LANCE ZIERLEIN

LZ's Facts: Watson under pressure and O-line changes

Deshaun Watson has not thrived under pressure. Zach Tarrant/Houstontexans.com

Fact: Teams who start the season 0-2 make the playoffs just 12.1% of the time and win the division just 5.6% of the time. Based on the way Jacksonville looked against New England, I feel like I can safely tell you that you can tear your “Texans win AFC South” ticket up.

LZ Says: That sounds like really bad news, but the good news is that in each of the last five seasons, there has been a team who started 0-2 and still made the playoffs including the Saints last season who finished 11-5.

Fact: After two games, Deshaun Watson is completing just 35% of his passes at 4.2 yards per attempt, and a 27.9 Passer Rating when pressured. Pretty terrible. When he’s not pressured, you ask? He completes 69.6% of his passes at 8.7 yards per attempt, and a 109.1

LZ Says: Watson’s response to pressure didn’t look good over the last two games and now we have data points confirming just how bad it was. It’s Watson’s job to have a pre-snap plan and post-snap poise to deal with pressure, but it’s also Bill O’Brien’s job to do a better job scheming around the fact that his offensive line doesn’t have the talent to hold up consistently - especially against blitzes. O’Brien is going to activate more RPO (run-pass option) looks, more play-actions, and passing on early downs. These could all help to slow down the opposing rush. Moving the pocket could help too.

Fact: The Houston Texans offensive line may need to be shuffled within the next couple of games if things don’t get better in pass protection quickly.

LZ Says: With Seantrel Henderson out for the year, there aren’t a ton of options at tackle that don’t involve Kendall Lamm and I know the fans don’t want to see that. However, if Martinas Rankin keeps struggling  to handle speed rushers off the edge, we could see Davenport moved back to his more natural left side with Lamm plugged in on the right. I’m not saying I’m excited about it happening, I’m just saying it could happen. The same goes for Senio Kelemete at left guard. He’s really more of a solid NFL backup who has been thrust into the starting lineup. If he keeps playing up-and-down football, Greg Mancz could get the call to step in for Kelemete sooner than later.

Fact: The punt block debacle was a fundamental breakdown from the top to the bottom.

LZ Says: Let’s work our way from the bottom up in this one. The Texans asked a rookie, Natrell Jamerson, to fake a punt block and then peel back out to the gunner before the snap. Jamerson was late getting out to his responsibility and it lead to a touchdown for the Titans. He messed up. But now let’s work to the next level - Brad Seely, the special teams coach. How in the world do you show the same “fake punt block” look the week before and come back to it the very next week? Kevin Byard was asked about the fake punt touchdown throw and he even said that the Titans prepared for that look and were hoping to see it. Congrats, you got what you wanted. And ultimately, the buck stops on the head coach, Bill O’Brien, whether he likes it or not.

 

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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