The Texans have plenty of good they would like to carry over from the Chargers win

Offensive line and second down success here to stay?

Offensive line and second down success here to stay?
@HoustonTexans

Deshaun Watson's no look pass

3 Headlines, 2 Questions, and 1 Bet as the Texans are 2-1 readying themselves for Kyle Allen and the Panthers.

Offensive line stands out for the right reason

Daniel Jeremiah is the Chargers color analyst for radio as well as the top NFL draft analyst for NFL Network. He was really impressed with the Texans offensive line which featured rookie Tytus Howard at right tackle and rookie Max Scharping at left guard.

The improvements were clear. Yes, Deshaun Watson had a few times where he had to use his magician-like escape powers to get away but the cold hard stats don't lie.

Week 1 at Saints: 6 sacks and 11 QB hits

Week 2 vs Jaguars: 3 sacks and 7 QB hits (Worth noting four days later Jacksonville had NINE sacks in a game)

Week 3 at Chargers: 2 sacks and 6 QB hits

The rushing game lacked consistency and success but the line has shown the ability to get it going already this season.

Last year I opined for the Texans to put together a game where the line did two things well. Most games last year featured acceptable run blocking OR acceptable pass blocking. Even if they had put it together for one game in 2018 it wouldn't have looked good, just average.

The top end for this offensive line is higher than any Texans line since they had multiple Pro Bowl linemen in Duane Brown, Chris Myers, and Wade Smith.

"Everybody got thrown on yesterday"

When I asked O'Brien about Johnathan Joseph getting targeted a lot in the second half, his response covered his whole secondary.

"I mean, everybody got thrown on yesterday," he said. "When you play Philip Rivers and you have the receivers that they have, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, (Travis) Benjamin. I think everybody was targeted at some point in time. He did a good job spreading the ball around."

O'Brien was confident Joseph would clean up any mistakes that he shouldn't have made in the game.

"I think J-Jo he's been a great pro here for a long time. I think that he'll watch the tape and he'll know there are certain plays that he can improve on just like everybody."

Some of these plays, Keenan Allen makes on anyone. There are still times when Joseph gets a little too far off a wideout for it to be comfortable to watch. It will be interesting to see if defenses start attacking him earlier in the game because the Chargers seemingly found him later rather than earlier.

Joseph did pass Terrence Newman for third all-time in passes defended. He is 12 away from Ronde Barber and 18 away from the all-time leader Champ Bailey.

Lonnie Johnson played "decent" according to O'Brien. The head coach harped on Johnson's use of his hands downfield and how he needs to focus on cleaning that up in his game.

Second down success

My good friend Sean Pendergast did the leg work on something I was thinking about during the game.

The Texans under O'Brien have been historically conservative if first down doesn't go their way. Just two weeks ago they ran a draw play on 2nd and 11 in Saints territory when they were trailing by just three.

Against Jacksonville though they were more willing to throw, but possessed varying levels of success in doing so.

For Watson to have such an incredible day throwing on second downs when the yardage would be considered long, that's a great day for him and a testament to where the Texans feel they can go on offense. O'Brien finally has enough pieces, and protection, he can rely and trust his team to take these risks and make big plays.

"Running the ball was tough yesterday," O'Brien said.

He mentioned they run a unique rushing attack and with that they see a lot of exotic looks against them in trying to stop the run.

O'Brien said the defenses they saw yesterday had them adjusting their second and long gameplan to what we saw and praised the team for executing it well.

Will this offensive line start again this week?

I was very skeptical about the Texans starting offensive line. I was concerned with the lack of work those players had received at the positions they were playing on Sunday but both held up well.

O'Brien explained Monday each Max Scharping at left guard and Tytus Howard at right tackle worked at those positions in some fashion ahead of the week leading up to the Chargers. He mentioned their work up to this point had been affected, to some point, by injury. He also said adding Laremy Tunsil took any need for Tytus Howard's left tackle work to continue.

As for going forward, barring injury, it seems.

"Max (Scharping) played pretty well. Tytus (Howard) played pretty well at the right tackle spot. This is the way we're going to go right now I think these guys are gelling pretty well together."

What will the Kyle Allen show look like in his second start of 2019?

Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen looked every bit the part of starter as he diced up the Arizona Cardinals yesterday to the tune of four touchdowns on 19/26 passing totaling 261 yards. That, however, is the paltry and poorly coached Cardinals defense. They were atrocious in trying to stop Allen.

Allen was benched at Texas A&M and after transferring and becoming the starter in Houston he was benched again. He went undrafted before signing with the Panthers. He played well in one start last season before leaving with an injury. Then, suiting up for Newton Sunday, had the above mentioned performance.

Though not a rookie, he has a rookie-like setup to his career so far. He has played very little. Historically Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has blasted first-time starters. Gardner Minshew had some success in week two late against the Texans but even then the Jaguars only scored 12 points.

