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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It's all systems go for the Houston Texans! Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images.

It was 2002 and the city of Houston was rewarded with the NFL's 32nd franchise. I remember the newspaper special section with all the info points on the new team. There was even a full page graphic explaining how the grass plates were constructed. (Side Note: We should've known right then and there it was going to be disastrous!) There was a level of excitement unseen since the Rockets won a title, I'd assume. People were wearing “32, Houston” jerseys. There was more Battle Red, Deep Steel Blue, and Liberty White around town than a Fourth of July day parade.

The next time the city was excited about Texans football involved the Gary Kubiak days of making the playoffs. After that, Bill O'Brien hung a few division title banners as well. That's when the lull came. It all came crashing down, swiftly and mightily. The death of Bob McNair may have played a part in things deteriorating so quickly. Whether blame is placed here or there, changes needed to be made. Cal McNair was seen as incompetent. In comes Nick Caserio. He had a mess to clean up. The last two seasons were awful, but necessary. After back-to-back one-and-done coaches, Caserio has hired his guy.

Enter DeMeco Ryans. The former Texans great linebacker was the 49ers defensive coordinator the past two seasons. He took over a great defense and kept it going. From the moment he stepped on campus at Alabama, he commanded a different level of respect. Not only was he good, but he was a leader. Nicknamed “Cap” because he was a captain on and off the field. That followed him to Houston. His presence was felt everywhere he went. It was known before his career ended that he'd most likely be a coach one day.

This moment in time right now is giving 2002, Kubiak playoffs, and O'Brien playoff vibes but amplified. Why? Because one of this franchise's own has come home. Ryans was the most desired candidate this coaching cycle. Sean Payton may have had the bigger name, but Ryans was the one the Broncos tried to go back after, then settled on Payton. Teams he turned down had to move along and find other candidates to fill their vacancies. HE CHOSE HOUSTON! Nothing like feeling desired and being chosen!

I believe DeMeco will turn this franchise around and make them a contender. It's very rare that you have a star athlete turned sought after coach and NOBODY has a bad word to say about him! Social media has turned things into a 12-hour news cycle. Yet you've NEVER heard or seen DeMeco involved in any foolishness. He's been a model citizen, while also maintaining a high level of play and now coaching. When people respect you for your football acumen AND your character, that says a lot. Whoever said nice guys finish last obviously hasn't met DeMeco.

Armed with some cap space, draft capital, a capable GM, and ownership seeking a fresh start, DeMeco is set up to succeed. It's up to him, and Caserio, to finish what was started two years ago. Currently, the house on Kirby has a few more improvements to make. Some paint, redoing the floors, new landscaping, and new furniture. The kitchens and bathrooms are done. It needs the final touch. DeMeco is that final touch.

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