THE BRIGHT SIDE

Why the Texans are still exciting

Why the Texans are still exciting
Tyrann Mathieu is in a contract year. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

I know you saw that dumpster fire that was a Texans game last week and decided to swear off watching them for the rest of the season. I also know you’re lying. You’ll watch, you can’t help yourself. Despite better uses for your time, you will park yourself in front of a TV for the weekly punishment you receive as a Texans fan. But it doesn’t have to be all bad. There are some aspects of this team that can be exciting if you focus only on them and ignore everything else, namely the score.

Obviously, expectations for the season were high because the offense that averaged 35 points a game with Deshaun Watson under center in 2017 was going to pick up right where it left off. That didn’t happen but if you take a very narrow focus you see they’re not that far off. Deshaun Watson is on pace for more than 25 touchdowns, 4,500 yards passing, and 600 yards rushing.

He is getting it done by connecting with his two great receivers, DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. As a 1-2 receiver combination they are on their way to some pretty good statistics for the season. Hopkins' numbers after three games project that he could have over 1,400 yards receiving and 100 receptions. Fuller is on track for double digit touchdowns and more than 1,100 yards as well. That is offensive output a fan can be proud of. As long you ignore the sacks, bad throws, bad play calling and lack of scoring.

If you think there’s no way those numbers hold up over a full season, guess again. The defense for Houston appears to be as bad as it was last year. That means there will be a lot of games in which the Texans offense will have to forge a comeback. That means a lot of passing. I know it means Lamar Miller will continue his current path to a sub 1,000 yard season, but he’s not as exciting as an aerial attack. It’s easy to ignore him.

I know I said the defense is bad but there are still exciting players to watch. J.J. Watt is the hometown hero making his triumphant return to the gridiron and he looks like he is finding his form with three sacks after three games. That means he is on pace for 16 sacks this year. That’s not bad for a guy coming off injury and he could be the comeback player of the year. After all, he has to win all the awards, right?

Let’s not forget GM Brian Gaine’s big free agent signing Tyrann Mathieu. He came to Houston on a one year, prove-it deal. Essentially, this is a contract year for him and we all know how fun it is to watch players in a contract year go all out. The rest of this season will be his audition for the new team he signs with next year. He’ll make some big hits, cause some turnovers, and generally be fun to watch. If you ignore how terrible the rest of Houston’s secondary is then you have no worries. You can assume that because Mathieu plays great, all is well.

Ignorance is bliss, right? If you’re going to watch the Texans this year—and you know you will—then putting on blinders is the only way to go. Big time stats by big time stars can help you forget the misery of the rest of the team and the scoreboard.

 

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They clearly know how this game is played. Composite Getty Image.

The biggest news from Astros spring training in West Palm Beach has been the arrival of muscle-packed third baseman Alex Bregman, who’s in the final year of his contract with free agency looming.

Facing a battalion of microphones, Bregman has been saying all the right things – all the right things that Astros fans are happy to hear.

“I feel like I’ve never been in better shape in my life.”

“I expect to have the best season I’ve ever had.”

“I absolutely love every single second here. Being able to put on this jersey is an absolute honor and a dream come true for me as a kid. When it comes to the contract, I just let Scott do that.”

"Scott" is Bregman’s cold-blooded agent Scott Boras who is known for taking his clients to free agency and playing hardball with owners. Bregman, who will be 30 at the end of the season, is expected to draw offers perhaps as rich as $250 million over seven or eight years.

When I watched Bregman talk about his love for Houston and how he’d love to stay an Astro, I was half looking for an earpiece like the Impractical Jokers wear, with Boras whispering to Bregman what to say.

At the same time, but not the same place, Astros general manager Dana Brown was gushing over the Astros third sacker.

“He’s locked in. He is a special talent.”

“I’m expecting he’s going to have a really good season. I’m excited.”

“He has the heartbeat of a champion.”

The way Bregman and Brown are talking … I’ve heard less flirty prom invitations.

Now cue the scary music from horror movies. When Bregman was asked, have the Astros approached you with any offer of an extension, he answered a simple “no.”

When pressed for a timetable on a Bregman extension, Brown admitted, “at some point we’ll put together an offer. But right now we’re not engaged in an offer.”

In other words, both sides are talking. But not to each other.

Spring training is in full swing. Often players say if they don’t have an extension by the start of the season, they’ll shut down contract talks. They don’t want to think about a contract when they’re in the batter’s box and the games count. We don’t know if that is Bregman’s position, but it’s Boras’ modus operandi. It’s looking more and more like hello free agent Alex Bregman.

If Bregman is looking for a long-term deal at $200 million-plus, that’s more than Astros have ever offered a player. It could be too costly for owner Jim Crane’s blood.

Where do you stand on the Astros-Bregman dilemma? If you were Jim Crane, what would you do?

Break the bank and pay the man? After all, Bregman is a key piece of the Astros lineup. He’s been a dependable, hard-nosed player, a bit of a lovable wise ass and a huge part of the Astros’ dynastic run since 2017. Last year Bregman played 161 games, batted .262 with 25 homers, 98 RBI and 103 runs scored. He was a Gold Glove finalist at third base. He’s well liked in the clubhouse and adored by Astros fans. He has his own line of condiments.

Or let Bregman walk and save the money to make a run at keeping Kyle Tucker? As old school sports writers would say, you can look it up. In 2019, his career year so far, he batted .296, belted 41 homers, drove in 112 runs and led the league with 119 walks. He finished second in MVP voting behind Mike Trout. He hasn’t made an All-Star Game since then. His numbers, while not in free fall, have dwindled the past four years. He still is an above average player, though. Some team looking to go deep in the postseason will offer him big bucks at season’s end.

If it were up to you, would that team be the Astros?

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