A ton of moves leaves the offense stacked, defense reeling, and draft cupboard bare

Texans take shape after flurry of trades

Texans take shape after flurry of trades

The roster is starting to take shape but there are plenty of questions about the roster. Let's go through the day's moves, the prices paid, and what is left on this roster after the cuts.

The new anchor in town

Laremy Tunsil is an anchor for the Texans. He is either going to anchor the left side of the line or take the Texans to the bottom with him including Bill O'Brien's career with the Texans.

Tunsil was the 35th best player at the Pro Football Focus pass blocking stat. He was the 17th best tackle in that stat. He was better than fellow AFC South tackle Taylor Lewan, Eagles standouts Lane Johnson and Jason Peters, and former Patriots now Raiders tackle Trent Brown.

The offensive line is now potentially set at three positions for years to come. Tunsil will likely get a new deal from the Texans in about a year making him a fixture for years at left tackle. Tytus Howard and Max Scharping are the hopeful running mates for the next few years for Tunsil. Both will likely play guard this year but eventually I believe one will end up the right tackle on this team.

The commitment of the draft capitol will require smart signings and bargains as well as hopefully some development of younger players. There will be no opportunity to add high-end young talent with no firsts and missing a second. They have to nail backups and eventually new starters.

Matt Kalil does nothing for this team they should save the about $5 million by releasing him. Roderick Johnson should be the swing tackle. Greg Mancz, Zach Fulton, and Senio Kelemete are solid depth to go along with the starters.

Sticker price and then some

Laremy Tunsil cost the Texans a ton. There is NOT ONE SINGLE LEFT TACKLE in the NFL who had their team give up what the Texans gave up to get Tunsil. It was akin to the Khalil Mack deal the Bears offered to the Raiders to get Mack.

If the Texans approached this season with Matt Kalil they likely would have been spending the selection next year on an offensive lineman and getting Deshaun Watson some massages to help handle the beating. So, the 2020 first round pick shouldn't sting as much.

No, it isn't fun to miss on the first round for the next two years and the first two rounds in one of those years. No, it isn't fun to then have to pay that player a huge deal, likely top at his position, in one or two seasons. If it helps the Texans win more in 2019 or get further it is all worth it.

It is fun to be in "going for it" mode and to be settled at a position that has been unsettled for a long time for this team. The "going for it" teams have had success recently. The Rams, Patriots, and Bears have all had "going for it" pay off recently. The Chiefs made a "going for it" move with Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu as well. This is the era of going for it, especially with cheap or aging quarterbacks.

If it fails, O'Brien won't care

My above tweet explains why O'Brien can do this and would. He doesn't have to clean up the mess. He can leave or will be asked to leave.

And since there are only 32 of these general manager jobs, someone will want it and make the best of it.

Insurance and talent make Texans among deepest at WR

Kenny Stills wasn't the headline of the Texans deal with the Dolphins but he is a very nice addition to the roster. It was a little baffling the Texans cut down to four wide receivers but when Stills was in the deal it made a little more sense.

Over the past three seasons only 32 wideouts have had more yards than Stills. He ranks next to last in receptions among those players but sixth in yards per attempt and eighth in touchdowns.

He also only missed one game in that time. He brings Will Fuller insurance should the Texans deep threat get injured again.

The interesting part of the Stills addition is he has been one of the more outspoken players in the NFL when it comes the lack of support by the league in social issues. He has knelt for the anthem. He has called out Dolphins owner Stephen Ross for his contributions to the Trump campaigns. The Texans have never had a player quite like him, this is much larger than Duane Brown raising a fist.

The Texans have an argument now for the deepest wideout room in the league with DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills, Keke Coutee, and DeAndre Carter.

Duke Johnson's new old teammate

Duke Johnson again is teammates with Carlos Hyde, just like last year in Cleveland. Johnson though is the main back while Hyde is his compliment. Make no mistake, Johnson should out-snap Hyde and if he doesn't the Texans are either seeing a resurgence or trying something that won't work.

The Texans traded a player who was getting cut in Martinas Rankin for a player who was getting cut in Carlos Hyde.

That is one thing to remember as Carlos Hyde is added to Duke Johnson, Buddy Howell, and Taiwan Jones. Hyde is not good anymore. He is serviceable and the Texans seem to trust him more than the rookies who were cut Saturday.

Hyde has been trending down for a few seasons. The Chiefs had no plans to keep him and the Browns couldn't get him going last year. The Jaguars used him sparingly. He is close to Alfred Blue than Lamar Miller but again, the trust of a veteran is seemingly key here.

As for Rankin, injuries and the Texans inability to find him a position last year put him so far behind he never caught up. The roster space isn't there to try to make it work for the former third round pick.

Crowded tight end room

All five Texans tight ends are on the roster as of Saturday night. That will not be the case for long. I still expect Kahale Warring to hit injured reserve with his concussion. Maybe with the designation to return. I also expect Jerell Adams could be moved for a late pick he's worthy of a 53-man spot. It isn't the worst idea to have him around in case Jordan Thomas continues to struggle.

And then there were two

Only J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus remain as pass rushers worth trusting on the Texans.

In 2015 when Mercilus had 12 sacks he didn't actually overlap with Clowney's production hardly at all. In fact, Clowney missed two of the three best games Mercilus played in and barely showed up in the box score on the other. Now, obviously Watt was incredible that year as well.

Mercilus has every reason to be successful this season. He will get more pass rush snaps, something the team limited last season for an inexplicable reason. He is also in a contract year. He looked great in the preseason so it could be fun to see what he can do in 2019.

