Globe Life Field against the Rangers just one win or Angels loss away from securing their spot in the playoffs. Here is how the game unfolded:

Final Score (10 innings): Rangers 5, Astros 4.

Record: 29-29, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Brett Martin (1-1, 1.98 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-3, 3.05 ERA).

Urquidy goes seven while allowing two

The Rangers would strike first in Friday's game, getting a two-out solo home run against Jose Urquidy in the bottom of the second to grab the early 1-0 lead. Urquidy did relatively well on the night, though he would allow another solo homer in the bottom of the fifth. Those were the only two runs he allowed, working in and out of some trouble throughout the game on his way to finishing seven innings. His final line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 98 P.

Houston grabs their first lead late

Unlike their hot night at the plate the night prior, it took the Astros until the fifth inning to get on the board. It came after Carlos Correa hit a leadoff single, then came all the way around to score on an RBI-triple by George Springer, making it a 1-1 tie at the time.

After the Rangers went back in front 2-1 in the bottom of the inning on their second solo homer of the night, Alex Bregman would tie it up again with a solo home run of his own, making it 2-2. Houston would get their first lead of the night in the top of the eighth, with Altuve working a leadoff walk before scoring later in the inning on an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel.

Rangers get the walk-off to keep Houston waiting for playoff bid

After Urquidy, Blake Taylor would take over on the mound in the bottom of the eighth, retiring the Rangers in order for a scoreless inning to hold the one-run lead. Still 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Houston turned to their closer, Ryan Pressly. After two quick outs, he would allow a game-tying solo home run, making it 3-3 to postpone Houston's celebration at least another inning as the game headed to extras.

In the top of the tenth, Jose Altuve was placed on second as the free runner. He advanced to third on a groundout to start the inning, then scored on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it a 4-3 lead for Houston. Enoli Paredes would load the bases before Texas would tie the game on a sac fly in the bottom of the inning, keeping runners on second and third. Houston made the change to Brooks Raley to try and extend the game another inning, but instead, the Rangers would get the walk-off win, spoiling Houston's chance to clinch their playoff spot themselves with a win.

Up Next: The third game of this four-game set will get underway at 6:05 PM Central on Saturday. On the mound for Texas will be Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.87 ERA), and, as of now, the Astros still have Lance McCullers Jr. (3-3, 4.24 ERA) listed as their starter.

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