And some thoughts on the debacle in Dallas.

The most WTF moments of the Texans offseason

Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

It's a good thing that preseason games don't matter. Because I'm STILL shaking off Saturday's Texans - Cowboys match, not to mention the hangover it spawned.

It only took about 8:02 for me to bust out the scotch, wait, just kidding you know I'm a White Claw boi check out entirely on that Dallas disaster:

  • Deshaun Watson got sacked on the Texans first offensive play
  • Lamar Miller tore his ACL the next play
  • Watson was sacked AGAIN on play 3, fumbling this time
  • ...on a play where Nick Martin was holding, no less
  • The Cowboys marched down the field for a quick touchdown...
  • ...helped by a missed Whitney Mercilus sack
  • ...allowing Dallas to score on third and goal from the 12
  • The Texans put in Joe Webb for drive 2, likely out of fear
  • Julien Davenport - who was starting at left tackle for some reason - got called for holding
  • ...As did Martin again...
  • Before former 12th man (cult) Cullen Gillaspia missed a block in punt protection
  • ...which led to a blocked punt...
  • ...that the Cowboys scored on
If you happened to DVR the game and are still waiting for a chance to sit down and hate watch something, spare yourself the thrown remote. Just watch this.

Saturday's loss was a chunk of nether-hair on top of a Texans dried out brisket-esque offseason...

"Like you know a damn thing about brisket PAWL, you carpetbagging cartoon."

...and now, the said offseason has MERCIFULLY finished (after gallons of water/alcohol). How did we get here?

-PS: Preseason game 4s can go straight to hell.

- PPS: "PAWL, technically it's not done until we know what's going on with Clowney..."

Cancelling Kareem Jackson

Any time you've got a player who...

  • Has been in the building for 9 years
  • Is coming off the best season of his career (while playing safety)
  • Can provide added versatility as an extra cornerback should injuries happen
  • Is one of the best tackling defensive backs in the NFL sure to make absolutely no contact with him during free agency and let him walk. Instead, focus your attention on the player who had a very average season and probably played more effective defense on social media.

A Lot Of Cap Space, But A Lot Of Nothing In Free Agency

...outside of signing tackle Matt Kalil, THE 4th overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft!

Though to be fair, they took a shot on cornerback Bradley Roby, signing the former first round pick to a one year prove it deal. He's looked good in the preseason thus far.

The Texans had A LOT of obvious needs going into free agency. The offensive line has been a major weakness with little experience FOR YEARS. The corner group features a 35 year old (Johnathan Joseph) and a former first round pick that didn't get a second contract from the team that picked him (Roby) as its two top corners. And they could have used some running back depth. You'd have thought with those holes and TONS of cap space (per Over The Cap, the second most in the league) that the Texans would have aggressively pursued experienced players.

But Bill O'Brien and company clearly don't (or didn't, more on that later) view things that way given their lack of activity in free agency. For a team that still has its quarterback on a rookie contract and two of the league's best players - DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt - in their primes, it was a confusing approach.

The Musical Chairs At Offensive Line

I don't want to be mean about Matt Kalil. But...


...You'll be hard pressed to find anything that indicates he can/could protect a franchise QB. For that reason alone, I can't buy into Bill O'Brien naming him as starter last week.

On top of that, I'm STILL trying to figure out why the Texans gave Julien Davenport ANY reps with the first team unit Saturday night. Especially with how Roderick Johnson had played the week before. I know that O'Brien said he wanted to give Davenport reps with the 1s. But do you really want him protecting Deshaun Watson? Or Lamar Miller?

Other confusing things concerning the Texans O-Line this offseason:

  • Should Nick Martin - a former second round pick - still be the starter at center? He seems to have regressed...
  • I dislike when the Texans move young linemen back and forth from position to position in the pursuit of "versatility." Tytus Howard already had his work cut out for him going from playing at Alabama St. to the NFL. And now, you're asking him to slide back and forth between left tackle and left guard? Didn't you try musical chairs with Xavier Su'A Filo already?
  • If the Texans truly liked Washington State tackle Andre Dillard, they should have traded up to get him in the draft. It only took the Eagles a first round swap, a 4th and a 6th to move up 3 spots (in front of the Texans) to get him. They'd have a left tackle of the future. I'm not upset about the idea of Howard at guard.

