Texans Links Of The Week For
The Texans’ place in NFL history As a college student studying history, and soon to be headed back to school, I was curious if the Houston Texans had any noteworthy contributions to the history of the NFL. Being the youngest franchise, founded in 2002, the Texans have not had much time to make a lasting mark, develop a heated rivalry, or play in a game in NFL lore, but have managed to etch themselves into a few notable spots. Most of them are good, some are bad, and a few are very ugly.
Defensive Player of the Year Awards, J. J. Watt is tied with Lawrence Taylor for the most in NFL history with three (though Watt did it in five seasons while L.T. took six)
Second-ever expansion team to win their first franchise game (other was 1961 Vikings)
Perfect vs. Chicago Bears (4-0)
One of two teams with no ties in team history (Jaguars are the other)
Played in second-ever NFL regular season game in Mexico
Team with the most starting quarterbacks in a single season to make playoffs (4 in 2015)
Only NFL team to not earn an at-large playoff berth (though I predict they will https://www.battleredblog.com/2018/7/29/17626686/a-brief-week-by-week-prediction-of-the-2018-texans-season?_ga=2.125580617.233581953.1535053385-1018589619.1516576984 )
Only NFL team to not appear in the conference championship game
Least postseason appearances by an NFL team (4)
2002: David Carr was the most ever sack quarterback in an NFL season (76)
First and only AFC division winner to be shutout at home in wildcard weekend (30-0 loss to Kansas City in 2015)
Some of these notable facts are due to the franchise being young, but some will likely stand the test of time. The only one to come close to the sacks allowed figure, for example, was Randall Cunningham, who was sacked 72 times in 1986. J. J. Watt’s achievements and the 19-10 win over Dallas in 2002 can never be stripped from us, however, neither can the shutout loss in the 2015 playoffs. Most of these records will change over time, and the Texans can only add to their legacy and prominence in the NFL.
BRB Returns To Facebook Live Tonight The first Texans TNF Show of the season!
Battle Red Blog’s weekly show on Facebook Live returns tonight at 7 p.m. CDT.
Every week during the season, I will take to Facebook Live on BRB’s Facebook page right before Thursday Night Football starts. Over the next half hour or so, I’ll talk about what’s what in the NFL, including but not limited to the Texans , and answer any questions live.
Join us for the season premiere at 7 p.m. CDT this evening by clicking here . See you there, Texans fans!
Pre-Game Recon: Three Questions With Turf Show Times BRB and Turf Show Times merge forces and then answer a couple of questions regarding the Rams.
The Texans are playing the St. Louis Los Angeles Rams this Saturday afternoon. To celebrate this momentous occasion, the most important preseason game of the year, I asked Joe of Turf Show Times three questions. This was the result.
1). Todd Gurley had 19 (19!) touchdowns last season. The most he had previously was 10 during his rookie year. The biggest change was the passing game. Gurley caught 64 passes on 87 targets for 12.3 yards a reception after being targeted only 58 times in 2016. Is this pass-catching Gurley going to be the Gurley we see from here on out? From a fantasy perspective, are you worried Gurley sees a drop in production after having an insane 2017 (19! touchdowns)?
No lie, I am worried, though not because of Gurley himself.
His skill set has been apparent since his freshman year at Georgia in 2012. I’m more concerned because of, well, the general need for running backs to have things around them work ( see : Gurley’s 2016 season) and the general balance of the Rams’ offense.
Gurley added 87 passing targets to his 279 rushes last year. The Rams have since added WR Brandin Cooks to replace WR Sammy Watkins. In 2017 with the New England Patriots , Cooks had 114 targets; Watkins had just 70 with the Rams last year. When you consider that the Rams have to keep Gurley, Cooks and WR Robert Woods , WR Cooper Kupp and the tight ends involved, it’s hard to predict the work rate across the offense. Throw in the running back depth behind Gurley that was lessened last year with the injury to RB Lance Dunbar and perhaps increased this year with rookie sixth-round pick RB John Kelly , and I could totally see a statistical regression from Gurley that has less to do with Gurley and more to do with everything around him.
2.) The Rams added Marcus Peters , Ndamukong Suh , Aqib Talib , and Sam Shields to the roster over the offseason. Last season they finished in DVOA like the usual Wade Phillips defense does—excellent against the pass and fine against the run. The Rams ended the 2017 season sixth overall with a defensive DVOA of -9.8%. With the new additions, how much better can the defense be? Do you think the Rams dethrone the Jaguars and end up with the best pass defense in football?
