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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Justin Verlander has been a pleasant surprise coming off Tommy John surgery. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

As baseball passes the quarter pole of the 2022 season, the Houston Astros are right where we thought they’d be - first place and overwhelming Vegas favorites to win the American League West, and holding the second-best record in the AL.

But as Jerry Garcia put it, “what a long strange trip it’s been.” This wasn’t the route baseball analysts figured for the Astros. Remember the start of the season? The Astros were returning a power-packed lineup that finished 2021’s World Series run with the top team batting average in the American League, .269. Sure, pitching might be a question mark with Justin Verlander returning from two years out with Tommy John and Lance McCullers recovering from injury.

Still the Astros figured to have enough firepower at the plate to overcome their pitching concerns. With the A’s waving a white flag on the season, the Angels likely to fade and the Mariners and Rangers headed nowhere, the rest of the Astros season is merely a formality – it’s all about getting their pitching rotation ready for the post-season and Dollar Dog Nights.

But instead of the Astros beating down opponents with offense, it’s pitching that’s propelled them to the top of the standings. Yes, he’s destined to Cooperstown, but who saw Verlander, age 39 and two years on the sidelines, at 6-1 with a crazy, shrinking 1.22 ERA. Nobody is supposed to come back from Tommy John at that age like that.

Luis Garcia, Cristian Javier, Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Rafael Montero, Ryne Stanek, even Jake Odorizzi, are performing above expectations.

Now those awesome bashers at the plate? Let’s not pile on and exaggerate how bad they’ve been … but disappointing is putting it mildly. Historically disastrous might be closer. Let’s crunch the numbers.

Monday night the Astros batting order was: Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel, Kyle Tucker, Jeremy Pena, Jose Siri, and Martin Maldonado. You’ve got batting champs, All-Stars, an MVP, solid hitters and promising young players up and down the order.

How’s this? Every single player is hitting below his lifetime average (with the exception of rookie Pena who didn’t have a career average heading into 2022). The team batting average, .230, is 10th in the American League. That’s what you call a team slump. If anything, the Astros are not who we thought they are. It’s really a wonder they’re in first place.

Altuve is hitting 25 points below his career standard. He’s followed by Brantley (-16), Bregman (-49), Alvarez (-35), Gurriel (-67), Tucker (-29), Siri (-29), and Maldonado (-86).

That’s a collective 336 batting average points below what was expected if the Astros had just a normal year. Yeah, baseballs are kept in humidors like fine cigars this year, but the ball ain’t that dead.

Here’s an even bigger surprise, this time a happy one. Remember the citywide hand-wringing, oh what are we going to do without Carlos Correa this year? Well, rookie Jeremy Pena isn’t just sticking his finger in the dike, he’s leading the regulars with a .287 average, seven homers and 22 RBI. He’s the Astros MVP so far and has to be the leader for Rookie of the Year.

That irreplaceable guy Pena replaced? He’s batting .268 with two home runs and 14 RBI somewhere else.

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