CODY STOOTS

Texans offensive woes continue, but battle for first place is in sight

Deshaun Watson is struggling. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

There is still plenty to digest before the AFC South showdown with Jaguars with the winner taking home first place honors. We get into it on a Monday with three headlines, two questions, and one stat. 

Watson feels...better?

Deshaun Watson played in Sunday's game despite what Fox's Jay Glazer said was a cracked rib, a bruised lung, and partially collapsed lung after last week's game with the Cowboys. Watson, apparently, is a mutant who heals faster than every other person because Monday Bill O'Brien updated everyone on Watson's health. 

"I think he's doing better," O'Brien said. "Better than he was at this point last week."

Watson will have to corroborate O'Brien's claim this week but I find it hard to believe he went from those reported injuries to feeling better after he took around 20 hits in the game. If he is trending that way then Watson was either not nearly as hurt as we were led to believe or healed up quickly. Either way it bodes will for Watson's long-term durability this season.

Offensive line regresses

The Texans had a nice enough game against a furious Cowboys front but regressed greatly against the Bills. Seven sacks to go along with 12 quarterback hits and a couple of those hits knocking the ball away from Watson in the pocket. Julién Davenport had a rough game at left tackle in his second start since his benching and Kendall Lamm resembled more of his 2017 self than the successful version from the previous two weeks. 

The rushing attack was bad as well. Just 74 yards on the ground for the Texans in a game where they never really pulled away from the Bills. The 3.1 yards per carry was up from the previous week but still their second-lowest of the season. For a team that is playing close game after close game, the rushing attack will be key and should they ever get a sizeable lead they will need it to hammer the opposing team down for a final couple of quarters. Also, with less threat to run, Watson's play action passing efficiency goes down as well. 

O'Brien was quick to point out that while they need to block better the struggles protecting Watson are not always solely on the offensive linemen. 

Foreman not close, but getting closer

D'Onta Foreman is coming off a season-ending Achilles injury last season and has been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of the season. Monday was the first day he was eligible to practice. Upon practicing, the Texans have 21 days to decide to put him on injured reserve or activate him to the roster. 

O'Brien said today he doesn't expect Foreman to practice this week saying he isn't quite ready.

According to a study in Foot and Ankle International, the average amount of days to return for football players in their study was 340 days after surgery. Foreman had surgery on Nov. 22 of last year so 340 days after surgery would be Oct. 28 of this year. That would be the Sunday after the Texans play the Dolphins on Monday Night Football and one week before they face the Broncos. With a bye week after the Broncos game, it would seem likely the first time Foreman suits up would be the middle of November against the Redskins with the Denver game being the second most likely. 

Can this offensive line survive the season?

It is very possible we have seen the best this offensive line has to offer. That is a scary thought to have about the Texans. There isn't much relief in sight either. All the tackle combinations with the top three guys have been tried except Martinas Rankin at right tackle but last week Mike Devlin pointed to his injury in the preseason keeping him from getting work at that spot. David Sharpe is the other tackle on the roster but he has played in just five games in his NFL career and despite being a fourth-round pick by the Raiders in 2017 saw his time in Oakland come to an end this past Septemeber. At this point, the free agency market or even waiver wire isn't going to have a starter show up so the Texans are stuck. Davenport is the left tackle it would seem and Kendall Lamm the right tackle. I don't know how much Seantrell Henderson would have helped this team, though interesting he hasn't had a lot of NFL success, there was clearly some hope he could solidify as a veteran the right side. If Davenport struggles maybe Rankin gets another shot at left tackle.

What's wrong with the Jaguars?

A preseason darling suddenly finds itself with all the shine off and battling for first in a division they had every right an intention of running away with this season. This team plays nothing like the AFC Championship game Jaguars. Media members who cover the team have lamented how poorly their ballyhooed coverage has been this year and the increased number of zone plays the team is using. The ferocious defensive line finished with the second-most sacks last year. This year the Jaguars are 18th in sacks and on pace to finish with about 20 less than last year. Yes, Blake Bortles is still a huge problem but even when he was a dunce throwing the ball the secondary and pass rush was there. The Texans have to hope Jacksonville doesn't get back to their roots on Sunday. 

I bet the Jaguars "get right" against the Texans. With the success most quarterbacks have had against the Texans this season it would make sense Bortles could stay out of the team's way and not be a total negative for the offense. The defense has tons of talent on the defensive line, the most the Texans will face all season, and with the team already giving up 25 sacks it could be another long day for the line and Watson. Jalen Ramsey was morose and had little to say in-line with his often brash personality after the loss to Dallas. I can't imagine the bark stays gone for long and there's plenty of bit behind it too.

 

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