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

No time to be new with Saints nearing

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"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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The Astros will look to Framber Valdez to pitch Game 6 of the World Series. Composite image by Jack Brame.

They may not have finished the regular season with the best overall record in all of MLB, and they may not play in one of the toughest divisions in the league. Yet, the 2022 Houston Astros showed plenty of signs this season that their pitching staff was operating at an elite level, and paired with a more-than-adequate offense, they were the best team in baseball all along.

Pitching their way back into the series

The World Series isn't over yet by any means, with the Astros needing to get the final win in Game 6 or a possible Game 7 to finish things off, but the performance their arms put on in games 4 and 5 has to instill a sense of destiny about what's to come. Let's go back to Game 3, where, due to tipping or not, the Phillies offense completely dismantled Lance McCullers Jr. on their way to handing Houston a disheartening 7-0 loss.

That gave Philadelphia a 2-1 series lead after the first of three games at Citizens Bank Park and left Houston searching for a significant flip of momentum and quick. Boy, they got it, with Cristian Javier righting the ship with his spectacular start, going six hitless innings followed by a non-surprising quality night from the bullpen to finish the combined no-hitter.

That tied the series, setting up a big moment for Justin Verlander. After his Game 1 implosion continued his World Series woes, the presumptive Cy Young award winner must've felt some pressure heading into Game 5, knowing that another disappointing start may cost his team the series. Instead, he finally gets his first win in the Fall Classic, making it through five innings while allowing just one run before his bullpen would finish things off for him. Speaking of the bullpen...

Pressly for WS MVP?

Let's talk about Ryan Pressly and his ascension with the Astros. He joined the team via trade in 2018, coming in as a middle-innings reliever. In 2020, then-closer Roberto Osuna suffered an injury, and Houston decided to move Pressly to the closer role. That change has paid massive dividends for the team, and there's been no better display of it than Pressly's performance in this World Series so far.

In Game 1, he enters in a 5-5 tie in the top of the ninth and sits down the nine, one, and two hitters of the Phillies to give Houston a chance at a walk-off, though they would go on to lose in extras. In Game 2, he allows the only hit he's given up to the Phillies, which would score after an error but still held on to finish off the victory that tied the series 1-1.

After not appearing in the lopsided Game 3 loss, he enters in the ninth of Game 4, which despite being a 5-0 game, still had a high level of stress with a combined no-hitter on his shoulders, which he would get across the finish line. Then, the night after finishing that no-no, he has the most impressive outing so far.

In the midst of one of the most stressful games of the year for Houston, their bullpen allows a rare run in the bottom of the eighth, making it a 3-2 game and giving the Phillies a chance to put together a series-defining rally if they could take the lead and go up 3-2 in the series. Dusty Baker opts to trust his closer, bringing in Pressly with runners on first and third with one out in a one-run game, asking him to escape the jam and get a five-out save.

The first batter he faces, Pressly does precisely what he needs to do, getting a three-pitch strikeout to allow any out to end the inning, which he would get against the dangerous Kyle Schwarber to send the game to the ninth with the Astros still in front. Then he's faced with the heart of Philadelphia's order in the bottom of the ninth, with Houston still owning a one-run lead. Strikeout, fly out with a fantastic Chas McCormick assist, a hit batter, then a groundout to win the game.

There will be more offense to consider for Jeremy Peña, Alex Bregman, and others that are also firmly in the discussion should the Astros win the series. Still, with how Pressly's going, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Houston's closer takes home the World Series MVP trophy.

Run the playbook one more time

Before the trophies start getting handed out, Houston needs to check off that final box, which is getting one more win. Their recipe for success continues to be having one of their elite starters get as far into the game and with as minor damage as possible, then trusting their bullpen arms to navigate the rest of the way.

With the uncertainty of a Game 7, the Astros need that playbook to work in Game 6, where they'll have their "other ace," Framber Valdez, on the mound looking to replicate the success he had in Game 2, where he went six and one-thirds innings while allowing just one run. After the day off to rest the bullpen, if he can get into the middle innings with a close game, Dusty Baker will be able to piece together the rest with his cast of near-untouchable arms, and Houston will be champions once more.

Bench Framber

Astros Framber Valdez, Justin VerlanderBench FramberComposite image by Brandon Strange

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