CODY STOOTS

Texans Monday: 3 headlines, 2 questions, 1 bet

The Texans have not had a plan at tackle since trading Duane Brown. Tim Warner/Getty Images

It's Monday so as always I have three headlines, two questions, and one bet for you to get your week started. 

"It Starts With Me"

You guessed it, Bill O'Brien on the poor play points to himself. I'm not sure what else he can say at this point and if you put penalties and the lack of discipline that allows them it is on O'Brien. The shaky offense, it is on O'Brien. 

"We've been beating ourselves too much," O'Brien said. Most notably the difference is red zone failures. The Texans were amazing with Watson last year in the red area but this year has been atrocious. Too many negative plays turning touchdowns into field goals has doomed this team each week. The Texans are 28th in red zone scoring percentages when it comes to touchdowns. 

"We're Definitely Looking at That Position"

Bill O'Brien didn't mince words when he was asked about Julién Davenport's play. The head coach said Davenport is struggling and the team has to work with him to keep getting better but then added the above quote. 

Davenport finds himself under fire after another shaky performance on the right side of the offensive line. Five different times the flag was thrown with Davenport as the culprit. He has looked mismatched and out of sorts playing right tackle. He was playing there after Seantrell Henderson was lost for the season in the team's opener and Martinas Rankin came in to play left tackle. Rankin has not been without his warts either. There was one play yesterday he was flat deposited on his behind by the Giants defender. 

Kendall Lamm and Roderick Johnson are the team's backup tackles for now so it should be Davenport and Rankin unless something changes on the roster. 

The Texans Have Beaten Someone: Themselves

Tyrann Mathieu said it best. 

"We can watch the tape and say we’ve beaten ourselves three games in a row," he said. He's absolutely right about that. From penalties to a lack of cohesion the Texans have had very little spurts of play that compliments each other. The defense has been decent in the second half but bad in the first half. The offense, the opposite. Playing a complete game in the NFL is rare, each week there is an issue somewhere. The Texans haven't even played a complete half. Just everything is out of synch. 

Mathieu said leadership and practice are necessary to pull this team out the rut they're currently in. 

Keke, can you to play?

Texans wide receiver Keke Coutee is a fourth-round draft pick and has yet to appear in a game, be it preseason or regular season. He's been on the injury report with a hamstring injury and has yet to even be active for a regular season game. 

He said today the leg is way better and he's very confident in it and the treatment he has been going through to get back to playing. He said he expects to be rusty and the rustiness is more of the reason he hasn't been playing. He said he is "very close."

It's time to see what he's made of in the NFL. Bruce Ellington went down in the game Sunday early and the Texans lacked a slot presence from that moment on. Coutee was a dynamic playmaker at Texas Tech and had some solid practices in the preseason. Even if Ellington is back, which with a hamstring is tricky, Coutee should finally be active. 

Bill O'Brien has had some weird interactions with rookies in the past, especially at wideout with the likes of Jaelen Strong, but it is time to see if Coutee can help this team win football games. 

Who is going to play cornerback going forward and how well?

Aaron Colvin and Johnathan Joseph are the first two answers to this question. Colvin is a unique situation. He was an amazing slot corner for the Jaguars when A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey were patrolling the outside. He's been pretty good in the slot but has overall not been the standout many, myself included, expected he would be. He is best suited to play on the inside. That leaves the other outside spot vacant. There's really only two options for that spot and both present their own troubles. Shareece Wright is brand new to the team but was pressed into action this week. Kayvon Webster is still recovering from an Achilles injury that ended his season last year. Neither are spectacular options but they have at least been in the building and worked on the system. Whichever one gets the shot opposite Joseph the other, assuming Webster gets healthy soon, will have to hold his own to keep his snaps. Kevin Johnson isn't returning anytime soon so there's an opportunity for Wright and Webster and hopefully not the opportunity for opposing quarterbacks. 

I bet the Texans regret how things have played out at tackle the past few years

 In 2016 the Texans had a solid tackle combo with Duane Brown and Derek Newton. By the end of the season, Newton was hurt and Brown didn't like his pay or playing for the team. Newton never bounced back and was attempted to be replaced by Chris Clark, Breno Giacomini, Seantrell Henderson, and Davenport. While not great, Newton was serviceable and on his second contract. There have been attempts, a few tackles have ended up on the Texans radar but signed elsewhere, but no success in replacing Newton with a proven asset. As far as Brown, it seems Davenport was drafted with the idea of replacing Brown but when he sat out and was then traded Davenport, a project, wasn't ready. The Texans could argue trading Brown was necessary for the locker room and draft pick it recouped but I could argue he was necessary to winning and should've been paid. Now the total investment in the tackle spot for the Texans is a third-round pick, a fourth-round pick, a fifth-round pick on his second team (Roderick Johnson), and undrafted free agent Kendall Lamm. That has to be near the bottom of the league in terms of investment.

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Kyle Tucker had a big day at the plate on Sunday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of the series, with one team or the other putting on a solid offensive performance in each, the Astros tried to win their fourth series in their last five by taking the rubber game on Sunday against the Blue Jays. Thanks in part to a big day from Kyle Tucker, who played a significant role in the early offense they used to power to the win, they would accomplish their mission.

Final Score: Astros 7, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 18-16, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Nate Pearson (0-1)

Kyle Tucker helps lead the offense to seven unanswered runs

Houston did not go easy on Nate Pearson in his 2021 debut. After a scoreless first, the Astros loaded the bases on two walks and a single, then brought the first run of the day home on an RBI walk by Michael Brantley. Another walk opened the door in the bottom of the third, and Kyle Tucker capitalized with an RBI triple to make it 2-0, followed by an RBI single by Robel Garcia to make it a three-run lead, ending Pearson's day one out into the bottom of the third.

Things didn't get easier for Toronto's pitching in the next inning, as Jose Altuve would lead off the bottom of the fourth with a solo homer. A single and a walk then set up another big hit for Kyle Tucker, a three-run dinger to make it seven unanswered runs and giving Tucker four RBI on the day.

Blue Jays pound Greinke in the fifth

After four shutout innings to start his day on the mound, working around a few hits along the way, Zack Greinke tried to cash in on his team's offense to get another win on his record. He wouldn't be able to get it done, though, as Toronto would get after him in the top of the fifth. They would score four times amongst five batters that came to the plate, with a solo homer by Rowdy Tellez, a two-RBI double by Bo Bichette, and an RBI single by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

That made it a 7-4 game, and with Greinke still not having recorded an out in the frame, Dusty Baker would lift him at 88 pitches in favor of Bryan Abreu, who would get a pop out and a double play to end the inning and keep the lead at three runs. Greinke's final line: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 88 P.

Houston takes the series

No more runs would come on either side the rest of the way, with Kent Emanuel working around a single for a scoreless sixth, Ryne Stanek getting a 1-2-3 seventh, and Andre Scrubb doing the same in the eighth to set up Ryan Pressly for the save. Pressly would get the job done, sending the Blue Jays down in order, including two strikeouts to wrap up the win and giving Houston the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will stay at home to continue this homestand, welcoming in the Angels for three games starting Monday at 7:10 PM Central. The opener will feature a pitching matchup of Alex Cobb (1-2, 5.48 ERA) for Los Angeles and Luis Garcia (0-3, 3.28 ERA) for Houston.

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