CAMP COUNTDOWN

Texans training camp preview: Quarterbacks

Deshaun Watson is the man heading into camp. Photo by Edward Clarke

For the first time in a long time there’s no doubt about the quarterback position going into training camp. Deshaun Watson is the franchise and heads into this thing with only his health to worry about. Returning from his torn ACL takes time and while he looks ready to go, it will be up to the coaching staff to keep him on a reasonable snap count while he tests himself in a more regimented practice.

That leaves plenty of playing time for the team to address the real need under center, the one that tanked their 2017 season; Watson’s backup. The fiasco that was Tom Savage is gone, but a lack of available options has left the position still in flux. Currently the options are Brandon Weeden, Joe Webb, and Stephen Morris. The frontrunner is obviously Weeden at this point.

If that doesn’t boost your confidence then you’re not alone. But don’t worry, it could be worse. They could be without Weeden. His seven years have to count for something and it’s not like there are a lot of great options available in free agency. He’s played in the system before so his learning curve won’t be as steep and he is at least capable in a backup role.

Joe Webb has nine years in the NFL but has thrown a total of 159 passes, only seven of those coming after 2011. He’s been used mostly for his athleticism, at times playing positions other than quarterback. He will most likely be in camp the help the offense mimic Watson’s athleticism but not a serious threat to take over as the No. 2 guy.

Stephen Morris is just another guy. He’s been around the league since 2014 but has yet to make a roster. He’s got a great arm, but his accuracy and pocket presence still haven’t quite developed since college. Maybe Bill O’Brien really sees something coachable in him and at 25 years old they keep a third quarterback to develop. I doubt it but stranger things have happened.

Overall, the team is in good shape as long as Watson is ready in Week 1 against the Patriots. Before his injury in Week 8 last season he had a QB rating of 103, on pace to be the highest in franchise history. He was also leading the league in touchdown passes and on pace to throw for more than 4,000 yards. With those numbers he would have been a top contender for Rookie of the Year honors and probably a Pro-Bowl selection.

The goal of the head coach and front office for this position should be a stiff competition for the backup quarterback job. It wouldn’t surprise me if either Webb or Morris were kept on a very short leash while conversations are started with one or two veterans still on the market. Austin Davis, Mark Sanchez and Matt Moore are all names to be considered if the Texans want to go that route. But I assume they will just announce that the job belongs to Weeden and focus attention to other positions of need.

 

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Houston couldn't keep up

Astros fall to Blue Jays as Toronto gets homer-happy

Houston's bats couldn't keep up with Toronto's Saturday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With an offensive clinic in the opener on Friday night, which helped them handily defeat the Blue Jays, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park Saturday with a chance to secure another series. Toronto had other plans, though, reversing roles with Houston by getting big home runs to even the series.

Final Score: Blue Jays 8, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 17-16, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Steven Matz (5-2)

Losing Pitcher: Cristian Javier (3-1)

Toronto flips the script and turns on their offense against Javier

Toronto flipped the script from the night before early in this middle game of the series, dealing damage to Cristian Javier, who so far in 2021 had been able to limit his amount of earned runs. After retiring the first four batters he faced, a one-out walk in the top of the second set up the Blue Jays' first hit of the night, a two-run home run by Cavan Biggio, giving them a 2-0 lead over Houston.

After a leadoff home run made it a 3-0 score, Javier would deal with the fallout of more walks in the top of the third, issuing two to set up a two-out two-RBI double to give the Jays a commanding 5-0 advantage. Javier would battle back and complete five full innings, getting one out into the sixth before a walk would prompt Dusty Baker to make the call to the bullpen. His final line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 2 HR, 91 P.

Alvarez keeps mashing as Houston tries to claw back into it

Javier would exit with at least some runs on the board in support of him, with Yordan Alvarez hitting a two-run opposite-field homer in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to three runs. Alvarez accounted for another run in the next inning, coming through with an RBI-single to make it 5-3, which is where the game stood as Andre Scrubb would take over in the top of the sixth.

Scrubb finished that inning for Javier and returned for a 1-2-3 seventh to keep it a two-run game. Bryan Abreu was the next reliever, and he, too, was able to retire the Blue Jays in order in the top of the eighth. The Astros continued to chip away at Toronto's lead, getting another run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI by Yuli Gurriel to make it 5-4 heading to the ninth.

Toronto evens the series

Brooks Raley entered to try and keep it a one-run game with a clean inning, but instead, two runners would reach on a walk and error before Joe Smith would enter to try and strand them. Instead, a two-out home run put the game back out of reach at 8-4, with Houston coming up empty in the bottom of the inning, setting up a rubber match in the finale.

Up Next: This series's third and final game will be an afternoon start of 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Zack Greinke (2-1, 3.76 ERA) will try to add more wins to his record for Houston, while Nate Pearson will be making his 2021 debut for Toronto.

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