DEALING WITH INJURIES

The Texans need great coaching for an evolving roster

Bill O'Brien will need to raise his game this week. Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Once again, the injury bug has hit the Texans. This time they are lucky it’s not the quarterback or the pass rushers. The problem this year is that injuries have hit positions without a lot of depth like wide receiver and cornerback. But here they are, sitting on a five-game winning streak and some folks thinking they can win the division. That can still happen, but they can’t afford to be patient with back-ups while they already have three losses. The coaches will have to be the first ones to step up and make sure there’s no dip in production while the roster reshuffles.

So, someone will have to convince Bill O’Brien that he needs to adjust his offense this week because Sammie Coates and Vyncint Smith are suddenly going to see more snaps. He’s probably all too happy to throw them and newly acquired Demaryius Thomas out on the field, but he will have to be smart with his play calling. Without adjustments for the other players, DeAndre Hopkins will have to work harder to get open. If he has to do it all then there’s little chance it will all get done. I shouldn’t doubt what he can do though.

We saw last year what this team is when injuries get the best of them and O’Brien doesn’t change up the way he coaches. The adjustments won’t have to be as dramatic as they were before, but the game plan can’t be the same as it was last week. He is going to have to put on a coaching performance that gets him in the top ten coach of the year candidates list. He’s going to have to keep adjusting in order to make sure his game plan works for whoever is on the field. He’s also going to have to make sure the rest of his staff does the same.

Romeo Crennel is going to have to put his thinking cap on extra tight this week. He will be without his last starting cornerback, Jonathan Joseph, because of an injury suffered against the Dolphins. It might only be one game, but it’s a game Houston can win if the defense can keep up its level of play. That means he is going to have to get creative again with the safeties and the coverages. If Case Keenum, or any future quarterbacks they face can read those coverages and attack these less than ideal corners with impunity then it’s going to be like shooting fish in a barrel.

There is going to be a lot on the position coaches this week too. They have just a short window to make sure these guys that will get more playing time know everything they need. That means every check, every adjustment and every nuance that needs to be executed. The margin of error will be razor thin and mental mistakes will have a bigger impact on the outcome of this week’s game.

The winning streak can extend to six if O’Brien and Crennel put together something spectacular with the planning and preparation before the game. Once the lights go on there is little they can do if the players have mental mistakes that lead to points for the other team. The Texans have a bye in Week 10 to give them some breathing room but a win this week in Denver will keep them in the driver’s seat for the division.

 

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Houston gets the lopsided win

Valdez, Astros dominate the Angels in 10-0 rout in Anaheim

Framber Valdez was dominant against the Angels on Monday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With a series win at home over the weekend, the Astros started their final regular-season road trip on Monday, squaring off against the Angels in Anaheim. They held the momentum firmly in their favor all night, dominating both sides of the game to start the series with a victory.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 0

Astros' Record: 89-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (11-5)

Losing Pitcher: Jaime Barria (2-4)

Siri leads off with a bang

With Jose Altuve being given the night off, Houston gave Jose Siri a shot at the leadoff spot, and he delivered to start the opener in Anaheim. He launched a missile to left field, 426 feet, to put the Astros in front 1-0 before the Angels could record an out. Later that same inning, they strung together three singles, the third being an RBI by Carlos Correa to double the lead.

Valdez goes seven shutout innings

That gave Framber Valdez a lead to work with as he stepped on the rubber in the bottom of the inning, and he didn't give it up as he would post a dominant start. He started with a 1-2-3 first, worked around a couple of singles in the second, then used a double play to face the minimum in the third.

He retired Los Angeles in order again in the fourth, stranded a two-out single in the fifth and a single and a walk in the sixth. He had his worst inning of the night in the seventh, giving up a leadoff single then loading the bases on back-to-back two-out walks. He'd escape the jam, though, keeping the shutout alive and finalizing his impressive line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 98 P.

Astros take the opener in lopsided fashion

Houston tacked on an insurance run in the top of the eighth, getting a one-out double by Correa to set up an RBI single by Marwin Gonzalez, pushing the lead to 3-0. Things escalated from there, as another single put two on base for Martin Maldonado, who blew the game open with a three-run homer to make it a six-run lead.

Brooks Raley took over for Valdez in the bottom of the inning, and with a 1-2-3 inning, made it his eighth appearance in a row without allowing a run. The Astros didn't let up in the top of the ninth, getting two hits and a walk to load the bases before a grand slam by Gonzalez made it 10-0 and gave him 5 RBI in a two-inning span. Seth Martinez, called up by the Astros earlier in the day, made his big-league debut in the bottom of the ninth and closed out the lopsided win to put Houston's magic number at 6.

Up Next: The second of this four-game set will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Tuesday. Jose Urquidy (7-3, 3.38 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, going opposite Packy Naughton (0-2, 4.32 ERA) for the Angels.

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