WITH LUCK RETIRING DUE TO EXCESSIVE INJURIES, IT'S TIME TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT PROTECTING WATSON

Who replaces Miller won't matter if Texans don't fix O-line

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Andrew Luck is walking away from the NFL because he can't take the punishment anymore and the toll it has taken on him mentally and physically. Even after new General Manager Chris Ballard re-built the offensive line and gave him more of the resources he needed, it was too late to save Luck who had to endure too many seasons of little to no protection on the field and less than stellar coaching and upper management off of it. If all of this sounds far too familiar and hits extremely close to home, it should, because Deshaun Watson is headed for a similar fate if things don't change and change quickly. The Texans and the Houston fans waited forever to finally get a franchise quarterback and the organization has done very little to protect and serve his best interests since he came on board.

If you need any recent proof of how bad the line is again this season and how dangerous the situation can be for the offensive weapons on the team, you only need to look at the first half film from the game Saturday night against the Cowboys. Watson was under constant pressure and found himself running for his life seemingly every down he was in the game. Running back Lamar Miller was lost for the season after suffering a season-ending injury when he was drilled at the line of scrimmage after a weak blocking effort left him fully exposed for the Dallas defense. Bill O'Brien and his staff allowed his best players to take the field with some of his reserve linemen and paid a very high price. Thankfully it wasn't worse, as Watson was able to escape serious injury and trade his helmet for a headset as he turned the signal calling over to Joe Webb for the rest of the night. As fans were left to ponder who the team might be able to trade for or bring in as a possible replacement for Miller, the bigger question in my mind was what does it matter who they bring in if they are just going to get beat up running behind by a bad O-line?

Seriously folks, before you start worrying about acquiring Jay Ajayi, Adrian Peterson, Melvin Gordon, Carlos Hyde, T.J. Yeldon or anyone else, you need to worry about who will be trusted with opening up holes for them while protecting the quarterback. The most important offseason need for this franchise was not addressed properly, after drafting two tackles that look more like guards and signing another batch of journeymen veterans who seem to have little left in the tank.

The returning linemen from last season have shown little progress and some have even regressed to the point of being in jeopardy of being released before the season even starts. Whoever is charged with being the GM of the hour between now and the start of the season needs to work all lines of communication with every other team in the league to find out what linemen might be available and at what price? Tackles and guards don't grow on trees or just pop up on the waiver wire waiting to be a starter in the trenches for the Texans, so the job is easier said than done. Teams groom their line by drafting and developing them over several years. Once a team finds a good one, they hang on to them for a long time. Running backs are a dime a dozen while quality blockers are a hot commodity that are hard to find and even harder to sign. O'Brien and his staff need to leave no stone unturned as they work the phone lines and find out what it would take to find some serviceable upgrades for the first line of offense and do it before another season is lost in transactions and failed experiments. The time for taking chances and flyers are over, there needs to be a sense of urgency and a focus on making substantial upgrades on the line and not just minor adjustments or staying status quo.

If you can't find a way to protect Deshaun Watson and open up the passing game, then how are you going to open up holes for whoever is running the football? That's why it really doesn't matter who the team brings in to replace Lamar Miller until they figure out who is capable of blocking for them. You can't blame Brian Gaine anymore or hide behind his firing, the GM by committee is under the microscope and B.O.B. needs to take the time to make some good things happen and fast.

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After blowing a four-run lead and wasting the chance to win the series on Tuesday, the Astros tried to remedy things with a win on Wednesday night behind Zack Greinke on the mound. Here is a recap of the rubber game of the three-game set between Houston and San Francisco:

Final Score: Astros 5, Giants 1.

Record: 8-10, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zack Greinke (1-0, 2.53 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Caleb Baragar (2-1, 11.25 ERA).

Greinke with another strong start

San Francisco carried over their momentum from the night before into the top of the first against Zack Greinke, getting a leadoff triple that would result in a quick 1-0 lead after an RBI-single. Greinke would do well after that, though, dealing with some traffic but keeping the Giants off the board over the next five innings.

He would keep going into the seventh, but with his pitch count rising and putting two on base with a single and walk, he would have his night come to an end as Houston went to Brooks Raley, who would get the second and third outs. That finalized Greinke's line: 6.1 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K.

Astros bats stay hot, Houston wins the series

Greinke would leave with a lead, thanks to an RBI-single by Alex Bregman in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game 1-1 before Houston would put together a four-run sixth. Houston loaded the bases with no outs to allow Carlos Correa to score on a wild pitch to take a 2-1 lead, then Martin Maldonado followed with another big hit in 2020, a three-run home run to extend the lead to 5-1.

That left two more innings for the bullpen to cover with a four-run lead. In the top of the eighth, Raley would return and retire the Giants in order. Still a 5-1 score in the ninth, Blake Taylor would take over on the mound to try and finish off the game. He would get through the scoreless frame, wrapping up the win and the series victory for Houston.

Up Next: The Astros have a day off on Thursday before continuing this homestand with a three-game weekend series with the Mariners starting Friday at 8:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Yusei Kikuchi (0-1, 5.28 ERA) going for Seattle, opposite of Framber Valdez (0-2, 2.04 ERA) for Houston.

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