Texans Week 4: 3 Headlines, 2 questions 1 bet

Will Fuller is injured again. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Second Half Defensive Failure

For the first time, all season, the Texans defense looked lost in the second half allowing 21 points to the Colts and another three points in overtime. The Colts converted 80 percent of their third-down plays. Indianapolis averaged 8.4 yards per play in the second half. The middle of the field was constantly open for Andrew Luck and when it wasn't the cushions from the Texans defense allowed him to make a play. They did a poor job of forcing Luck to consistently make tough throws. 

The Colts helped the Texans out in overtime too. They were driving with ease and on third and two deep in Houston territory the Colts wideout dropped an easy first down forcing them to settle for a field goal. Even on the Colts final offensive play, the gutsy call to go for it, Luck made a bad pass with no pressure. 

Tyrann Mathieu said after the game the Texans won but it wasn't the way they wanted to win. He's right. The defense will have a lot of wounds to lick and can't allow a quarterback like Dak Prescott to get going like Luck did or they will again struggle. 

Injuries Piling Up

Will Fuller missed the second half of the game yesterday with a hamstring injury. Lamar Miller was "banged up" according to Bill O'Brien which led to the use of Alfred Blue down the stretch. Aaron Colvin is likely out for a long stretch with his serious ankle injury, maybe the season. Kendall Lamm left the game with what looked like an apparent shoulder injury. 

One injury going the Texans way, not an injury per say but a player recovering from last season's injury is Deshaun Watson. He looks much closer to his 2017 self. O'Brien hinted Watson's health and how he feels allows them to run different things with the offense. 

Lamm Plays Well at Tackle

Kendall Lamm got the nod at right tackle in the game over Julién Davenport and played pretty well. Lamm has been with the organization for years now and recently was the left tackle for the team when Duane Brown held out. He was quickly benched for Chris Clark in 2017 and was on and off the roster. Back this year, Lamm looked to be the team's fourth tackle after winning a spot out of training camp. When Seantrell Henderson was lost to the season he slid into the swing tackle spot and this week was inserted for Davenport. 

There wasn't a reason for optimism for Lamm's start due to his lack of success in the NFL, but after this game, there should be a little optimism. Lamm did allow one sack on a really bad play where he whiffed on his block allowing the Colts defender to wreck the play but he kept Watson pretty clean on a day when he Watson got sacked a bunch. Lamm played better than Davenport had played and that's enough for him to earn the next start at right tackle. If he and Martinas Rankin at left tackle could provide average protection the ultimate success of the offense could be impressive. Now to see if his shoulder injury is something to linger. 

Was Coutee's success a fluke or start of something new?

The debut for Keke Coutee couldn't have gone much better. Maybe if he could erase that one early drop you could call it perfect. It was as near-perfect as you could ask from a rookie playing in his first NFL game. Remember, Coutee missed the preseason games as well. This is his legit first NFL action. He was amazing hauling in 11 catches for 109 yards. He consistently was open and even after Will Fuller departed due to injury. Coutee's success was dynamic too. He had 7 of his 13 touches go for 10-plus yards and 92 of 109 yards were yards after catch (YAC). 

It could be even better. Bill O'Brien has twice harped on Coutee fixing the things he did poorly and alluded to yards left on the field in his comments about the rookie. Coutee's success also didn't come at the expense of other wide receivers as Hopkins and Fuller still both made big plays for the team. If the tight ends come along Coutee's success gets even better. It isn't likely this is the standard but he could be even more effective as a cog in the offense going forward. 

Who is playing cornerback going forward?

Aaron Colvin's serious ankle injury likely keeps him out for the season and if not still a significant portion of time. Kevin Johnson isn't returning anytime soon. The team has been reluctant to use Johnson Bademosi at cornerback. That leaves Shareece Wright and Kayvon Webster as cornerbacks. Wright has been acceptable at corner. Webster hasn't played since injuring his Achilles last season. There is a possibility for Kareem Jackson to play corner, but he has been nice for the team at safety. 

The most-talent on the field equation right now would be Jackson and Johnathan Joseph at cornerback with Justin Reid and Tyrann Mathieu at safety. Then when they need to have three cornerbacks Wright can play outside with Jackson going inside. The free agent market is slim and the practice squad has too much inexperienced to rely on a player there. The secondary is quickly becoming a tricky situation. 

I bet the Texans have a really tough time with Demarcus Lawrence Sunday. He is the NFL sack leader with five and a half sacks and has been a terror in every game. He is second in the league in tackles for a loss. Bill O'Brien said he only thought two of the team's seven sacks against the Colts were on the actual offensive line saying other positions bear the blame for the rest. Whoever is responsible for Lawrence will be tasked with the near impossible. He is playing under the franchise tag and has set his sights on a huge year leading to a huge payday. Mission accomplished so far. He could very easily add to his highlight reel Sunday night. The Texans have a tall task trying to slow down the man known as "Tank" on the Dallas defense. 

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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