TEXANS REPORT

There’s a lot to like from the Texans preseason game 2

The Texans won their second preseason game. Stephen Pinchback/Houstontexans.com

This may be just a scrimmage game but I saw a lot of positives in the Texans 16-13 win against the 49ers in NRG Stadium. The defensive front seven is going to be a monster when the regular season rolls around. These guys get after it and will probably be good enough to force teams into airing it out. Offensively, Deshaun Watson looked superb and his receivers made him look even better. Those are two very good reasons to be optimistic as we get closer to Week 1 at New England, but glaring problems also showed up on film. It’s those problems that will make or break the season.

The Texans secondary was awful. A lot of the good things that did happen, like Johnson Bedemosi’s interception; were the result of the front seven getting pressure and forcing the play. If Jimmy Garoppolo had played more there would have been some deep balls for touchdowns. The other big problem for Houston is the running game. They are averaging around 3 yards per carry and no one looked all that good. Lamar Miller only has 8 carries in the two games so that has a lot to do with it, but someone else will need to step up and provide more out of the backfield. Alfred Blue is the favorite so far, but that’s not a comforting thought.

But let’s focus on the better parts of the team that showed up Saturday night. Watson went 5-of-8 for 73 yards and a touchdown in his first and only drive of the game. His passes looked crisp and he was getting it out of his hand fast with plenty of lead for the receivers to get yards after the catch. Bruce Ellington was the beneficiary of three of those passes for 44 yards and a touchdown, most of that yardage coming on one play where he was wide open underneath and ran for 33 yards after the catch.

Most of the receivers on hand for the night were lower depth chart guys like Sammie Coates, Braxton Miller and rookie Vyncint Smith and all looked like they belonged when Deshaun Watson and Brandon Weeden were on the field. And as good as the depth at receiver looked, this is the second week in a row that the tight end appeared to be a serious weapon offensively for the Texans. Ryan Griffin caught two passes for 29 yards on that opening drive and MyCole Pruitt had a 17-yard reception on a later drive. Couple that with the play of Jordan Akins last week and things are looking up for tight ends.

Defensively, I can’t say enough about how fast the front seven played against the 49ers first and second unit. Duke Ejiofor continues to impress, and Dylan Cole had another solid performance as well. Those aren’t even the starters. Zach Cunningham had a great tackle near the line of scrimmage when he shot cleanly through a gap in the traffic for a clean take down. This group dominated at the line of scrimmage much of the first half and that was done without a lot of significant starters beyond one series. This is going to be a run stopping team that’s exciting to watch on Sundays.

It will take the whole team getting better if the Texans want to make it to the playoffs, but there was a lot of solid play on the field that makes that possible. There are still two more games left in the preseason and starters might see more playing time as the regular season inches closer. Rosters are going to start being made based on these first two preseason games and for several players they have made their case. The rest will have just a limited opportunity to secure a spot. It will start next Saturday at the Los Angeles Rams.

 

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Keep an eye on Alex Bowman this weekend. Image via: Wiki Commons.

For the first time since July 1984, NASCAR returns to one of its most popular cities in Nashville, Tennessee for the inaugural Ally 400 at Nashville Super Speedway. This track is a 1 1/3rd mile concrete oval that was dormant for nearly ten years and was only used as a testing facility. So it came as a bit of a surprise last season when it was announced that this track would be getting a date. For a lot of drivers, this will be a brand new racetrack, but we will see practice and qualifying, so that will be a huge help for the newcomers that haven't raced here before. Back when the Xfinity and Trucks ran here, this track featured a lot of first time winners. Back in 2008, future NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski shocked the world by jumping in Dale Jr's car and capturing his first win here. There will be a lot of veterans like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick who have plenty of experience at this track, but it will be tough to compare. It should be fun with everyone coming into this race with minimal knowledge.

Last week, Kyle Larson continued his hot streak by winning the All-Star Race. Overall, while Larson and his Hendrick teammates probably enjoyed the race, the feedback from crews and fans was less than positive. As I was walking through the garage area and talking to a few crew members, a lot of them were very critical of the 450 horsepower motor and the tall spoiler to try and keep the cars bunched up. When I asked one of the crew-members what he thought about the package he told me, "Oh it's awful. The track is terrible, the package makes it impossible to pass and it's super hot out here." On green flag runs, it was the same as it ever was as the lead car would pretty much take off and the only time there was really any "pack racing" it came after there were restarts. The whole race was well-intentioned and the fans showed up as it was nearly a capacity crowd, but the whole thing just didn't make any sense. From the start time being in the nearly 100 degree heat to the wacky full-field invert at the end of each stage. Let's hope that next season's All-Star Race is a lot more concise.

In Silly Season news this week, Truck Series regulars GMS racing announced that they would be fielding a full-time cup series team. The team is currently owned by Allegiant Airlines CEO Maurice Gallagher and his son, Spencer, who used to drive for them in the Xfinity Series. This move seemed to come from out of nowhere as there was never any indication that this was a move they were exploring anytime soon after they turned down the opportunity to purchase Furniture Row Racing in 2019. This is certainly a great sight for the sport as there will be more new teams on the track and with their close relationship with Chevy, it wouldn't be a surprise if they step in and help this team become competitive. The favorite to drive their car has to be 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed. He has easily been their best driver in trucks, and it would make the most sense for him to get the promotion.

This week at Nashville, the driver that I have winning is Alex Bowman. Now while this is a brand new racetrack and he has a grand total of zero starts here, this track suits his driving style perfectly. With the inclusion of this track, there are now four tracks with a concrete surface. Nashville, Bristol, Dover and Martinsville. At the three of the tracks they have run at, he has shown a lot of speed, including a victory at Dover this season and a top ten finish at Bristol. This is also a track where crew-chief Greg Ives said Bowman has gravitated towards during testing. In an interview with Sirius XM Ives was quoted as saying "we used to have a lot of fun testing there," so this is clearly a track that they both enjoy going to. Another big factor going into Sunday will be just how fast these Hendrick Motorsports cars are, they have finished 1-2 over the last four points races. He has watched his teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott have immense success, and now this week I think he is due for a third win of the season. Look for the bright purple #48 Chevy to go to victory lane this week at Nashville.

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