Perhaps. I do think the balance between the run and pass matters most. Much like Gurley’s skill as a runner balanced against the efficiency he could maximize in lesser outputs, the pass defense could be made better by overloading on run defense, especially from the safety position. That being said, I’d be irresponsible if I didn’t acknowledge the lack of skill at the edge rushing position.
Last year, the Rams stacked Robert Quinn with Connor Barwin , and it just didn’t work. As good as Quinn was early on in his career, he wasn’t dominant last year, and Barwin struggled to complement him in any meaningful way. So without a consistent pass rush in standard sets, the Rams were forced to use the blitz or rely on coverage to pressure the QB consistently. Now having moved on from both Quinn and Barwin, it remains to be seen if the Rams can even match the mediocre edge pass rush of 2017. If not, that DVOA might even fall let alone challenge the tops of the NFL.
3.) Sometimes in sports, we see this: A whale is dropped from a helicopter into a public pool during the offseason. A team spends a ton of money. It adds an insane amount of talent. Then, the following season, that team struggles to play well and their performance fails to meet their talent level. Do you have any concerns about the Rams failing to meet expectations after the excitement of last season and the new additions generated?
I have to admit I have never seen a whale dropped from a helicopter into a public pool. I would like to see this. Is this something that is done frequently where you live? I have many more questions. Please contact me immediately.
Beyond those questions (Can a helicopter even bear the loading weight of a whale? Why is the whale being dropped into a pool? Is there no other body of water to place said whale in that would be better suited to a beast of such ridiculous size? Why in the hell are we moving the whale in the first place? Whose pool is this whale being dropped into? Are random suburban families aware that a whale is being placed in the pool on Friday? Have we budgeted for the whale’s nutritional needs? How is the whale’s finwork? Can the whale play outside linebacker? Is the whale more of an athlete or more of a technician? Does the whale have the work ethic to succeed at this level? Has anyone considered that perhaps the whale peaked in college? Is the whale better suited to previous eras of football than the current one? Did the whale know of the payout before it happened? Did the whale follow NCAA procedures? Can whale presidents be indicted? Is the whale me? Dad?)…sorry, I forgot the question. I thought a lot about whales and Melville.
Ah, yes. Money.
I have sincere concerns about the Rams meeting fans’ expectations, but only because those expectations are so high. Fans are talking about deep playoff runs for a team that just made its first postseason in 14 years. So anything less than a multi-game postseason appearance would disappoint. And that’s a high, high bar to set.
So yes, huge concerns about the bar being set so high.
TELL ME ABOUT THIS WHALE.
Make sure to head on over to Turf Show Times to read more about the Rams before they host the Texans on Saturday afternoon.
2018 NFL Season Preview: The MySpace Top 8 These are Matt Weston’s eight favorite non-Texan players to watch entering the 2018 season.
I think the Houston Texans are my favorite football team. I love DeAndre Hopkins’ stretchy one-arm spider catches, Jadeveon Clowney doctor’s notes, Bill O’Brien not going for it on fourth down in playoff games or running draws on third and eight, injury lamentations, desire for J.J. Watt to come crawling out of that machine sailing through the fields of time, collective patience for Deshaun Watson to come scrambling back into our televisions and into our hearts, lugubrious special teams, and Lamar Miller weight loss tips.
This octagon isn’t for loved ones, though. This is the MySpace Top 8. This cork board covered in photos stuck with tacks is reserved for friends, people outside the square topped with a triangle and a rectangle puffing smoke. Filling your Top 8 with your cousin, or your brother, or heaven forbid your mother, gets you shoved into the urinal and knocking little yellow clumps off your shirt, your baritone beaten, your binder knocked out of your hands, your rings stomped on, your carefully divided papers ripped in half, and phalluses redrawn into rocket ships and Toucan Sam on your folders.
No Houston Texans allowed. No immediate family permitted. I need to shed the coils of this esoteric cloister. Below are my eight favorite players in the NFL who don’t play in Houston.
Last season K N M was the most efficient passer in football. He led the NFL in passing DVOA at 28.1%. He completed 67.6% of his passes and averaged 7.1 net yards per pass, which ranked 8th. These are all things he had never done before, and things he will probably never do again. The glass slipper was probably a Croc all along.
