3 headlines 2 questions and 1 bet ahead of the season opener with the Saints

No time to be new with Saints nearing

@HoustonTexans

"I understand everybody is going to dissect how we did it"

Bill O'Brien hears the commentary the Texans didn't get enough in the trade of Jadeveon Clowney. The Texans tried to negotiate a contract but they couldn't get to Clowney's number and he wouldn't come down to their number. Thus, the trade.

As for the timing, O'Brien knows it didn't help the value.

"There were a lot of talks that took place. There were contract proposals between the player and us that we just couldn't come to an agreement on relative to the franchise tag. We couldn't come to that agreement, and we had several discussions with many teams over many months and we feel like we made the best decision for the team."

Ultimately the Texans get no Clowney and a third-round pick a year early than say eight games of Clowney and a third round pick in 2021. I don't believe Clowney was ever going to put himself in a position to be traded where he didn't want to go. With him not letting the Texans decide, they did what they thought they could do.

"I feel really good about being able to get a proven left tackle to protect Deshaun Watson"

"They're hard to draft, they're hard to develop, but Laremy Tunsil is an excellent player who was here last night, yesterday afternoon, in here right now meeting with Mike (Devlin) – a really good guy and it's been good getting to know him over the last, let's just call it 36 hours."

Bill O'Brien is right, the left tackle spot isn't easy to fill. Only three tackles drafted in the back half of the first round are starters at left tackle for their team. Taylor Decker (Lions), Garett Bolles (Broncos), and D.J. Humphries (Cardinals) are those players. Decker is fantastic, he was the 4th rated pass blocker at tackle last year according to Pro Football Focus. The other two graded out terrible and they are nothing special. Various other players have slid inside or are on other teams already.

I say all that to say, if the Texans didn't stink, it was unlikely a Laremy Tunsil-level player was getting to them. So, there would be an investment to move up, likely an additional first, to eventually get that left tackle and that player is an unknown. If the Texans aren't very good going forward then there should be criticism for not having the picks to improve the team.

Tunsil has to get ready in a hurry. He is expected to play Monday against the Saints.

"Me being in the offense a little longer than him maybe I can help him with some stuff"

Tytus Howard was excited to talk about his new running mate on the left side of the offensive line in Laremy Tunsil. Howard was a little tongue in cheek when he said he could show Tunsil something but noted they have work to do with each other to get used to one another on the line. It would take reps said Howard.

"I plan on learning as much as I can from him," said Howard. "Let him show me the ropes."

The Texans know four starters on the offensive line. Tunsil and Howard will man the left of center Nick Martin. Seantrell Henderson is the team's right tackle. The only spot up for grabs is if rookie Max Scharping or veteran Zach Fulton get the nod at right guard.

Will Kenny Stills still kneel?

Kenny Stills is one of the last few players still kneeling during the National Anthem. The Texans have rarely come across kneeling players, with one exception a few seasons ago.

Stills has been outspoken on why he kneels. He goes into detail on his website.

"We were not protesting the national anthem. We were actively working to create a conversation regarding police brutality and the race issues that plague this country...My goal truly is to build bridges. I want to foster a positive relationship between police officers and the communities they protect. I want to encourage open conversation, which allows people to discuss issues and learn from each other. I want to help establish opportunities for at-risk kids to have the same opportunities in and outside of the classroom as everyone else."

As for whatever Stills decides, his head coach has his back.

"Relative to any social justice initiatives," O'Brien said. "You guys know that my history here with the Houston Texans is I love the players. I have the players' back and we communicate about those things. I'm not going to get into any discussions that I would have with any player about those things, but I support the players in social justice initiatives."


How will the defense fare against the Saints?

Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and Michael Thomas is just the start of what is a fantastic Saints offense. They are also coached by one of the best offensive minds in the NFL in Sean Payton.

The Texans will be breaking in a couple of new starters including cornerback Bradley Roby and safety Tashaun Gipson. The front seven will have no Clowney but Whitney Mercilus is back at the "JACK" position which focuses more on pass rush.

Aaron Colvin is a question mark for this team at slot cornerback. He was disappointing last season. The defensive linemen outside of J.J. Watt and D.J. Reader have plenty to prove. The depth is a concern with a rookie, like Lonnie Johnson, or new faces, like Barkevious Mingo or Jacob Martin playing what could end up being key spots or moments.

Romeo Crennel has his hands full.

I bet there will be some friendly wagering this week between veterans and rookies

Rookies Cullen Gillaspia from Texas A&M and Charles Omenihu from Texas could be wheeling and dealing this weekend.

Omenihu's Longhorns play new teammate Barkevious Mingo's LSU Tigers this weekend. I joked with Omenihu he could get to know his new teammate with a friendly wager. He predicted a 28-17 Texas win.

Gillaspia is in a much more difficult spot as his Aggies ready to play the Clemson Tigers. There are four Clemson players on the roster with DeAndre Hopkins, Deshaun Watson, D.J. Reader, and Carlos Watkins. I would imagine Gillaspia may keep the stakes low with four people to pay off if he decides to make a friendly wager and lose.

J.J. Watt wore a Northwestern shirt a couple of years ago after former Texans linebacker Brian Peters saw his alma mater take down Watt's Wisconsin Badgers. Could we see Watson in maroon next week?

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Houston drops first of three

Mariners heat up late to take series opener over Astros

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

With the playoffs just a little over a week away, the Astros started their last week of regular-season games in Seattle against the Mariners. A couple of wins against them would secure Houston's spot as the AL West's second playoff participant, with Oakland all but having locked up the first spot sitting six games in front of Houston with seven left to play. Here is a quick rundown of the opener from T-Mobile Park:

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 1.

Record: 27-27, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Marco Gonzalez (7-2, 3.06 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (3-3, 4.24 ERA).

Bitter end to an impressive start for McCullers Jr.

Both starting pitchers would take a scoreless deep late into Monday night's game. While the Astros were trying to figure out Marco Gonzalez, Lance McCullers Jr. was repeating the success of his last start, a seven-inning two-hit start against the Rangers.

McCullers Jr. allowed a two-out walk in the bottom of the first inning, then proceeded to retire the next fourteen batters before a one-out double in the bottom of the sixth gave the Mariners their first hit of the night. He would go on to finish the sixth before things unraveled in the seventh.

A leadoff walk would result in a run after an error by Jose Altuve left runners on first and second, setting up an RBI-double to give the Mariners the first run of the night and a 1-0 lead. McCullers Jr. looked like he was going to cap off his night by stranding the runners on second and third after back-to-back strikeouts, but before he could get the last out of the inning allowed a three-run home run to blow the game open at 4-0. His final line: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 1 HR, 102 P.

Mariners take the opener

Despite getting several hits against him along the way, Houston could not get anything substantial going against Gonzalez, who would shutout the Astros over eight innings of work. After Enoli Paredes finished the seventh, Brandon Bielak would take over out of Houston's bullpen for the bottom of the eighth.

He struggled mightily, loading the bases with no outs, including a hit batter before allowing a two-RBI single to extend Seattle's lead to 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the top of the ninth, getting a two-out double by Carlos Correa, who would score on an RBI-single by Josh Reddick. That would be too little, too late as the 6-1 score would go final as the Mariners took the opener, keeping the Astros' magic number at two.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will be another 8:10 PM Central start on Tuesday. On the mound will be Framber Valdez (4-3, 3.82 ERA) for the Astros and Ljay Newsome (0-1, 6.35 ERA) for the Mariners.

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