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Houston Texans may have a trick up their sleeve when it comes to addressing QB

Houston Texans may have a trick up their sleeve when it comes to addressing QB
Composite image by Brandon Strange.
DeMeco Ryans has big plans for the Houston Texans

You feel that? Can you hear it? Do you smell it? Are you able to taste it? Take a minute to absorb the atmosphere and get back to me in a sec…NOW are you getting it? No? It's the season we all know and loathe: Lying Season! Lying Season AKA NFL draft season is definitely upon us. Fans are getting upset with the media because they're “putting out false info,” but won't get mad at the teams they love for putting the info out there for the media to report. Where do you think the media gets their info from? I addressed some of this the last couple columns I wrote on Texans draft rumors, and mock drafts.

My main gripe about Lying Season are the fans who believe the hype. Some get so upset, they'll do and say crazy things when opposing sources report opposing things about their team. When reports came out about the Texans potentially trading, not drafting a QB, or drafting a QB at number two overall, people became unglued! The “build around the defense” crowd were ecstatic and salivating at getting a pass rusher. The “trade back” crowd were happy because they want to acquire more picks in order to continue building. The “QB at two or bust” crowd was not happy at all, especially when these reports coincided with reports of Bryce Young being Carolina's pick at number one.

While Young is widely considered the best QB in the draft, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, and Anthony Richardson are the other QBs expected to go in the first round. Some think these guys will all be gone in the top half of the first round. All have traits and skills I like. Stroud is a proven winner with prototypical size, a good arm, and above average athleticism. Levis has prototypical size, a cannon for an arm, and good athleticism. Richardson is built like a tank, big arm, and off the charts athleticism. Stroud seems like the safest of the three. Levis has some concerns. Richardson is the most intriguing. But what if the Texans go in a different direction?

Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker could be who the Texans are targeting

Let's say the “build around the defense” and “trade back” crowds both win. What if Texans take best defensive player available at number two, then trade back out of number 12 to acquire more picks, but still address QB at a different time in the draft? It could be in the backend of the first round, second round, or even later. Hendon Hooker was a former first round prospect and leader for the Heisman before his ACL injury this past season. What if there's another guy like Clayton Tune or Jaren Hall that they like that can be drafted in the mid to later rounds? What if they want to make a run at trading for a guy they like? Mac Jones? Trey Lance?

The possibilities are endless. So are the frustrations. What I ultimately recommend to folks is to enjoy the ride as much as possible. Don't get too hung up on what conflicting reports say or don't say. If they take an alternative route to addressing QB, let's focus on the guys they're drafting to make this team better. With as many holes as this team still has, best player available at every pick is exciting. There are not many positions that they'll draft in which the rookie won't at least have a chance to compete for time. QB is the most important position on the field and the organization knows this. They'll address it when they feel they have the right target in mind, along with the means to get said target. For now, woosah and try to enjoy the buildup to the season finale of Lying Season.

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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