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

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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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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