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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NASCAR is coming to Texas! Photo via: Wiki Commons

It’s an All-Star weekend for the NASCAR Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway. As most fans know, this race is extremely different from what we see on a usual Sunday. This race is an invitational event featuring the winners from the 2021 and 2022 seasons with a few qualifiers including past champions and past All-Star winners over the last ten seasons. As it does every year, the format for this race has changed. It will be divided into four stages, and the winner of each of the first three stages will take up the first three spots on the grid (as long as they finish 15th or higher). The final stage will be fifty laps and if there is no caution between laps 15-25, then the yellow will be thrown to stack everything up. Probably the most important and intriguing change to the format won’t take place on race day, but during qualifying. The field will be given one lap and the fastest eight will advance to the final round, where they will each face-off head-to-head in a bracket. Each paring will have a mandatory pit-stop before exiting, and the first car back to the finish line moves on. This is a unique way of deciding who starts where, I would not be surprised in the slightest if it comes back somewhere down the line in the future

Last week, Kurt Busch went on to score his first victory of the year. It didn’t come easy for the 2004 champion, he had to fend off Kyle Larson and his brother Kyle Busch. The race was marred by numerous tire failures, as it seemed drivers could only go 25-35 laps before running into an issue. Luckily for Kurt, the cautions fell at the right time and he was able to manage his tires as he dominated the race by leading a race-high 116 laps. This was the first win for the #45 car at 23XII racing, as now both Busch and his teammate Bubba Wallace both have victories. While it’s been a frustrating season for this team, this win couldn’t have come at a better time.

While Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan celebrated their team win, Stewart-Haas racing was on the opposite end of the spectrum. All four of their cars finished outside the top ten, including their franchise driver Kevin Harvick. It’s worth noting that despite the disastrous day that he had, Harvick could bounce back with a respectable 15th-place finish. This team has a lot of questions regarding the future of their driver lineup. We know that next season Aric Almirola will retire, but after that who will fill the seat? Will it be their reserve driver Ryan Preece? Could it even be Kyle Busch? With these types of disappointing results from Harvick, many have wondered if he might decide to retire at the end of the 2022 season. This will be a team to follow in the coming months.

As we reach the dog days of summer, the infamous silly season is right around the corner. This is when the rumors start to become louder and louder about who will go next season and what rides will be available. As I mentioned earlier, Kyle Busch is easily the biggest question on the grid, with Mars leaving at season's end, can Joe Gibbs racing find him a sponsor to keep him in the #18 Toyota? There were reports on Thursday that the team was in negotiations with a “major tech company” to sponsor the car for one season. It’s clear that re-signing the two-time champion is the number one priority for Joe Gibbs and Toyota. TRD Executive David Wilson stated that losing him would be, “Unacceptable.” It will be interesting to see this story develop.

With that, the driver I have winning the All-Star Race this weekend is none other than Kyle Busch. Overall, it’s hard to find active drivers with better stats here at this track than him as he’s won here four times, the most among the field. He’s also led over 1,069 laps here, almost more than double the amount of the next closest driver (Martin Truex Jr with 674). When Jimmie Johnson stepped away from the sport in 2020, it was clear that the torch was handed over to Kyle as the best driver at this racetrack. He will be the driver to beat for the million dollars when the checkered flag falls.

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