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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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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