From the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis

Texans combine storylines

Brian Gaine and his staff have work to do at the combine. Houstontexans.com

SportsMap is live at the NFL Scouting Combine this week. Here's a look at the stories swirling around the Texans at the combine.

Is blocking help on the way?

The Texans offensive line had disappointed for a couple of seasons now and this class is loaded with linemen set to go in the top three rounds. ESPN 97.5 and SportsMap's own Lance Zierlein has five tackles rated as immediate starters.

A personal favorite of mine is Washington State's Andre Dillard who has held down the left side of Mike Leach's impressive Washington State offense.



Offensive linemen went fast and furious last year with six going in the first round. With offense being the trend in today's NFL protecting quarterbacks will be of high importance. This will push linemen up in the draft.

Who can cover?

The Texans also have quite the conundrum at cornerback as well. Johnathan Joseph is set to be back as is Aaron Colvin coming off a season where injury led to a disappointment. Kevin Johnson's future is up in the air. Kayvon Webster played very little due to injury. Johnson Bademosi is primarily a special teams player. Jermaine Kelly Jr. hasn't played a snap in the NFL after being on injured reserve all last year. Shareece Wright didn't play well enough to be back. Kareem Jackson, who was better at safety than corner, is a free agent.

With all those player's situations the Texans have need for some young and talented help at corner. If there isn't an offensive tackle the team is in love with in the first round cornerback could be the move. Certainly it will be on the table with the two selections in the second round.

Michigan State's Justin Layne is a former wide receiver turned cornerback for the Spartans. His interception numbers aren't great but he had some of the best pass deflection numbers in the nation last year.

The Clowney conundrum

Both Texans head coach Bill O'Brien and general manager Brian Gaine will speak this week and it will be a massive upset if they aren't asked about Clowney. They've had a couple months to start thinking about, and maybe even start negotiating, Jadeveon Clowney's next contract with the team.

On SportsMap: Texans can't desire Bell, spurn Clowney

Depth on defense

While the Texans focus on big holes on the offensive line and the issues at cornerback they also have to find some depth players. Gaine did an excellent job at this last year finding Justin Reid, Jordan Akins, and Jordan Thomas who ended up playing significant snaps for the team. Peter Kalambayi contributed late in the season. Duke Ejiofor and Keke Coutee helped when they weren't hurt.

If Tyrann Mathieu or Kareem Jackson move on from the Texans the safety spot will need some young bodies. The team could use another pass rusher be it from the edge or up the middle on the defensive line. Combine interviews will be important for the Texans as they try to prepare for the free-for-all that is the undrafted free agent market.

Skill positions in play

The Texans have plenty of investment throughout the skill positions on offense, but can you ever have too much? There is a need for another running back to go along with Lamar Miller, who is in the last year of his contract, and D'Onta Foreman. As for wide receiver, someone to push Vyncint Smith on the outside wouldn't be the worst idea but perhaps that is better suited for a free agent.

Tight end isn't out of the equation either. The right draft pick could set the team up at the position for at least the next three seasons.

Texas A&M's Jace Sternberger is a favorite of mine but he might go a little high for the Texans to invest another mid-round pick in the tight end position.

My favorite running back prospect is Devin Singletary.


NFL Storylines

Kyler Murray can dominate the combine this combine if he measures out well on height, weight, and hand size. How he interviews and if he runs will be huge stories around the league. If he decided to skip interviews he would be one of the most polarizing prospects ever.

Remember Oklahoma offensive tackle Orlando Brown?

He had one of the worst combines ever for a top prospect. He fell like a rock in the draft going three picks after Martinas Rankin to the Ravens. He started at right tackle for Baltimore from week seven forward. He ended up with a better Pro Football Focus rating than every Texans offensive lineman.

The combine workouts aren't everything, but they're something. A bad combine performance shouldn't eliminate a prospect from a team's board but it should add extra attention if the team might think he is ultimately worth it.

Ed Oliver's big week is about to start. For Oliver, everything about this week matters. It will be the difference in millions of dollars. I could see him going as high as three to the Jets and as low as the 20's. Oliver going high is one of the coolest potential stories in the draft. He could have gone to a number of different schools but he chose Houston in his own backyard and was every bit the dominant force he was expected to be. He is a freak athlete and should test off the charts in almost every drill. Expect Ed Oliver to be one of the "wow" workouts this week.

This is a monster year for defensive linemen. Ohio State's Nick Bosa and Alabama's Quinnen Williams are the top two names with Kentucky's Josh Allen and Clemson's Christian Wilkins right behind them. If teams covet other positions there could be plenty of movement in the top ten.

The start of trade discussions begins in earnest this week. With so many decision-makers in close proximity the talks around players like Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown will start to heat up. It isn't just the huge names that start making moves though. There are plenty of mid-tier players to be discussed as well. We have seen the trade market be red hot in recent years in the NFL. There is no reason to think it will stop.

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Houston's offense once again obliterated Baltimore in Wednesday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Owners of a nine-game winning streak, the Astros tried to keep the train rolling to make it double digits and complete the three-game sweep of the Orioles in Baltimore. Not only would they get the win, but they also did it by dominating on both sides of the ball again in a one-sided shutout.

Final Score: Astros 13, Orioles 0

Astros' Record: 46-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (6-3)

Losing Pitcher: Thomas Eshelman (0-1)

Houston keeps mashing

Unlike Tuesday's game which ended 3-1 in a much closer affair, the finale on Wednesday was once again a lopsided affair like Monda's opener, favoring the Astros. Houston once again put up double-digit runs in an offensive explosion. It started right off the bat, with three runs scoring in the top of the first on a two-RBI double by Carlos Correa and an RBI single by Kyle Tucker to grab a 3-0 lead.

Yuli Gurriel extended it to 4-0 with a two-out RBI single in the second, then Jose Altuve made it a six-run game with a two-run blast in the top of the fourth. Michael Brantley joined in with an RBI single in the top of the sixth, then Yordan Alvarez led off a four-run seventh with a solo bomb before a three-run homer by Abraham Toro made it 11-0.

Urquidy cruises through seven scoreless

Jose Urquidy was cruising all the while, allowing just three baserunners over that span, a double to start his night, which he erased, then a one-out walk in the second and leadoff single in the sixth. He returned at the bottom of the seventh with a manageable pitch count, where he'd erase a one-out single to keep Baltimore scoreless. With the insurmountable lead, he'd be given the rest of the night off. His final line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 84 P.

Astros complete the sweep and grab tenth straight win

Chas McCormick, who came off the bench defensively in the bottom of the seventh, made it a twelve-run lead with a one-out solo homer in the top of the eighth, then later Abraham Toro notched his fourth RBI with a run-scoring single to make it 13-0. Brandon Bielak took over for Urquidy in the bottom of the eighth, and after loading the bases with no outs, was able to escape with a strikeout and double play.

Ralph Garza Jr. was Houston's third pitcher, wrapping things up at the bottom of the ninth. He erased a one-out walk and a single with a double play to end the game, giving Houston the three-game sweep and extending their winning streak to ten games as they continue to look like baseball's best team.

Up Next: The next stop on this road trip for Houston is Detroit, where they will kick off a four-game set with the Tigers on Thursday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup for the opener will be Luis Garcia (5-4, 2.82 ERA) for Houston and Jose Urena (2-7, 5.79 ERA) for Detroit.

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