NFL PRESEASON

Some Texans players gave it all they had for a shot at the roster in preseason game 4

Bruce Ellington (left), Alfred Blue and Sammie Coates hopefully earned roster spots. Zach Tarrant/Houstontexans.com

The Texans enjoyed the comfort of home as they defeated the Dallas Cowboys 14-6 at NRG Stadium for the fourth and final game of the 2018 NFL preseason Thursday night. The game was a defensive battle between players from the bottom of each roster. No significant starters from either team took part in the action so it’s with a grain of salt that the stats can be analyzed. But the players desperate to make the final 53-man roster? Their effort and the plays they made are all important in the next few days when the coaches will make their final cuts.

The name that stood out the most early was Joel Heath. The third-year defensive lineman was in the backfield almost every play. He is only credited with two tackles, one of them for a big loss; but the pressure he put on the Cowboys’ quarterbacks was instrumental in getting his defense off the field in three or four plays every drive. Heath is probably not a borderline player but the Texans front 7 is loaded with talent and the final game was about playing time. If he can be a disruptive force like his counterparts Watt, Clowney, Mercilous and Reader; then he will see more action and keep the rotation on fresh legs.

Offensively, the Texans weren’t that great. The deeper players on the depth chart couldn’t get on the same page with the rotating tandem of Brandon Weeden and Joe Webb playing quarterback. They got a break on the Cowboys’ second drive when pressure up front forced an interception to rookie safety Justin Reid. Houston had a short field to work with and they took advantage getting a touchdown run by Alfred Blue. A big play on that drive was a first down pass to rookie tight end Jordan Akins that put the ball at the 3-yard line. Akins was able to get just enough separation and make a great catch for 16 yards. Plays like that are going to get him on the roster behind Ryan Griffin and give Houston another option in the passing game.

Braxton Miller was someone else trying to find his way on the bottom of the depth chart at his position. He hauled in 2 passes for 28 yards, most of that on a 22-yard catch and run. On both of his receptions he looked like a pro who was going to make the team. He probably did with his effort in the last two games. Special teams will need him but hopefully the offense won’t.

The biggest question mark on the entire roster is the cornerback group. Injuries are piling up and the talent just doesn’t seem to be good enough for an NFL defense. But if the only game you watched was this final preseason game you saw an all-out effort and some good play. Names like Dee Virgin and Andre Chachere are longshots to make the roster, but you couldn’t tell.

Virgin had eight tackles, one of them for a loss and two pass break ups. He still wasn’t great in coverage, but he managed to close on the ball and get his hands in there to break it up. He was flying all over the field and getting to be ball. Not to be outdone, Andre Chachere had four tackles and two passes defensed as well. He is probably an even longer shot to make the roster. But the special teams need to be filled out too. These guys might have worked their way on the team with sheer effort and will power.

Safety Ibraheim Campbell, cornerback Bryce Jones, and running back Terry Swanson are three more names who showed up with their best effort. Campbell and Jones were around the ball a lot too. Each had six tackles to finish the game. A really pleasant surprise was the play of Swanson, particularly the 37-yard touchdown run he had in the fourth quarter.  He hit the hole hard and with one cut he was into the secondary and down the sideline for the score. He showed off his quickness and speed, and with depth necessary at running back right now for Houston it may be enough to get him on the team. He finished the night carrying the ball 17 times for 69 yards and the score.

Overall, the Texans had the look of a team ready to play. The final game of the preseason is always about effort. These players had one last shot to keep their name on the mind of the coaches. Some will make the team because depth is needed, others will make it because they did just enough to earn a role on special teams. Whatever way it happens for them they will be glad they were able to put together one final good game. The roster will be set on Sept. 2 and the Texans will be at New England on Sept. 9. The make-up of the roster is going to be a factor in how well the Texans do in the regular season and beyond.

 

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Houston's magic number stays at 2

Astros drop series finale to Mariners after rough start by Greinke

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With their magic number at 2 to secure their spot in the 2020 MLB postseason, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park in Seattle for this three-game series' finale and rubber game. Here are the highlights from the game:

Final Score: Mariners 3, Astros 2.

Record: 28-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Nick Margevicius (2-3, 4.57 ERA)

Losing pitcher: Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

Greinke unable to complete five innings

While the Astros were being held scoreless, the Mariners were putting up runs on Zack Greinke. They took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles followed by an RBI-double with one out. Greinke would stop the damage there, then looked to settle in over the next few frames.

He allowed just one baserunner in the second through fourth innings, a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth. Then, in the fifth, the Mariners would knock him out of the game by getting a one-out single that would come around to score on a two-out RBI-double, followed by an RBI-single to extend the lead to 3-0. Greinke faced one more batter, allowing a single before Dusty Baker would take the ball and move to the bullpen. His final line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 92 P.

Astros try a late rally, come up short

On the other end, the Astros were unable to break through against Nick Margevicius, getting just one hit and two walks through the first four innings. They had a chance to get on the board in the top of the fifth, starting the inning with back-to-back singles before a walk loaded the bases with one out to turn the lineup over. They'd come up empty, though, with George Springer striking out before a long flyball to center by Jose Altuve to end the inning.

After finishing the fifth for Greinke, Andre Scrubb returned for a scoreless sixth, working around a one-out walk. Still 3-0, Blake Taylor took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, erasing a leadoff single and two-out walk to keep Seattle from extending their lead. Houston had another chance to score in the top of the eighth, getting two runners in scoring position, but again would strand them.

Cy Sneed was the next reliever out for the Astros, working around a two-out walk to send the game on to the ninth. The Astros would avoid the shutout, getting a two-RBI single by pinch-hitting Josh Reddick in the top of the ninth to make it a one-run game at 3-2. That's as close as they'd come, though, as the Mariners would eventually get the final out to take the series and keep the Astros' magic number stagnant at 2.


Up Next: There is one series left in the regular season for Houston, and it awaits them in Arlington with a four-game series against the Rangers, who are well eliminated from playoff contention. The first of the four games will start at 7:05 PM Central on Thursday with a pitching matchup of Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53 ERA) for Texas and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33 ERA) for the Astros.

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