The Firing Of Brian Gaine

I'm still confused as to why the Texans fired a guy after his second draft. Especially when his first draft - a draft without a 1st or 2nd rounder - featured several rookies that actually contributed:

  • Justin Reid
  • Jordan Akins
  • Keke Coutee
  • Duke Ejiofor
  • Jordan Thomas
In my mind, there's only one acceptable reason to fire Gaine: a lack of urgency in free agency. The last two offseasons featured two big name offensive tackles - Nate Solder and Trent Brown - that the Texans were interested in but unable to sign. The only noteworthy move of his tenure? Last year's one year deal for Mathieu, which got mediocre returns. Maybe Roby will be that guy.

There were some reports that Gaine and O'Brien disagreed on Clowney's future. Gaine wanted him long term, and O'Brien didn't. But our next offseason check point is probably why the Texans are now a "flat organization," whatever that means...

The Attempted Hiring Of Nick Caserio

The Texans likely got rid of Gaine because they thought they'd be able to hire Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio, who has worked for the Patriots since 2001. The timeline adds up. Texans Executive Vice President of Team Development Jack Easterby (the former Patriots team development director / character coach who joined the Texans in April) attended the Patriots Super Bowl ring ceremony in June (along with Caserio). The Texans fired Brian Gaine the next day. Of COURSE they wanted the guy. And seeing as he's been with the organization for all 6 Super Bowl victories and 9 appearances this century, why shouldn't they pursue him?

Unfortunately, they didn't do their homework. Caserio allegedly has a clause in his contract that prevents him from leaving the Patriots. And because of that, the Patriots filed anti-tampering charges. The Texans backed off, announced that Easterby, Matt Bazirgan, James Liipfert, and Chris Olsen would divvy up the GM role, and started using the phrase "flat organization" to describe themselves.

This G.M. Democracy might be able to hold it together for the next season. And the Texans might be able to bring Caserio in house for 2020. But the process to get there has been a Walk of Shame.

A Series Of Jadeveon Clowney Rumors

Let's just list them:

It's been tiring. But there has always been something to the rumors. Those original quotes from King sound all too familiar some of the things that I've talked about with my own ravens.

If the Texans trade Clowney...

  • They're punting on the 2019 season. This team needs the best pass rush possible with all the elite quarterbacks it'll face this season.
  • They're unlikely to get full value in return for him since he can't immediately be signed to an extension

Lamar Miller's Season Ending Knee Injury

Say what you want about Lamar Miller's tenure in Houston:

  • That the Texans ran him in between the tackles too much...
  • ...gave him too many carries compared to his time in Miami
  • ...Didn't pass him the ball enough
  • That he never was the gamechanger they hoped he could be
...but the Texans will SORELY miss him this season. With Alfred Blue gone to Jacksonville and D'Onta Foreman waived, Houston will have an entirely new backfield behind a yet to be determined O-Line in 2019. That's an awful lot of unfamiliarity to head into a season with.
I like Duke Johnson, especially his pass catching ability. But he's not an every down running back. He's a smaller third down type of back who has carried the ball 10 + times (in a game) just 4 times in 4 NFL seasons. Taiwan Jones and Buddy Howell seem like nothing more than special teams players, while undrafted free agents Damarea Crockett and Karan Higdon hardly move the needle. Here's hoping that the Texans can find a back with actual NFL experience when teams make their final preseason cutdowns.

I see all this offseason drama, and can only come to one conclusion. Though they have a loaded passing offense, the Texans will be hard pressed to scrap out a 6-10 season this year. They play too many good quarterbacks and have too many holes to overcome all these WTF moments above.

Paul Gallant hosts the "Gallant Says" podcast (Tuesdays & Fridays), "Just Sayin'", Friday nights at 10:30 on Kube 57, and contributes to SB Nation Radio. Have any questions? Get after him on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.


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Tucker looks like the real deal. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Kyle Tucker finally had his breakout season in 2020. The 23-year-old flashed potential to be a legitimate five-tool threat. He slashed .268/.325/.512, swiped eight bags, and played above average defense. Is Tucker's performance sustainable? Not only that, but is there room for growth?

Hard Hit % - 44.5%

Barrel % - 9.1%

K % - 20.2%

BB % - 7.9%
Chase % - 26.2%

The first thing to realize with Kyle Tucker is the small sample size at the MLB level. Despite appearing in three separate seasons, he's played in a total of 108 games, which is obviously quite a bit shy of even one full season. He also has an extremely unique swing that you wouldn't teach to anybody, but it "works" for him. This makes him a tough hitter to judge, as it's uncomfortable judging mechanics that work for him, and it's uncomfortable judging numbers that haven't had time to develop trends.

Hard Hit, Barrel, and Chase numbers are unavailable for the minors, but walk and strikeouts percentages are. This creates the ability to at least look at one trend.