Last year’s NFC Championship Game was ruined after Keenum ’s pick-six. This year, in Denver, he will probably struggle behind a worse offensive line, playing for a worse offensive coordinator, and throwing to worse wide receivers. Nevertheless, that can’t take away what Keenum did last season. He was a purple-clad maniac and has traveled across an equator since his practice squad days in Houston and later brain-scrambling days playing for Jeff Fisher.
Before last season when I thought about Keenum, I thought about deep sacks. I thought about pressure and him running backwards to escape defenders bigger, faster, and stronger than him. It rarely worked. Case Keenum isn’t Russell Wilson. Too often he would turn a pass rush into an infinite loss.
Even then, during the bad old days of 2013, Keenum could still throw a high rising deep ball. It took him two completions to throw for over 100 yards in Andre Johnson ’s last great game. He averaged 5.8 deep passes a game. Case ‘Eff It, I’m Going Deep’ Keenum was more than a meme or a cliche; it was the truth, and it all began in his first NFL start against Kansas City when he found DeAndre Hopkins down the left sideline.
The world is an entirely different place since then. Keenum has learned how to climb the pocket. A novel concept. Last year, after taking over for Sam Bradford ’s soggy knees, he consistently climbed away from outside pressure and slung it down field. I still can’t believe he didn’t run backwards on this play.
Playing with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen gave Keenum Reading Rainbow confidence to do anything. He could throw off his back foot in the face of the apocalypse.
More often than not, he was perfect on downfield throws. It didn’t matter. All he had to do was get it close enough. Close enough was all it took for Thielen ’s yellow Hamburger Helper gloves to catch passes or for Diggs to wait like true love after losing the defensive back in a slurry of footwork.
Now Case is gone. The Vikings chose Kirk Cousins over him. Keenum is now a Bronco. Even though he won’t replicate last year, I’m still excited as hell to watch Keenum in that Rocky Mountain wasteland. The air is nice and thin. The ball flies forever. Keenum’s air balloon passes may never come down. This, plus a below average offensive line, and we have the makings of some exciting quarterback play.
One last time…
K N M!
When I was a baby boy, Marshall Faulk was my favorite player. The Rams’ blue and yellow jerseys were the same color as my elementary school. The importance of a running back who could catch and run was the first smart football thing I learned from my father. I would take this knowledge to the video games and hit the right trigger or R1 and find Faulk in the flat, spin away from an outside linebacker, and then run forever. On Sundays, we’d go to the racetrack and I’d watch Sunday Ticket on a little horse race television and see Faulk and his big binky mouthpiece eviscerate defenses.
Since that time I’ve always fallen hard for running backs who can both run and catch, but other than LaDainian Tomilson (who I never cared for after he sat out an AFC Championship Game), there hasn’t been a running back who could do it quite like Marshall. Then, out of nowhere, Alvin Kamara rose from the horizon.
As a runner, it’s nearly impossible to hit Kamara in his chest. He’s too shifty. He’s too fast. Constantly, defenders are diving at legs, taking boots to the chest, and falling off.
It’s not all glitz and right stick flicking glamour either. Kamara can make you go one way and then go anther, and he can go right through you. In this same game, Kamara took a toss and went through four defenders with a single wide receiver blocking to score.
As a runner last season, Kamara only had 120 carries. He accrued 728 yards, 8 touchdowns, and eclipsed 6.0 yards a carry. Only three players aside from Kamara this century have picked up 6.0 yards a carry over the course of 120 carries: Adrian Peterson , C.J. Spiller , and Jamaal Charles. You’d have to go back to Barry Sanders in 1997 to find anyone before that. Kamara also finished third with 255 DYAR despite that limited number of carries.
As a receiver, he’s even better. He can catch slip screens out of the backfield, run angle routes from the shotgun position, play out wide, or my personal favorite, play as a slot receiver.
This is my favorite wide receiver route combination. Slant, slant, wheel route. The Saints ran it to perfection in last year’s absurd divisional playoff game against the Vikings.
It’s not all accurate passes right into the chest. Kamara can outrun defensive backs off the line of scrimmage, look up, and find the football.
Last year Kamara caught 81 of his 100 targets for 826 yards. He had 5 touchdowns that way. He had a DVOA of 36.4%, and a DYAR Of 278. Absurd. Hopefully Mark Ingram hanging out in the penalty box won’t change how Kamara is used next season. Kamara is a 10 carry/10 target a game player. The most carries he had in a game last year was 12. That’s two too many. Keep him fresh. Let him do it all. Alvin Kamara should never be winded.
