LANCE ZIERLEIN

Stream of consciousness with Astros, Rockets, and Texans

Stream of consciousness with Astros, Rockets, and Texans
A.J. Hinch is the man, but even he isn't perfect. Jason Behnken / Getty Images
  • A.J. Hinch is one of my favorite managers/coaches of all-time in Houston. Probably at the top spot, however, he made all the wrong moves in a critical game and many of those moves were easily avoidable.

  • It’s easy to second-guess Hinch for pulling Dallas Keuchel based on the way Keuchel had been dealing after his first-inning blues, but the come in with Joe Smith? Of all the arms in the bullpen, Joe Smith? He wasn’t even on the playoff roster for the ALDS. He can’t be in on a clutch situation.

  • Ron Darling was really, really excited about Nathan Eovaldi being from Alvin and having the King of Alvin - Nolan Ryan - in the front row behind home plate. It consumed Darling.

  • What is happening with these catchers? It’s both sides too. You aren’t catching knuckleballers, guys! Wild pitches are one thing, but this many passed balls is ridiculous.

  • For all of Alex Bregman’s greatness at the plate, his greatness in the field deserves almost as much attention. That guy is a human vacuum. Hoovers it up and has release quickness and arm strength to make the difficult look routine. And the way Boston is pitching around him? That’s Barry Bonds stuff. The respect Alex Cora has for Bregman after watching him all last season is obvious.

  • I honestly don’t even know if Whitney Mercilus is playing for the Texans anymore. Is he wearing some type of hobbit cloak that turns him invisible or something?

  • With all of the pine tar / sunscreen videos out there and the reports about the Astros trying to spy on opposing dugouts, I’ve just come to realize that “gaining competitive advantages” is not only understood in baseball, but condoned. The sport is built on that very premise. It will never change.

  • While I wasn’t very excited about the addition of Carmelo Anthony to the Rockets roster, I would be lying if I didn’t say I was very interested in seeing how this plays out. I had some doubts about Chris Paul and James Harden sharing the ball and that was never an issue. Hope I’m wrong again.

  • The Rockets best shot at winning a title is if Clint Capela takes yet ANOTHER leap forward as an NBA talent. With all of the dunks, rebounds and blocked shots he should pile up, Capela is a sneaky All-Star candidate this year.

  • I thought Ozark Season 2 was okay, but I wasn’t in love it. I am, however, hyped to watch Making a Murderer 2 on Netflix starting October 19th.

  • Plantar fasciitis can suck the hole. Every morning when I wake up and put my right foot on the floor for the first time, it’s like I’m stepping on a nail. It stays like that for about 7-10 minutes. I hope many of the Red Sox get this.

  • I know the Jaguars have been terrible defensively over the last two games, but I don’t have great confidence that our Houston Texans can keep them reeling in that area. Houston just doesn’t matchup well against the physical nature of the Jaguars defensive front and Jalen Ramsey does a good job on Deandre Hopkins. I hope I’m wrong, but I see a bad result coming on Sunday.

 

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Allen had high praise for Diggs. Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images.

Impersonal as it might seem to have their dynamic on-field relationship end with an exchange of phone texts, Bills quarterback Josh Allen made it clear on Thursday how much receiver Stefon Diggs meant to him during their four seasons together in Buffalo.

Allen made no mention of Diggs’ mercurial temperament or the occasional sideline flare-ups by expressing only praise in his first opportunity to discuss his now-former teammate being traded to the Houston Texans earlier this month.

“Just thanking him for everything that he did for me, and (I’ll) always have a spot in my heart for him. I’ll always love that guy like a brother. And I wish him nothing but the best,” Allen said, in disclosing what he texted to Diggs. “My lasting memory of Stef will be the receiver that helped me become the quarterback that I am today.”

Brought together in March 2020, when Buffalo gave up a first-round draft pick to acquire Diggs in a trade with Minnesota, the duo went on to re-write many of Buffalo's single-season passing and scoring records, and lead the team to four straight AFC East titles.

Diggs, now 30, also brought an inescapable sense of drama with him in raising questions about his commitment to the Bills and whether his tight relationship with Allen had soured.

A day before being traded, Diggs posted a message, “You sure?” on the social media platform X in response to someone suggesting he wasn’t essential to Allen’s success.

Whatever hard feelings, if any, lingered as Buffalo opened its voluntary workout sessions this week were not apparent from Allen or coach Sean McDermott, who also addressed reporters for the first time since Diggs was traded.

“Stef’s a great player, really enjoyed our time together. Won a lot of games and he was a huge factor in winning those games. We’ll miss him,” McDermott said. “You never replace a player like Stef Diggs, and we wish him well.”

Allen turned his focus to the future and a Bills team that spent much of the offseason retooling an aging and expensive roster.

Aside from trading Diggs, salary cap restrictions led to Buffalo cutting respected center Mitch Morse, the breakup of a veteran secondary that had been together since 2017, and the team unable to afford re-signing No. 2 receiver Gabe Davis.

“I don’t think it’s a wrong thing or a bad thing to get younger,” said Allen, entering his seventh NFL season. “I think it’s an opportunity for myself to grow as a leader. And to bring along some of these young guys and new guys that we’ve brought in to our team. And that’s an opportunity, frankly, that I’m very excited about."

Despite the departures, the Bills offense is not exactly lacking even though general manager Brandon Beane is expected to target selecting a receiver with his first pick — currently 28th overall — in the draft next week.

Receiver Khalil Shakir enters his third year and tight end Dalton Kincaid enter his second following promising seasons. Buffalo also added veteran experience in signing free agent receiver Curtis Samuel and Mack Hollins.

While Beane acknowledged the Bills lack a true No. 1 receiver, he noted there’s less urgency to fill that spot now than in 2020 because of how much the offense has developed under Allen.

“Now that Josh has ascended to the player he is, is that a requirement? I don’t think so,” Beane said.

Diggs’ role also began diminishing in the second half of last season, which coincided with Joe Brady replacing Ken Dorsey as offensive coordinator. Brady placed an emphasis on adding balance to a pass-heavy attack and getting more receivers involved, which led to an uptick in production for Shakir and Kincaid.

While Diggs’ numbers dropped, Buffalo’s win total increased.

With the Bills at 6-6, Diggs ranked third in the NFL with 83 catches, seventh with 969 yards and tied for third with eight TDs receiving. Buffalo then closed the season with five straight wins in which Diggs combined for 24 catches for 214 yards and no scores.

”(Diggs) meant a lot. You look at the statistics, they don’t lie,” Allen said, in referring to Diggs topping 100 catches and 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons in Buffalo. “I don’t get paid to make changes on the team. I get paid to be the best quarterback that I can be and try to lead the guys on this team.”

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