THE Z REPORT

Lance Zierlein: Texans Primer - Secondary moving up and Watson's "tight window throws"

Jonathan Joseph and newcomer Justin Reid could help the secondary. Photo by Edward Clarke

The Rockets put together their best win total in team history and had an MVP winner for the first time since 1994. They followed that up with a non-busy free agency period that saw them lose two key wing defenders, re-up with Chris Paul for a four year, max dollar deal, and pursue Carmelo Anthony - yet again.

The Astros and the entire city are still on cloud nine with the organization bringing the city its baseball title and the fellas are in the mix once again. The Rockets and the Astros are having success and occupying the attention of the the city.

But guess what, guys? The Texans are back! The Texans are back! Wait, what? You aren’t as excited as you used to be about this team after watching the team tank in games where Deshaun Watson couldn’t play? You don’t feel the same connection to the defense since J.J. Watt’s consecutive seasons on the sideline due to injury? The departure of Rick Smith has you feeling down? OK, I know that last one isn’t true. Camp is getting started so it’s time for me to serve you some football coffee and wake you up for the Texans season.

Hopkins is the real MVP?

How important is DeAndre Hopkins to the success of Deshaun Watson’s success? Maybe more important than you realize. I’m doing some consulting work with Zebra Technology, who handles player tracking on the NFL level. One of the things they can track is “Tight Window Throws” which is defined as a pass attempt with a defender within 1.5 yards of the target.

A total of 34.1% of Watson’s pass attempts were into tight windows, which was a little on the high side. For comparison’s sake, Carson Wentz was at 35.5%, Russell Wilson at 29.4%, Ben Roethlisberger at 26.8%, and Drew Brees at 22.5%. What you start to find is that younger quarterbacks tend to throw into tight windows more often so it is important that they have quality receivers who can make catches in traffic.

Watson actually completed 39.4% of his “tight window throws” which was higher than Roethlisberger 37.1% and Wilson 38.7%. This is where “D-Hop” comes in. Hopkins has good size, long arms, catches the ball away from his body and may have the strongest hands of any receiver in the league. When it comes to ball skills and winning 50/50 throws, he’s the best in the league. Period. Without Hopkins, many of those throws become incompletions.

This isn’t to say that Watson wasn’t spectacular last year, because he was, but Hopkins ability to win in the tight windows meant Watson didn’t have to go through as many of the growing pains as most young quarterbacks go through.

Optimism Bubble - The secondary will be fine

I see holes with this team and I have concerns, but we aren’t going to focus on those ugly comments since this is the beginning of camp. Right now is a time for optimism which is why I’m opening up this Optimism Bubble. You can step inside this bubble (it’s actually just a few paragraphs) and experience safe and happy Texans talk. Today’s topic is the secondary

Sure, the Texans were an atrocity on the back-end last season and many of those same player are back, but third-round safety Justin Reid is much more talented than where he was drafted and has the talent to help the defense as a rookie. Tyrann Mathieu may very well be better off as a ball-hawking safety than a slot corner and that should benefit the Texans. Free agent cornerback Aaron Colvin is an obvious upgrade into the talent pool at the cornerback spot.

I’m not going to try and over-sell you on Jonathan Joseph or Kareem Jackson because I think both vets best days are behind them, but I do believe that their jobs (Kareem’s job is still up in the air in my opinion) will get easier with a healthy pass rush intact for 2018. And Kevin Johnson? He’s not bad, he’s not good, he’s just been blah. However, it wouldn’t be out of the normal career arc for Johnson to have his best season to date.

The secondary is clearly in need of some fresh blood at cornerback, but the addition of Colvin and potential improvement from Kevin Johnson should help that. If the pass rush does their job and Mathieu does what he does best as a ballhawk, there is no reason to believe the Texans secondary won’t go from back to solid or even bad to good. Of course, we are in the Optimism Bubble.

 

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This is getting out of hand. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Allsport/Getty Images.

Dr. Rick warns his patients, young homeowners who are turning into their parents, you can expect to pay more for snacks and drinks at a movie theater. It's the same deal at a professional sports venue. Three years ago, I put a down payment on a cheeseburger at Toyota Center ... I still have three more payments to go before I get it.

But this is ridiculous. The PGA Championship, the lesser (least) of golf's majors, is charging $18 for a beer, a 25-ounce Michelob Ultra, at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa. It's $19 for a Stella Artois. You can buy a six-pack for less at the supermarket. Aren't there laws against price gouging, like during a hurricane? Isn't Tulsa where the Golden Hurricanes play? Get FEMA in here. Did tournament directors get together and ponder, how can we piss off our fans? Sure, it's Tulsa and there's not much else to do, but that's no excuse.

Charging $18 for a beer makes the concession stands at Minute Maid Park look like a Sunday morning farmer's market. A 25-ounce domestic beer during an Astros game is $13.49. A 25-ounce premium beer is $14.45. Yeah, that's high for a beer, but at Minute Maid Park there are lots of hands in the till. Aramark wants to make a profit, the taxman has big mitts, and the Astros want their cut, too. Look, you want to sign Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez to an extension or not? Then drink up and don't complain. Some quiet grumbling and head-shaking is permitted, however.

You know the PGA Championship is charging too much for a beer when even the rich pampered players take notice. "18 (!!!!!) for a beer ... uhhh what," former PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas tweeted. "Good thing I don't drink a lot."

Like he will be in line for a beer at a public concession booth, anyway.

Of course there will be fans sneaking in beer in baggies strapped to their ankles, like stuffing your pockets with store-bought Snickers before going to the movies. It doesn't have to be this way. The Masters, the most prestigious golf event, charges only $5 for both domestic and imported beer. I know it's a gimmick, part of The Masters mystique along with pimento sandwiches for $1.50, but still it's a welcome gesture. You never lose when you treat the public fairly. When Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened in Atlanta, Falcons owner Arthur Blank insisted that food vendors charge the same inside the stadium as they do at their regular restaurants. Same thing when Denver International Airport opened, fast food restaurants couldn't jack up their prices to their captive customers. Here? There needs to be a loan window outside the Cinnabon booth at Bush-Intercontinental.

Except for the Masters in Augusta, golf's majors aren't tied to a city. A major comes to a city maybe every few years or in most cases never. There's no need to ride into a city like the James Gang, rob the local bank, and high tail it out of town. Golf should be the last professional sport to stick it to fans. While the game has made strides to open its arms to lower-income youths, golf remains an elitist, extremely expensive sport for regular folk. Equipment is expensive, private courses are exclusive and country clubs are exclusionary. Public courses are less expensive but still expensive and crowded. Plus there's never been a professional sport more dangerously dominated by one person than golf. I can imagine network executives on their knees praying that Tiger Woods makes the cut and plays on weekends. Otherwise, TV ratings go straight into the toilet, you know, like whatever team Mattress Mack is betting on. (I joke because I love, and frankly a little scared.)

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