Tucker broke onto the scene in 2018 with a monstrous season for AAA Fresno, the Astros affiliate at the time. In 2018, Tucker slashed .332/.400/.590 with 24 homers and 20 steals. He had an 18.1% K% and a 10.3% BB% that season. In 2019, Tucker struck out a little bit more (21.6%) but also walked a little bit more (11.2%). Tucker's 20.2% K% in 2020 is more in line with his minor league K%, indicating he's adjusted to major league pitching.

Tucker essentially put the pieces of contact ability and quality of contact from his previous MLB stints together in 2020. In 2018, Tucker didn't strike out very much (18.1% K%), but his 3.9% Barrel % didn't strike fear in any opponent.

In 2019, Tucker had a 12.8% Barrel %, and his 92 MPH average exit velocity is the best of his three seasons in MLB, but he struck out 27.8% of the time and walked just 5.6% of the time.

In 2020, there's a marriage between the two. His K% and BB% aren't as good as his 2018 marks, but they're better than his 2019 marks. His exit velocity and Barrel % aren't as good as his 2019 marks, but they're better than his 2018 marks. Tucker became a hitter that was able to do more damage without sacrificing consistency.

Tucker had a xBA of .267, which is right in line with his .268 average. His .459 xSLG lags behind his .512 actual SLG, but it isn't a catastrophic drop. The version of Tucker Astros fans saw is essentially who he is, but how does he improve?

What really unlocked Tucker in 2020 was a change in his setup.

Image via: GraysonSkweres/Twitter/Screenshot

Here he is on August 2nd against the Angels. As you can see, he's standing pretty straight up, and he has a "neutral" stance. Following the game on Aug. 2, Tucker was batting .200/.250/.300 with no homers.

Image via: GraysonSkweres/Twitter/Screenshot

Here's Tucker on August 6th, just a few days later. He's started to close off his stance just a bit, but he's still pretty neutral, and he has a little more forward body lean with his torso. Following the game on Aug. 6, he was batting .214/.267/.357 with a homer.

Image via: GraysonSkweres/Twitter/Screenshot

Now, here's Tucker on August 10th. His stance is considerably closed off, and he's maintaining the forward body lean he adopted on August 6th. Following the game on Aug. 10, Tucker was batting .190/.230/.328. It would be the last time any of those numbers would be that low the rest of the year. He maintained that stance for the rest of the season, and he finished the month of August hitting .272/.333/.588.

The swing change allowed him to be a factor on the outside pitch. Tucker would pull off on his front side, which made it tough for him to keep balls fair on the pull side. He'd often yank inside fastballs into the stands down the right field line. It also made him uncompetitive on outside strikes, as he'd either swing-and-miss, or roll them over into the shift.

After he made the change, Tucker started steering inside pitches fair, and he was able to do something with pitches on the outer third.

The next step is finding a way to continue to diversify his batted ball profile. Tucker's pull percentage in 2020 was 47%. That's a higher pull % than guys like Kyle Schwarber and Matt Olson. It was only 1% lower than Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo.

The one dimensional batted ball profile allows teams to shift Tucker aggressively. Teams shifted Tucker in 74% of his at-bats. His wOBA against the shift is .304. In AB's where teams didn't shift him, Tucker had a .455 wOBA. The shift hurts Tucker more than most as well, because he hits the ball on the ground 39% of the time. Gallo and Olson hit it on the ground 32% and 35% of the time respectively.

Lastly, Tucker's performance on breaking balls leaves a lot to be desired. He crushes fastballs, as he batted .303 with a .574 SLG against fastballs in 2020, with a .292 xBA and .528 xSLG. His .208 AVG and .396 SLG against breaking balls aren't very good, and his .209 xBA and .340 xSLG don't tell a prettier story. His 32% whiff % against breaking balls is nearly double his whiff % on fastballs.

If Tucker can learn to be more competitive against breaking balls and learn to use the whole field, then he'll be a really scary hitter. If he doesn't, teams will be able to gameplan for him, and he'll see streaky production similar to other one dimensional hitters like Matt Carpenter and the aforementioned Gallo and Olson.

While the bat may be streaky, Tucker brings it with the glove and on the bases. He had 5 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) in the outfield in 2020, a 0.6 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), and he was plus-4 in Outs Above Average. His well above average speed and instincts give him the ability to be a rangy outfielder and dangerous baserunner.

Tucker had a breakout season in 2020, but there's still changes left to be made if he wants to be a breakout star and not a one hit wonder.

This is part four of an offseason series covering the 2020 Houston Astros. Be sure to check out parts 1-3 on SportsMap.

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