RAMS 21, Texans 20

Texans: Tough decisions got tougher in week 3 of the preseason

DeAndre Hopkins made a brief appearance. Zach Tarrant/Houstontexans.com

Another week of the preseason has come and gone with the Texans dropping a game to the Los Angeles Rams 21-20.  More regular season starters saw action in this one, especially on defense. J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Tyrann Mathieu were all on the field to start the game for the first time this preseason. DeAndre Hopkins was also on the field with a 4-yard catch. But seeing the starters play early is not really what the preseason is about. Sure, it’s nice to see them get some game action but we know they don’t need it. There’s no reason to risk injury. There are some positions that don’t have a clear-cut depth chart and that’s why the third game of the preseason has significance.

The Texans have a glut of talent at wide receiver for Deshaun Watson to throw to. DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Bruce Ellington will be the starters; with Keke Coutee also probable to make the final roster. That leaves only one, maybe two spots available at the position. Sammie Coates and Braxton Miller are the two players in direct competition for that final spot. While Coates has turned in a decent preseason catching 5 passes for 70 yards, Miller has experience in the offense and has done better with 9 receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown.

Coates did suffer an injury and that might be compared to how Miller hasn’t done much since being drafted in 2016. But depth is important at some positions and there may be room for both. There just might not be room for everyone at running back and that’s why the battle between Alfred Blue and Troymaine Pope ramped up a little against the Rams.

Blue rushed for 45 yards and a touchdown Saturday while Pope added none to his 49 on the preseason. Blue has totaled only 31 yards in the first two weeks, so his performance today was a step up to secure the No. 2 spot behind Lamar Miller. Pope has shown his versatility with 7 receptions for 64 yards, but that makes him more of a specialist than a true back-up. And that role makes him more expendable when D’Onta Foreman returns from injury later this season.

The good thing about those decisions at running back and wide receiver are that they aren’t for a starting position. But safety is another story. Kareem Jackson and Justin Reid are listed as 1A and 1B on the depth chart for good reason. Jackson is converting from cornerback and his eight years in the NFL give him a wealth of knowledge to draw from. Reid is a rookie third round draft pick who arrives in Houston with a lot of talent but no experience at this level.

Reid had a solid game in Week 2 against the 49ers with three solo tackles (six total) in just a short night of work. He has flashed a lot of talent and his ability may develop more, but  Jackson showed in Week 3 against the Rams why experience matters. On a 2nd and 3 play for L.A., Jackson jumped the pass and made the interception. He returned it to the 3-yard line and set the Texans up for the first touchdown of the day.

The addition of Tyrann Mathieu in free agency has given the Texans a lot of wiggle room to work with at safety. The veteran Kareem Jackson gives a solid presence on the back end while Reid adjusts to the speed of the NFL. His ball skills will be great for the shaky cornerback group who will need help over the top. Reid may eventually become the starter and learn to make more plays but for now, he might lose playing time to the old guy who came out in preseason Week 3 and showed why he deserves the nod.

There is still one more game to play before they really count. That will be five days from now. And in eight days the roster will be cut down to 53 players. There are a lot more decisions to be made and a lot more nuances to consider. But these three situations warrant special attention. There is a lot riding on the Texans offense to be better this year and help compliment what should be a great Romeo Crennel defense. There is also a lot of pressure on the secondary to make sure teams can’t beat this stout defense by airing it out all day.

Still plenty of time to see what happens, but after three weeks, this is what stands out the most as the Texans roster begins to take shape and players step up their performances.


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Composite photo by Jack Brame

Former Astros manager Andrew Jay Hinch is on a short list of candidates to become manager of the Detroit Tigers in 2021.

The question is, after being suspended and later fired for his role in the Astros sign-stealing scandal, does A.J. Hinch deserve to manage again in baseball?

It's weird to think because so much has happened in 2020, but Hinch was suspended and fired only nine months ago. His banishment, however, ends in a matter of weeks with the final out of the upcoming World Series. At that point, he will be available to manage the Tigers or any other team. There's a possibility that the Mets are interested. Some were hoping it'd be the Astros, but the Astros are committed to manager Dusty Baker for next year. After that … never say never.

Shortly after getting the Astros ax, Hinch went on MLB TV and apologized for his role in the Astros cheating scandal. Although baseball's investigation said the garbage can banging scheme was "with the exception of (Astros coach Alex) Cora, player-driven and player-executed," Hinch took responsibility as manager and didn't challenge his punishment. No players were punished.

"I still feel responsible and will always feel responsible as the man out front," Hinch said. "As the leader, I was in charge of the team. I put out a statement to apologize. But there is something different to doing it on camera and putting a face to an apology, and saying I'm sorry to the league, to baseball, to fans, to players, to the coaches.

"It happened on my watch. I'm not proud of that. I'll never be proud of it. I didn't like it. But I have to own it. And the commissioner's office made very, very clear that the GM and the manager were in position to make sure that nothing like this happened. And we fell short."

In effect, while Hinch didn't authorize or participate in the sign-stealing scandal, he didn't do enough (really anything) to stop it. He is the rare case of being a guilty bystander.

To be clear, Hinch has not been offered the Detroit manager job. However, he has more experience and more wins under his belt than most of the other candidates being considered.

Hinch's reputation is blemished, but his credentials can't be disputed. During his five years as Astros manager, the team never had a losing season, won 100 or more games three times, including a team record 107 wins last year, made the playoffs three times and won a World Series.

Has baseball forgiven Hinch, and does he deserve another chance to manage in the big leagues? This is America, the land of forgiveness and second chances.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

Hinch knew his team was cheating and didn't do enough to stop it. There's no defense for that. But I think he's paid enough of a price to get back in baseball.

Mike Tyson raped a woman, went to jail, and now he's practically America's sweetheart. Hillary forgave Bill. We not only forgave Confederate leaders, we built schools and statues to honor them. Martha Stewart went to jail for insider trading, now she's back on TV baking crumpets. Ozzy Osbourne was arrested for pee'ing on a monument outside the Alamo, there is no more sacred place in Texas, and now he sells out concerts at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

Pee-wee Herman, well, let's not say what he was caught doing, but he's planning to tour the U.S. celebrating the 35th anniversary of Pee-wee's Big Adventure movie.

Remember, Hinch was suspended for a year. It could have been worse. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to ban people for life. Since becoming the commish, Manfred has permanently banished two people: former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa for hacking into the Astros computer database, and former Atlanta Braves general manager, John Coppolella for signing international players illegally.

Manfred also has temporarily banned Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman for shouting inappropriate comments at female reporters last year. Taubman is eligible to apply for reinstatement after this year's World Series. However, if he commits one more violation of baseball rules, he will be banned for life.

Lifetime bans aren't as unusual as you might think. Since baseball's beginnings in the 1800s, dozens of players, managers and team owners have been banned, mostly, like Pete Rose and the Chicago Black Sox, for gambling-related offenses.

A.J. Hinch copped to his crime, suffered the consequences, now it's time for him to manage a baseball team again. It's not like he'd be landing a plum job with Detroit. The Tigers are out of this year's playoff picture. They lost 114 games last season. And were 64-98 the two years prior. Managing the Tigers will be punishment enough.

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