The two players added from the Seahwaks aren't anything special and you can read more about them here. Brennan Scarlett is not a consistent pass rusher.

Hot seat: Mike Devlin

If the Texans can't succeed up front with this group, arguably the most talented and heaviest investment in the O'Brien era, they have to fire Mike Devlin the team's offensive line coach. He has underwhelmed as the coach and if he can't make this group work he isn't making anything work.

More first overall disappointment

David Carr was atrocious and didn't fit in with his teammates and took a beating. He left the team.

Mario Williams finished with 53 sacks in six seasons for the Texans but was never the regularly dominating player many expected with the first overall selection. He left in free agency for a huge Buffalo deal.

Jadeveon Clowney was shown the door. He wanted out as well, but only after the Texans made their desire to break up clear. He's just hitting his potential it would seem but the Texans didn't care. They saw themselves without Clowney.

Here's the dirty little secret: It is really hard to make things payoff and actually live up to the expectations of the first overall pick. There can be solid arguments to be made that the first overall pick has "failed" more than "succeeded" in the past 30 years.

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against the A's. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

The Astros need to whip up on the Oakland A’s this weekend in California as they did in sweeping four from them last week at Minute Maid Park. That was the start of a homestand which ended up with seven wins in 10 games. That goes down as a successful homestand, especially since it felt like the Astros’ prior winning homestand came while Donald Trump was President (it actually started in late July). Still, 7-3 doesn’t feel like a smashing success with it ending by dropping two of three games to the lowly Los Angeles Angels.

It is not exactly with bated breath that anyone should be waiting on Jose Abreu’s return to the lineup, but it’s coming. It should not be on this road trip. After the three games with the A’s the Astros move up the coast for a big four game set with American League West leading Seattle. The M's start all right-handed pitchers. That is no time to sit Jon Singleton to see if Abreu has managed to pump a few drops of gas into his tank while spending the better part of this month at the Astros’ minor league complex. It’s not as if Singleton has been stellar since Abreu’s departure, but by comparison, he’s been Lou Gehrig-esque. The series with the Mariners isn’t make or break but the Astros are strongly advised to get at least a split. That it should be Framber Valdez starting the opener Monday night doesn’t breed tremendous confidence, coming off his meltdown outing against the Angels. Another start, another opportunity.

The Mariners are at the Nationals this weekend, starting it a mere four and a half games ahead of the Astros. In four of the five other divisions the Astros' 22-28 record would have them at least 10 games off the lead.

One step forward, two steps back

Speaking of washed-up first basemen, Joey Votto should be a future Hall of Famer. The 40-year-old Canadian is trying to make it back to the big leagues via the minor leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays. Votto was an absolutely tremendous player with the Cincinnati Reds. As the Beastie Boys said, “Ch-check it out.” Over Jeff Bagwell’s first ten seasons with the Astros he hit .305 with a .417 on-base percentage and .552 slugging percentage, yielding a phenomenal .970 OPS. Over Votto’s first ten full seasons with the Reds: .313/.429/.540 for an exactly phenomenal .970 OPS. Where am I going with this? Read on!

Votto had phenomenal strike zone and bat control. He turned 30 during the 2013 season. That year Votto had 581 at bats. He popped out to an infielder once the entire season. Alex Bregman turned 30 the third day of this season. Bregman popped out to the shortstop four times in the Angels series. So much for Bregman’s “knob past the ball” epiphany that saw him hit three home runs over two games last week. Going into the weekend Bregman has one hit in his last 23 at bats. His season stats continue to be pitiful: a .209 batting average and .607 OPS. Bregman has only struck out once in the 23 at bats of his latest deep freeze. It’s that so much of his contract is feeble. There is a lot of season left for Bregman to build up to decent numbers, but one-third of the regular season will be complete after the Astros play the Mariners Monday night.

While Bregman’s season to date has basically been one long slump, Jose Altuve is in a funk of his own. Since blasting a homer Monday, Altuve is hitless in 12 at bats. Mini-slumps happen to everybody but Altuve’s woes trace back farther. Over his last 15 games, Altuve is batting .175. He last had more than one hit in a game May 5. He’s also drawn just two walks over those 15 games. It’s tough to ever sit Altuve, but he’s probably playing a little too much. Altuve turned 34 earlier this month. He has started 48 of the Astros 50 games at second base. Mauricio Dubon should be getting a start per week at second (and probably another at third given Bregman’s level of play). Over a full season not playing the field once per week still means 135 starts. Altuve should mix in some more at designated hitter (he has just one DH game so far this season). Wear and tear is a real thing, players don’t grow less susceptible to it as they get to their mid-30s.

King Tuck

On the flip side, Kyle Tucker! So far this season, he’s making himself as much money as Bregman is costing himself. Only Shohei Ohtani (1.069) starts the weekend action with an OPS higher than Tucker’s 1.060. The law of averages dictates that Tucker won’t finish as high as 1.060, but if he does, it would be the greatest full-length season offensive performance in Astros’ history. Jeff Bagwell posted an absurd 1.201 OPS in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Yordan Alvarez came in at 1.067 in his 87 games played rookie season of 2019. Lance Berkman’s 2001 was a monster. Enron Field was more hitter-friendly then than Minute Maid Park is now, but Berkman’s numbers were “Oh My Gosh!” spectacular. .331 batting average, 55 doubles (second in franchise history to Craig Biggio's 56 in 1999), 34 homers, .430 on-base percentage, .620 slugging percentage, and 1.051 OPS. And that was just Berkman’s second full season in the majors. Lance finished fifth in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. Giant-headed Barry Bonds won MVP with his 73 home runs among other sicko stats.

* 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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