The Pallilog

Texans continue to underwhelm in the off season

Texans continue to underwhelm in the off season
Tashaun Gipson

An NFL's team offseason certainly is far from wholly defined by the first few days of free agency, but out of the gate the Texans certainly have underwhelmed. Armed with one of the largest war chests of cap space in the league, General Manager Brian Gaine and Head Coach Bill O'Brien have thus far combined to add zero talent to boost the Texans' very undertalented offensive line. That is weak. They are worse at safety in the exchange down from Tyrann Mathieu to Tashaun Gipson, though Bradley Roby at cornerback brings more upside than Kareem Jackson.

Tactically overpaying is sometimes a necessity, whether to retain one's own players or to add from the outside. Gaine and O'Brien talk about developing and keeping their own as the primary way to build. Well, they better improve at that. See A.J. Bouye, Brandon Brooks, and even Ben Jones. In five seasons O'Brien has yet to develop and keep an above average o-lineman.

The Texans have two more seasons of Deshaun Watson on the very cheap. J.J. Watt turns 30 next week. This is the window to step up aggressively. Fortune favors the bold. The Texans are more bland than bold. Bold does not mean reckless.

The Texans are armed with a first round pick and two second rounders. Given the mess of the offensive line and a remaining clear deficiency at corner, it is a huge fail if they can't nab at least two instant starters.

Rocket roll

Last season the Rockets had three winning streaks longer than 10 games. Their chance for a 10-gamer this season was a grand opportunity, but they weren't up to it in losing Wednesday night to Golden State. A fully healthy Rockets team on a nine game roll was significantly outplayed most of the way, at home, by the Kevin Durant-less Warriors. That essentially killed off any revived hope of the Rockets making a run at the top seed in the Western Conference. The Rockets do have a soft remaining schedule which should position them to finish third in the West, which would mean avoiding a prospective second round series vs. the two-time defending champs. DeMarcus Cousins dominating Clint Capela was especially disconcerting if thinking of a Rockets-Warriors postseason sequel.

State of college hoops

And now the college scene. The Houston Cougars are the rightful favorites to win the American Athletic Conference Tournament, but it is not a given. Their semifinal game comes against the Central Florida team that beat them at the Fertitta Center, or a Memphis team playing on its homecourt. After their second half devastation of Cincinnati Sunday to win the regular season title outright, the Coogs have a chance to take a 32-2 record into the NCAA Tournament.They are locked in to be at least a number three seed, with some possibility of a number two. The top three ACC teams (Virginia, North Carolina, and Duke) are all locks to be properly seeded above UH. Gonzaga will be a one or at worst a two. Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan State make seven teams highly likely to be ahead of UH. The committee could slot the Cougars as the lowest number two, with Florida State, Kansas State, and Purdue among other possibilities. Texas Tech badly hurt its claim of a two seed by going down in flames to last place West Virginia in the Big 12 Tournament.

Speaking of down in flames, 16-16 for the Texas Longhorns. No .500 team has ever received an NCAA at-large bid and the Horns certainly don't deserve to be the first. Shaka Smart is 66-66 at Texas. If Smart didn't have roughly 13 million guaranteed dollars left on his contract he'd be a strong candidate to be fired. Five years ago when a coveted coach at VCU, Smart would have scoffed at the idea of taking the UH job. Meanwhile Kelvin Sampson stands a good chance of winning at least one National Coach of the Year award. Texas A&M fell apart this season, hence Billy Kennedy is out after eight seasons in College Station. It's understandable, but Kennedy did coach the Aggies to the Sweet 16 in two of the prior three seasons. Shaka has zero NCAA wins at UT.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Fun matchup if it's Texas Southern vs. Prairie View Saturday for the SWAC title and automatic NCAA bid. 2. Verlander and Cole mean the Astros' rotation is clearly the best in the AL West, but there is definitely cause for concern behind them. 3. Worst ex-Astro misreads of their free agent value this offseason:Bronze-Martin Maldonado. Silver-Marwin Gonzalez. Gold-Dallas Keuchel

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With their closer revealed, here are the Astros top bullpen X-factors

Houston Astros skipper Joe Espada wasted no time this week at spring training by answering one of the most talked about questions of the offseason.

Espada revealed that newly-acquired free agent Josh Hader will be the team's closer and will pitch the ninth inning, with Ryan Pressly working as the setup man.

Bryan Abreu will be tapped to pitch the seventh inning, but it wouldn't shock anyone if he had the best season of the three. But after Abreu, things get interesting in the bullpen.

Who pitches the sixth inning?

Astros GM Dana Brown gave Rafael Montero a vote of confidence, saying he's “legit.”

While we have our concerns about Montero after he finished with an ERA over five last year, there's reason for hope. The nature of relief pitchers halving up and down seasons from year to year could work in Montero's favor.

And with the salary that's already committed to him, Brown will likely give him every opportunity to justify his contract. It will be fascinating to see how Espada deploys him early on. You have to think with the boss man backing Montero, Espada will be on board too.

But if he does struggle, will Espada quickly stop using him in critical situations? The good news is, the team won't often have to turn to him in high leverage situations with Abreu, Pressly, and Hader ready to handle those duties.

Be sure to watch the video above for the full discussion about the Astros 'pen, and much more!

Don't miss Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every week on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel!

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