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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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