I bet that sack felt as good as almost any sack in J.J. Watt's career

J.J. Watt split two sacks and had one of his own for a two-sack performance on the day. It was the 30th time in 107 career regular season games Watt had at least a sack. That's almost 30 percent of his career.

Watt had not shown up on the stat sheet a ton through the first two weeks. In fact, last week I mentioned it was statistically the worst two-game stretch of his career. Well, he got going plenty on Sunday and for the Texans sake, I hope he keeps it going.

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It's not time to panic, yet. Composite Getty Image.

This is not a column for fanboys or sugarcoating. To this point in the season the Astros stink like rotten eggs. They stink like Angel Hernandez’s umpiring. They stink like Bill O'Brien's general manager skills. The Astros are a bad team right now. That’s notably different from being a bad team. Their 4-10 record is well-earned and it is definitely possible that the Astros’ run of high quality and annual playoff appearances crashes and burns this season. But it’s laughable to declare so after just 14 games of the 162 scheduled have been played.

Last June the Astros had a lousy window in which they went 3-10. In August they had a 4-8 funk. In September it was a 3-9 stretch of collapse. The 2022 World Series Champions had a 3-8 hiccup in April, and a 2-6 blotch overlapping July and August that included getting swept in a three-game series by the then and now awful Oakland A’s.

Now the Astros are back home (Oh No!) for six games, three vs. the Rangers then three with the Braves. The Rangers lead the American League West but are just 7-6, so despite their cellar-dwelling status, the Astros are just three and a half games out of first. A winning homestand is obviously the goal. No, really. 3-3 would be ok, even though that would just about clinch a losing record heading into May.

Mandatory aside: spectacular weather is the Friday night forecast. Stop being stubborn and lame, Astros. Open the roof! I don’t mean just for the postgame fireworks.

On the mend?

The Astros’ track record of downplaying pitching injuries that turned out to be major certainly causes angst as we await Framber Valdez’s return from a sore elbow. If Valdez ultimately winds up out for months, the Astros’ starting rotation is in deep trouble. Even more so if upon the approaching delayed start to his season, 41-year-old Justin Verlander pitches to his age in terms of results and/or durability. However, if Valdez is ok within a month and JV is solid, those two, and Cristian Javier can stabilize the rotation quite nicely.

The Astros started three guys in the last four games who belong in the minor leagues. It was a sad sign of the times that the Astros were reduced to calling up Blair Henley to make the start Monday in Arlington. Except for Rangers fans and Astros haters, it grew uncomfortable watching Henley give up four hits, walk three, record just one out, and wind up charged with seven earned runs. But it’s not Henley’s fault that he was thrust into a role for which he was utterly unqualified.

Last season at Double-A Corpus Christi, Henley’s earned run average was 5.06. Because of the crummy state of the Astros’ farm system, Henley failed up to Triple-A Sugar Land to start this season. After one not good start for the Space Cowboys, “Hey, go get out big leaguers Blair!” Henley turns 27 next month, he is not a prospect of any note. If he never again pitches in the majors Henley forever carries a 135.00 ERA.

But you know what? It was still a great day for the guy. Even if undeserved, Henley made “The Show.” For one day on the Astros’ 26-man roster, Henley made over four thousand dollars. To make him eligible for call up, the Astros first had to put Henley on their 40-man roster and sign him to a split contract. That means that until/unless the Astros release him, Henley’s AAA salary jumps from approximately $36,000 for the season to over 60K.

Lastly, while Henley’s ERA could remain 135.00 in perpetuity, at least he’s no Fred Bruckbauer. In 1961 Bruckbauer made his big league debut and bade his big league farewell in the same game. He faced four batters, giving up three earned runs on three hits and one walk. Career ERA: Infinity! Bruckbauer is the most recent of the more than a dozen pitchers to retire with the infinity ERA.

Spencer Arrighetti’s debut start went much better. For two innings, before it unraveled in a seven run Royals third. Arrighetti has good stuff, but not great stuff. Control has been an issue for him in the minor leagues. Without better command Arrighetti cannot be a plus starter in the majors.

Then there’s Hunter Brown. We could go decades without seeing another pitcher give up nine runs and 11 hits in two-thirds of an inning as Brown did Thursday. It had never happened in MLB history! To this point, Brown is an overhyped hope. ERA last July: 5.92, August: 6.23, September 1 on: 8.74. Three starts into 2024: 16.43.

Jose Abreu watch

It's still early enough in the season that even just a couple of big games can markedly improve a stat line but Jose Abreu continues to look washed up at the plate. Three hits in 37 at bats (.081 batting average), with the most recent hit a questionable official scoring decision. Manager Joe Espada has already dropped Abreu from fifth in the lineup to sixth, then seventh, then eighth. Two more slots down to go, Joe! Continuing to act like Jon Singleton could be a competent bat in the lineup is just silly though.

Catch the weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week now generally goes up after Sunday’s game (second part released Tuesday, sometimes a third part Wednesday) via YouTube: stone cold stros - YouTubewith the complete audio available via Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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