The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider

Texans are in a position to turn things around fast

Texans are in a position to turn things around fast
Deshaun Watson and the Texans can turn things around quickly. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider will take you inside Houston Sports each Friday because #WeAreHoustonSports!

It’s so not the start we expected.

Yes, we’re talking the Texans.  The team we thought would be – worst case – 1-1 after the first two games. We even had hopes of 2-0 dancing through our heads. Who wouldn’t with a healthy Deshaun Watson working his offensive magic and a full-speed J.J. Watt taking the defense up a few levels.

Instead we’re looking at 0-2 with the home opener on the horizon. Shaking your head? Thinking slow start? Or worse?

Yes the last two weeks have been a mess. Slow starts. Mistakes. Turnovers. Head-scratching decisions. Dropped passes. Turnovers. Only three sacks?

Sigh all you want. But don’t write this season off.

Houston, there is a solution.

We’re here to tell you that the playoffs are still within reach. Forget about that stat everyone’s hammering hard  - only 10.9 percent of the NFL teams that start 0-2 make the playoffs. Yes, 1-1 would have been better, but it is what it is.

With the desperate and stumbling Giants heading to NRG Sunday for a battle of 0-2s then a trip to Indianapolis followed by a Sunday night home game with the Dallas Cowboys and a home matchup against the Buffalo Bills .  . . well, this is definitely the stretch to make up some ground.

Run the tables and the Texans are at 4-2 and that chance of making the playoffs just jumped to 62.3 percent. Go 3-3 and Houston has a 38.3 percent chance of extra games. Go 2-4 and it drops precipitously to 8.6.

Start 0-4 and . . . well if a team did that it could tie the 1992 San Diego Chargers as the only teams to make it to the playoffs. But, let’s not go there.

The bottom line here is the Texans are close. Maybe thisclose.

A 1993 Dallas Cowboys close? That year an Emmitt Smith contract dispute meant 0-2 start for the Cowboys but, once signed, Smith led them to the Super Bowl XXVIII title.

Different situation, but . . .

Possible.

What we do know is Watson has shown flashes of what could be – even with a struggling offensive line. The running game – without D’onta Foreman who is out until at least late October – is solid. All-pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins is still one of the best in the league and Will Fuller is on Fire!

And then there’s the fact they opened the season with back-to-back road games. Now, they’ll play three of the next four in NRG. Hmmm.

Regardless, Sunday will feature Hopkins and the Giants’ Odell Beckham, two of the best receivers and playmakers in the game. Edge to . . well, when asked what Hopkins did well, Watson didn’t hesitate.

"Everything. There's nothing that he can't do."

Assuming the Watson – Hopkins, or Watson – Fuller connection is on point as expected  . . . well, it would then be up to the Texans’ defense to limit Beckham – on offense and as a returner – and slow down the very dangerous Saquon Barkley.

For the most part, the Texans are taking it a day at a time. Will Jadeveon Clowney be back? Will Fuller? Will the play calling and focus and intensity be there Sunday?

“Can’t get ahead of ourselves and can’t look back on the previous games,’’ Watson said. “You got to focus on that day and today’s Wednesday, and focus in on the game plan and try be the best we can today, and then we’ll focus on tomorrow when it comes.”

If nothing else, your takeaway from the first two games should be those flashes you did see and that the Texans are better than 0-2. They could have won both games – losing to the Patriots by 7 and the Titans by 3. Things obviously could have gone better, and mistakes need to be corrected.

But, if they learn from that . . .

Well, the 2015 Texans were a much different team - as was the competition - but they too started 0-2 and won the AFC South.

Time to turn it around boys.


 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
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.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome