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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Houston gets the lopsided win

Valdez, Astros dominate the Angels in 10-0 rout in Anaheim

Framber Valdez was dominant against the Angels on Monday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With a series win at home over the weekend, the Astros started their final regular-season road trip on Monday, squaring off against the Angels in Anaheim. They held the momentum firmly in their favor all night, dominating both sides of the game to start the series with a victory.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 0

Astros' Record: 89-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (11-5)

Losing Pitcher: Jaime Barria (2-4)

Siri leads off with a bang

With Jose Altuve being given the night off, Houston gave Jose Siri a shot at the leadoff spot, and he delivered to start the opener in Anaheim. He launched a missile to left field, 426 feet, to put the Astros in front 1-0 before the Angels could record an out. Later that same inning, they strung together three singles, the third being an RBI by Carlos Correa to double the lead.

Valdez goes seven shutout innings

That gave Framber Valdez a lead to work with as he stepped on the rubber in the bottom of the inning, and he didn't give it up as he would post a dominant start. He started with a 1-2-3 first, worked around a couple of singles in the second, then used a double play to face the minimum in the third.

He retired Los Angeles in order again in the fourth, stranded a two-out single in the fifth and a single and a walk in the sixth. He had his worst inning of the night in the seventh, giving up a leadoff single then loading the bases on back-to-back two-out walks. He'd escape the jam, though, keeping the shutout alive and finalizing his impressive line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 98 P.

Astros take the opener in lopsided fashion

Houston tacked on an insurance run in the top of the eighth, getting a one-out double by Correa to set up an RBI single by Marwin Gonzalez, pushing the lead to 3-0. Things escalated from there, as another single put two on base for Martin Maldonado, who blew the game open with a three-run homer to make it a six-run lead.

Brooks Raley took over for Valdez in the bottom of the inning, and with a 1-2-3 inning, made it his eighth appearance in a row without allowing a run. The Astros didn't let up in the top of the ninth, getting two hits and a walk to load the bases before a grand slam by Gonzalez made it 10-0 and gave him 5 RBI in a two-inning span. Seth Martinez, called up by the Astros earlier in the day, made his big-league debut in the bottom of the ninth and closed out the lopsided win to put Houston's magic number at 6.

Up Next: The second of this four-game set will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Tuesday. Jose Urquidy (7-3, 3.38 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, going opposite Packy Naughton (0-2, 4.32 ERA) for the Angels.

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