Watson has his best play yet and Hopkins might be the best he's ever been

Trades unlikely to help fill Watt-sized void

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

3 headlines, 2 questions, and 1 bet ahead of the trip across the pond to London to play the Jaguars.

Watson wows as usual

We can focus on the game-winning score all we like, but, Watson was very impressive in the second half as whole.

Early on I thought there were some typical elements of sharpness that were lacking and it could be a long day for the Texans if Watson wasn't sharp but he got it going soon after.

He would go on to complete all but four passes in the second half and rush for 34 of his 46 rushing yards after halftime as well. The Texans would score on all three of their second half possessions with one possession taking almost half a quarter controlling the clock.

It feels like each week Watson shows a trick in his bag and overcomes every level of adversity headed his way. He is officially "you're in every game" territory with Watson. Houston has a chance in every game with Watson playing the way he does.

"Slim to none" chance trades are made

Head coach Bill O'Brien didn't seem to think the Texans were going to make any moves. He did use the word "today" on Monday. It is worth noting the trade deadline isn't until Tuesday at 3pm. Maybe I am dicing words but it doesn't seem likely the Texans have the assets, or desire, to make a trade. O'Brien mentioned there needed to be balance in working on this year's team and the future.

The only player that I could see being on the block and maybe getting moved would be Keke Coutee. He was active and healthy but didn't play in Sunday's win over the Raiders. The team does have an injury at wideout with Will Fuller, but Coutee can't play outside anyway. They also promoted Steven Mitchell Jr. from the practice squad last week.

It's unlikely they make a deal, and even if they do, I can't see it being a big one. Their big deals have already been done.

The best ball of his career

Only Larry Fitzgerald and Randy Moss were faster to the above number. Hopkins did it with quite the quarterback crew. He's caught touchdown passes from the following passers:

Matt Schaub

Case Keenum

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Brian Hoyer

Ryan Mallett

T.J. Yates

Brandon Weeden

Brock Osweiler

Tom Savage

Deshaun Watson

I asked Hopkins if despite the stats, if he is playing the best football of his career.

"Yeah, some would say different," He said. "They might, like, I'm getting old, year seven, and what not. But honestly, I feel like I am. I feel like being on the same page with Deshaun, I feel like we have been clicking."

Hopkins was pleased to be in the same conversation as the above greats and wanted to give credit to his teammates as well.

"I got to thank the quarterbacks that's helped me get 8,000 yards, because I can't throw the ball to myself, even the Brock Osweilers, the Brandon Weedens, I got to thank those guys, honestly. Y'all might laugh, but I can't throw the ball to myself."

Deshaun Watson heaped praise on his teammate as well.

"He's an unselfish person," said Watson. "He's a guy that just wants to win. He don't care what the stat line says, he doesn't care how many touchdowns he has, as long as we get that W on Sundays and we're aiming for what we want to go to, the ultimate goal, that's what it's all about."

How do you fill in for Watt?

O'Brien made it clear you don't just fill in for a hall of fame caliber player like J.J. Watt. And he's right. The Texans will likely have to make use of what they currently have on the roster and potentially a small addition.

It is my assumption Carlos Watkins will "start" in Watt's spot with rookie defensive end Charles Omenihu playing a good portion of the snaps that Watt vacated. Brandon Dunn could also be used to move pieces around along the defensive line situation. D.J. Reader will need to be as good or even better than he currently is for Houston. Angelo Blackson has been a nice player this season.

The linebackers are where things get interesting. Whitney Mercilus is the lone true pass rushing threat on this team. His job just got insanely hard. Jacob Martin will need to continue to show promise. He had the team's lone QB hit yesterday. I don't see any scenario where Barkevious Mingo gets snaps that matter on defense but I could be surprised.

There isn't a free agent option that would make a lot of sense. Maybe someone from another practice squad. I also don't believe a trade would acquire anyone of significance. There aren't many options on the Texans own practice squad. Albert Huggins was signed off the practice squad by Philadelphia last week or he would have had a shot at the spot. Javi Edwards is more of a nose tackle exclusively so it seems unlikely he is the player to get that spot.

What's Watt's future?

This is far less significant than the other injuries he has dealt with in his career. In fact, when it comes to season-ending, it isn't even close compared to the back and the leg break. That being said, four of his last five seasons have been severely affected via injury.

The positive for Watt is he played at an elite level when he played coming back from the injury and again, those were far more serious than what he is dealing with now.

