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

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Houston's winning streak moves to six

Eighth-inning rally powers Astros to series sweep over Rangers

Yuli Gurriel brought in the go-ahead run late in Sunday's game. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Winners in the first three games of this series and their last five games overall, the Astros continued their climb towards the A's for first place in the AL West. They completed the four-game sweep, ending a successful homestand on a positive note before heading on the road.

Final Score: Astros 6, Rangers 2

Astros' Record: 24-17, tied for first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Brooks Raley (2-2)

Losing Pitcher: Joely Rodriguez (1-2)

Astros strike first, McCullers Jr. goes six scoreless

After the Rangers went down 1-2-3 in the top of the first, Houston grabbed an early lead off the bat of Alex Bregman. He provided the third single of the inning, a one-out RBI to put the Astros in front 1-0, a score which would hold steady for a while. Another run didn't come across until the bottom of the fifth when Houston would load the bases with one out when Carlos Correa would get an RBI groundball to double the lead to 2-0.

Lance McCullers Jr. did well with the small lead, backing up his recent eight-inning gem with a quality start against Texas. He allowed a couple of hits each in the third and fourth but would erase the runners with no damage allowed. The Rangers threatened in the top of the sixth with a leadoff double before the runner moved to third on a wild pitch, putting him in a great position with no outs. McCullers Jr. would come away unscathed, finishing the inning and his day by retiring the next three batters. His final line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 95 P.

Rangers tie it against Scrubb

First out of Houston's bullpen was Andre Scrubb, and he would not fare as well as the Astros starter. A leadoff single turned into a two-run game-tying homer, making it 2-2 before Scrubb would sit down the next three in order. Still tied in the top of the eighth, Brooks Raley had a terrific inning, striking out the three batters he faced.

Houston rallies ahead in the eighth for the four-game sweep

The top of Houston's order mounted a threat in the bottom of the eighth, loading the bases with one out to try and regain the lead. Yuli Gurriel would come through with the go-ahead at-bat, getting a sac fly to put the Astros back in front 3-2. A two-out walk loaded the bases again, setting up Chas McCormick to provide two insurance runs on a two-RBI single.

Myles Straw added one more on an RBI single, making it a four-run game at 6-2 heading to the ninth. Enoli Paredes made his long-awaited return from the IL, appearing for the first time since April 8th to try and close things out in the ninth. He tossed a scoreless inning, finishing off the four-game sweep, extending Houston's winning streak to six games, and keeping them in step with Oakland for the AL West lead.

Up Next: After a day off on Monday, the Astros will begin a six-game road trip on Tuesday. They'll kick off a three-game set in Oakland against the A's at 8:40 PM, an exciting matchup to determine who will head into the weekend atop the division. While Cristian Javier (3-1, 3.08 ERA) is the expected starter for Houston, Oakland has not yet determined their rotation for the series.

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