LANCE ZIERLEIN

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

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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Astros defeat the A's, 6-3. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer to highlight Houston's six-run fourth inning that backed Justin Verlander's winning start, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Friday night.

Verlander (3-2) struck out nine over six innings to increase hit total to 3,377, passing Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (3,371) for 10th on the career strikeouts list. He gave up two runs — one earned — on eight hits and didn't walk a batter for a second straight start and seventh time this year.

After another milestone to add to a long list of them, Verlander wasn't sure exactly how to feel.

“I feel like I should be more excited but I feel like I’m a little more introspective and reflective,” Verlander said. “A lot of sacrifices you make in this game, a lot of time away from the family, but I love it, so it’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if as a 21- or 22-year-old kid in professional baseball if I’d thought I’d be in the top-10 in anything. This sport’s been around for so long. Hard to put into words, but a lot of thoughts, a lot of thoughts went through my mind.”

When his teammates celebrated him once the special outing had ended, Verlander allowed himself to ponder the meaning.

Verlander remembers his first strikeout and he recalls one against Hall of Fame slugger Frank Thomas here at the Coliseum — and the pitcher wears No. 35 because of Thomas.

“I have a lot of great memories here,” he said.

A's manager Mark Kotsay, a former Oakland outfielder, has been witness to some of those.

“He’s just tough. He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. He knows his game plan and he executes it really well," Kotsay said. "He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.”

Yordan Alvarez added an RBI double and Josh Hader finished the 2-hour, 31-minute game with his seventh save for the Astros, who began a seven-game road trip.

After right-hander Ross Stripling (1-9) retired the first nine Houston hitters in order, Jose Altuve singled to start the fourth for the first of four straight hits that included Alex Bregman's two-run single.

The A's drew an announced crowd of 9,676 for the series opener after winning two of three against Colorado following an eight-game losing streak.

Miguel Andujar came off the injured list and immediately hit an RBI single in the first off Verlander and finished with three hits in his A's and season debut — including another run-scoring single in the seventh.

Andjuar's RBI marked the first time the A's have scored first in 18 games — ending the longest streak in franchise history. Batting cleanup, he also singled in the third.

Astros left fielder Chas McCormick robbed Max Schuemann of an extra-base hit when he crashed into the wall to make a great catch ending the eighth.

“That was a big play at the moment,” manager Joe Espada said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP José Urquidy was pulled from his rehab start with Triple-A Sugar Land because of right forearm discomfort. He has been on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. ... 1B José Abreu is scheduled to rejoin the club Monday in Seattle after playing at least two games with Triple-A Sugar Land as he works to regain his hitting rhythm.

Athletics: Andujar had been sidelined all season after having meniscus surgery on his right knee. He was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Nov. 6. Oakland created roster room by optioning INF Brett Harris to Triple-A Las Vegas.

UP NEXT

RHP Spencer Arrighetti (2-4, 7.16 ERA) pitches for the Astros in the middle game opposite A's LHP JP Sears (3-3, 4.31).

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