There was conversation in 2017, obviously I'm unaware how real it truly was, that Whitney Mercilus could have come back after his injury and played that season. The season was off the rails by the time he was healthy. So, this is far from a terrible injury for Watt. He shouldn't even miss offseason activities.

His contract becomes interesting though. He has no guaranteed money and two years left on his deal after this season. He carries a cap hit of $15.5 million and $17.5 million those two years. An extension is absolutely in the conversation when you think about what Laremy Tunsil's new deal and Deshaun Watson's new deal may cost the team. Not to mention, Whitney Mercilus is a free agent and DeAndre Hopkins already has his big contract and makes close to $15 million each of the next three years.

It is fun to hope Watt is a member of the Texans for life, and with the team likely staying in the conversation of success with their quarterback, he doesn't seem poised to "ring chase" elsewhere. He will also be just 31 years old and plenty of elite pass rushers have had loads of success in their 30's. All-time greats like Bruce Smith and Reggie White had amazing stats in their 30's and even Terell Suggs and Cameron Wake were recent examples of players who were fantastic in their 30's.

Watt, for the moment, is a far off thought. The 2019 season still has eight games to be played.

I bet the Texans aren't anywhere close to full strength against the Jaguars

It could be another game where backups have to play key roles for the Texans. Lonnie Johnson's concussion seemed bad on the field I would expect he is missing this weekend. Tashaun Gipson didn't get the most positive endorsement of health for this week from Bill O'Brien. Roderick Johnson was banged up which led to the Chris Clark start. Tytus Howard has no shot to play this week. It is imperative Bradley Roby or Johnathan Joseph, or hopefully both, can play against a decent Jaguars team.

The injuries have piled up on the Texans and after London the bye week comes at the perfect time to get players healthy for the final 7 games.

Houston accused of more wrongdoing

New report of illegal sign-stealing puts Astros back under scrutiny

Jason Behnken / Getty Images

Back in 2017, the Houston Astros could be considered the darlings of the MLB. They helped pull a Harvey-ravaged city out of despair and into a celebration in a matter of months with the acquisition of Justin Verlander and subsequent World Series victory. The young team full of potential suddenly had the attention of not only fans but other MLB clubs and the league's front office.

On Tuesday, that attention reared itself yet again in a severely negative way, with the Athletic reporting (subscription required) that former-Astro Mike Fiers was alleging and confirming that his former team used illegal means to steal signs in their 2017 championship season. Fiers, along with three other anonymous sources with the team in 2017, claims that the team used cameras and other technology to monitor opposing catchers to relay signs to batters in real-time. The Astros have released the following statement:

"Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organization has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball. It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time."

While GM Jeff Luhnow had this to say:

Another negative blow to the team's reputation

This is not the first time the Astros have been under a microscope in recent years, the most recent being less than a month ago when assistant general manager Brandon Taubman taunted reporters in the Astros clubhouse following their ALCS series-clinching win. The Astros fumbled that event, coming out with a rebuttal against the reporter, which would eventually be retracted, and Taubman terminated from his employment.

Neither is this the first time the Astros have dealt with accusations of sign-stealing and other forms of cheating. In this year's ALCS, the Yankees complained about a "whistling" noise from Houston's dugout they believed to be a method of relaying pitches to batters at the plate. Also, in the 2018 postseason, the Astros found themselves under fire for having an employee taking photos of the opposing team's dugout.

It's just part of the game until it's not

Both pitch tipping and stealing signs are things that are nearly unavoidable in baseball. With the catcher having to relay a sign to the pitcher 60.5 feet away using his hands, the opposing team will inevitably try to decipher what's coming. The same is true of tipping, where if a pitcher has a tell before a specific pitch, that information will quickly spread through the dugout.

However, there is a line teams should not cross, and that comes by way of utilizing technology to aid further the ability to steal signs, and using that to give an immediate advantage to a batter amid an at-bat. The Astros are not the first team to be alleged of this type of grievance, as the Red Sox received a fine after utilizing a smartwatch to try and steal signs.

It's a widely known and accepted fact that teams will try anything within reason to get a leg up on their opponent. However, with technology ever improving both for organizations to use and be caught by, it's no surprise that this is becoming an issue that the MLB will have to deal with, and soon.

Ramifications could loom large

Will the Astros be found guilty and made an example of to deter other teams for trying similar tactics? It appears we will have to wait for the conclusion of this investigation to find out. While it may not be an indictment of the entire team, it will bring into question the integrity and character of many of the team.

Still, no matter the outcome, the report alone and continued negativity surrounding the Astros organization has made them villains of many, a role that many would not have expected this team to play if asked just two years ago.

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