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Texans vs. Jaguars: The good, bad and ugly from Sunday's win

Texans vs. Jaguars: The good, bad and ugly from Sunday's win
Andre Hal (center) made a triumphant return. Zach Tarrant/Houstontexans.com

The Texans are now in sole possession of first place in the AFC South due to their 20-7 win over the Jags today. This was not as ugly as their previous three wins, but it was ugly nonetheless. Let’s dig into some main points the way I saw them:

The Good

-Texans’ run game decided to make an appearance today. They racked up 102 yards in the first half (75 by Lamar Miller). This coupled with a fumble and four Jag punts helped the Texans to a 13-0 halftime lead. This is key because the team is now 25-1 under Bill O’Brien when leading at the half.

-Jadeveon Clowney continues to give teams fits. He added two sacks to his season total, but his best work came against the run. I love when they use him to rush the A gap (between center and guard), or head on with the center. He’s a matchup nightmare when rushing inside because of his speed and strength.

- Texans’ safety Andre Hal played and registered a tackle today. Normally that’s no cause for celebration, but considering he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in May, I consider this celebratory. A man of faith, Hal used it to get to where he is today and I respect him tremendously for beating the disease and making it back in six months.

The Bad

-With two timeouts, 1:11 before halftime, and getting the second half kickoff, the Texans played it safe and simply ran out the clock with three straight runs. O’Brien still doesn’t understand you can’t hoard timeouts. Either that or he’s not confident in his play-calling or team’s ability to go for the jugular.

-While the run game was pretty dominant in the first half, it fizzled in the second half. They managed only 38 yards after halftime. With a two score lead, running the ball should have been higher on the priority list. Running the ball takes good blocking and attitude and this team showed me they lack the toughness it needs to do so consistently.

- When you win the turnover battle by a plus three margin, you’d expect a more convincing victory. Those three turnovers led to 10 points. Most would say this is good. I disagree. They had the ball on the Jags’ 36 and 12 yard lines after the two fumbles and on their 26 after the fourth quarter interception with 5:49 left in the game. Teams that can’t consistently score touchdowns off turnovers are destined to lose more often than they win.

The Ugly

-The Texans lead the league in false starts (15), pre-snap penalties (25), and sacks given up (26). Henceforth why Watson is banged up and the team is constantly behind in down and distance.

-Keke Coutee was ruled out for the game as his hamstring injury caught up with him. He missed significant time to start the season and quickly gained a prominent role in the slot and as a weapon on misdirection plays.

-Deshaun Watson’s accuracy is still a concern of mine. Going 12 of 24 for 139 yards (no interceptions) against the Jags’ defense isn’t going to cut it. Sure they have the best corner tandem in the league and a good pass rush, but 50% completion is awful. The run game and defense isn’t going to continue to bail him out. Star quarterbacks win games for their teams instead of their teams winning in spite of their performances.

Being 4-3 and in sole possession of first place in the division is not a bad place at all. It could be much worse had a few things not gone their way. This team has a long way to go in order to make noise in the playoffs. But hey, making it to the playoffs by winning your dumpster juice of a division is certainly one way to make the playoffs. What they do from there is up to them. This was a big win and hopefully it gives them the confidence they need to go on a run.

 

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Following Houston's 6-4 road trip, the Astros returned home to finish the first "half" of the season before the All Star break hosting Florida and Texas. Houston's road trip was filled with clutch performances in New York, dominance in taking 3 of 4 in Toronto, and a dose of close calls and tough realities with a short-handed team against Minnesota.

Now the Astros hope to take care of business against the lowly Marlins and division rival Rangers. The Texas series, in particular gives Houston the opportunity to reassert their hold on the #2 spot ahead of the Rangers who have won their last 5 games in a row (as of the time this was published). Both teams have won 7 of their last 10 games and hope to catch a free-falling Seattle team to overtake the division lead.

Dana Brown told the media last week he expects both Justin Verlander and Kyle Tucker to be reactivated following the All-Star break but Tucker's updates continue to be more promising than Verlander's and MUCH more promising than Lance McCullers. Astros manager informed the media this week that McCullers has been shut down from throwing after his arm did not respond well to his recent bullpen sessions and the team is formulating the plan for what's next for the embattled pitcher. McCullers hasn't pitched since the 2022 postseason and underwent season-ending flexor tendon surgery last June. McCullers is under contract with Houston until 2026.

An eventual return for Kyle Tucker would spur a juggling act from Joe Espada to find a proper balance of time for all his outfielders, none of which have separated themselves offensively. Chas McCormick had a great month of June recording an .804 OPS but that run looks more like an anomaly as his scuffles have continued over the past 2.5 weeks, recording just 4 hits over his last 32 plate appearances.

While Jake Meyers has wowed fans and teammates with his glove this season, his offense has hit a skid, hitting just .184 with a .565 OPS over the past month. After rookie Joey Loperfido's torrid debut, he too has struggled with the bat, hitting just .216 with .599 OPS over the same time period.

An unexpected bright spot has been the recent play of first baseman Jon Singleton. Over the last 4 weeks, "Big Jon" is batting .302 with an .802 OPS. It's worth mentioning that Singleton's season numbers are better than Florida's Josh Bell, who drew interest from Astros fans over the past several seasons as a potential answer at first base. Bell has 135 more ABs this season so its not quite an apples-to-apples comparison but there's no doubt Singleton's contributions were sorely needed following the release of Jose Abreu.

To watch part 1 of this week's episode of Stone Cold StrosStone Cold Stros, just click the video above or to listen to the entire episode on podcast, search "Stone Cold Stros" in your favorite podcast app or click one of the following links.

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