CODY STOOTS

A look at the Texans opponent: Tennessee Titans

Marcus Mariota should play. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

This weekend the Texans take on the Titans in Nashville looking to bounce back from their season-opening loss. I caught up with Jim Wyatt who has covered the Titans since they moved to Nashville. He now covers the team for TitansOnline.com. 

I wanted to see how people felt about Mike Vrabel taking over as Titans head coach. I don't know many Texans fans who were upset to see Vrabel leave. His defense was underwhelming even when healthy. Romeo Crennel is back as the Texans defensive coordinator. 

Cody Stoots: What's your reaction when you hear Texans fans were happy to see Mike Vrabel go?

Jim Wyatt: Well, I know sometimes you hear that when somebody leaves, like, "good riddance" or "we didn't need him" but I think to judge Mike Vrabel off of what happened there last year and all the injuries the Texans dealt with is unfair. How somebody is as a coordinator certainly doesn't give you an idea of what he's going to be like as a head coach. We've seen special teams coaches become head coaches and have success. We've seen position coaches go somewhere and have some success. I think what matters is what happens when you're in that seat. Everything I've seen from Vrabel to this point is this guy's got a great background as a player. He's certainly been around some great head coaches that gained experience and gained knowledge from. I think he's got a great presence and command that you need as a head coach. I think in time he's going to prove to be a good head coach and some of those people that are questioning that now or ridiculing him now may be eating their words in a couple years. 

Delaine Walker is out for the year with a leg injury he suffered against the Dolphins. He's been the Titans leading receiver three of the last four years and the other year he was second. 

Stoots: What's the impact of Delaine Walked being out for the year? Who can Mariota trust now?

Wyatt: Well, it's a big blow to the Titans. You can't sugar coat it. He's the guy that every quarterback that he's ever played with trusted. He was a guy that not only bailed quarterbacks out he made things happen. He was a tone setter. Jonnu Smith is going to have to step up in his absence...I think the young receiving corps now is on the spot even more to make plays. This is a young group of receivers. Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe, all those guys, just year two guy, you can't wait and be patient with them. You need them to help move the chains. 

The Titans boast the best running back 1-2 punch on the Texans schedule. Derrick Henry had some solid games in the back half of last year and Dion Lewis is a much better compliment to him than Demarco Murray was last year. 

Stoots: Which running back matches up better against the Texans?

Wyatt: It is going to be different each week. Depending on how teams defend them. Depending on what kind of success those guys are having. Last week was more of a Dion Lewis week. He had more success catching the ball out of the backfield. Had more success with his run. With that said, Derrick Henry had a long touchdown run of 62 yards called back on what was a very questionable holding penalty. If that doesn't get called back both those guys end up with really good numbers. I think they'll take turns on which one of them is the busier back each Sunday. Just because it was Lewis against the Dolphins doesn't mean it will be him against the Texans this Sunday.

The Titans finished 13th in defense last year. 

Stoots: What defenders should Texans fans be looking for this weekend?

Wyatt: Up front, it's Jurrell Casey who certainly impacts a lot of games in the trenches and certainly is disruptive in getting some pressure on the quarterback. On the back end, It's Kevin Byard, their All-Pro safety who led the league in takeaways last year. I think there's some talent on this defense but it starts up front with Casey and on the back, I think Byard is the one who kind of runs the show and has made a lot of plays. 

The Texans might luck out this week. The Titans have made plenty of investments in their offensive line. Ben Jones was signed from the Texans before the 2016 season as was Josh Kline. Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin are both former first-round picks. But, Conklin and Lewan are both question marks for this weekend. Conklin is still on the mend from an ACL injury last season. Lewan left the Dolphins game after a crushing block on an interception return. He didn't practice Wednesday with a concussion keeping him out. 

Stoots: What's the plan at tackle?

Wyatt: When Lewan went out on Sunday Kevin Pamphile stepped in. He and Dennis Kelly were the two tackles. Kelly has been a starter in place of Conklin throughout the preseason and week one. He's a veteran. He's done a good job. You haven't heard his name called a lot and as a tackle that's a good thing. Pamphile they got from Tampa Bay this offseason. He's a versatile guy who can play inside he can play outside. I thought he did a good job. The Dolphins are pretty scary up front. They didn't get a sack against the Titans with them dealing with injuries and them dealing with guys who couldn't finish the game. I would expect you would see the same guys if Lewan isn't ready to go. 

Jim does great work online covering the Titans. Check out his latest article here: https://www.titansonline.com/news/three-quick-hits-from-titans-on-wednesday-including-the-latest-on-lt-taylor-lewa?utm_source=t.co&utm;_medium=referral

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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