TALKING TEXANS

Waiting to extend Clowney is the right thing to do

The Texans may have to decide between J.J. Watt (left) and Jadeveon Clowney. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Recent chatter around the Houston Texans is centered on a new contract for Jadeveon Clowney, especially now that Benardrick McKinney got his last week. The latest word is that Clowney may not get a new deal done before the start of the regular season and GM Brian Gaine doesn’t negotiate contacts past that point. Essentially, there’s a ticking clock on these negotiations and it’s not looking good for this year.

I’m OK with just folding up negotiations and waiting until the season is over. Clowney may be an impact player, but guys making the kind of money he’s looking for have the stats to back it up. That includes games played per year. A top tier pass rusher makes about a million dollars per sack. That would make Clowney worth what they just paid McKinney; $10 million a year. But he’s not just a pass rusher, just like J.J. Watt when he was playing healthy. His value across the board is probably equal to the $12 million he’s making this year.

But the Texans might want to choose between Watt and Clowney. Watt averages about $16 million and still has four years left on his deal and since they’ve already invested in him then Jadeveon will be playing in his last year, right? Wrong. What if the Man of the Year misses another season to injury? He only has $2 million in dead money if the Texans part ways after this season. That’s money that could be freed up for a younger player like Clowney.

It might not even matter if Watt plays a full season. He’s coming up on 30 and has missed most of the last two seasons with injury. It might be a wise move to simply swap the two players out after this season and let someone else take on J.J.’s injury history. I know that’s not a popular thought, but the Texans need a lot of help if they are going to stay competitive in the coming years. If Clowney shows he can stay on the field then youth is the way to go.

They need to be prepared for free agency and carrying a high cost for both players in 2019 won’t give them a lot of wiggle room elsewhere. Brian Gaine will need to keep all his moves in front of him from this moment forward if he wants to keep plenty of room under the salary cap. Hopefully he will put a pin in the talks for this year and pick it up when Clowney’s value is a little more definitive.  

What happens next may not be popular but I will be all right waiting until next year to find out.

 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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