Additionally, Kamara has a bullring septum piercing. Pretty cool. Some days, when I’m nauseated with post-modern city living, I want to do the same. I want to drill a hole in my nose, dye my hair blonde, buy enough white t-shirts to last me my entire life, and move to California. Instead, here I am, still, and still without a nose piercing.
The Super Bowl winning genie played the best football of his life as the anchor on the best offensive line in football last year. No longer was he undersized, known only for getting out in screen passes in Chip Kelly’s offense. Kelce did it all last season. He could latch onto the nose tackle like a bull and hang on for longer than eight seconds.
He could take over quick strong outside double teams, allowing the guard to move to the second level without any worries of the past. He could reach the outside shoulder and patiently wait for the guard, without any worries of not getting to the linebacker.
He could snuff out big belly pass rushers and navigate around from ‘B’ gap to ‘B’ gap to pick up free rushers.
He could also work with Brandon Brooks to run some of the best ‘Ace’ blocks in football. I imagine this is what it’s like to get shot. Pop. Pop. That’s it.
This is just rude.
A.J. BOUYE & JALEN RAMSEY
Last season the Jaguars made the jump from 15th in pass defense DVOA to first. Their pass defense DVOA was -27.6%. The Ravens were second with a DVOA of -15.4%. The Jaguars took a young defense and added the two best defensive free agents available, Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye , two All-Pro caliber players.
Together Bouye and Ramsey became the best cornerback duo in the NFL. Ramsey was targeted 91 times, gave up 5.5 adjusted yards a pass (8th), had an adjusted success rate of 63% (7th), allowed 0.9 yards after the catch (3rd), and had 17 deflected passes, and 4 interceptions. Bouye was targeted 84 times, gave up 5.6 adjusted yards a pass (10th), had an adjusted success rate of 62% (10th), allowed 0.8 yards after the catch (1st), and had 20 deflected passes, and 6 interceptions. WR1s had a DVOA of -58.4%, and WR2s had a DVOA of -14.1% against this combo. Sheesh.
Aesthetically, and personality-wise, there’s no better combination of cornerbacks. Ramsey is physical, long-armed, and violent. He has the chest of a post defender. There isn’t a bigger hater or trash talker in football , and he’s one of the rare few who can back it up and have it come out as earnest and enjoyable. I still haven’t gotten over this red zone fade defense against Kelvin Benjamin where even offensive pass interference couldn’t prevent Ramsey from defending the pass.
Wide receivers can rarely outrun Ramsey. Because of his strength, they can’t outplay him for the ball either. He out-receivers most receivers.
The only shot you got at beating Ramsey is by knocking away his press coverage, slipping past, and then outrunning him. Luckily, DeAndre Hopkins gets to play him twice a year, so we all get to head to the theater and witness the most violent wide receiver-cornerback battle in football .
Bouye , on the other hand, isn’t a bellowing, thin-strapped cut off Gold’s Gym tank top wearing Minotaur. I don’t think he’s ever whispered a word into another man’s ear on the football field. The furthest he’ll go is a little finger wag. He’s skill. He’s a footwork technician. He’s never beat. He’s always in control of the route. He allows wide receivers to garner some space so he can unleash his perfect trail technique and catch back up to the football.
He’s also a mighty little mouse when it comes to blitzing. He’s like one of those blow gun shooting Pygmies you find in a Flayer Jungle.
I love watching these two so much that I’ve spent the past two weeks trying to talk myself out of the numbers and out of the possible defensive regression. I don’t want to put those thoughts out there to create that possible universe. I want to stay closed off. I want more best pass defense in football Jacksonville Jaguars football where these two continue to manacle the rest of the league.
DeCastro is a top five guard. He’s constant and steady. He never misses blocks. He’s the tide rolling in. He’s my car air conditioning shutting down every August. He’s the cicadas clinging to everything and hollering in unison to create a rattling buzzsaw that travels through the inferno. Over the last two seasons, DeCastro has given up just half a sack. Once his hands are on you, your life is over.
As great and impenetrable he is as a pass blocker, I like him even more as a run blocker. He can wait in an amusement park line with sticky thighs and still keep a smile on that bearded face. There’s never a rush. He doesn’t get overwhelmed when he doesn’t see his block right away. He’ll keep scanning the vicinity, waiting for a second defender to clobber.
This is insane. He reaches the outside shoulder so well that he’s able to turn his back from the opposite sideline and wait for the guard, all without having any trouble getting to the next level. This type of carefree caution perfectly blends with Le’Veon Bell’s style. This is my favorite running back-guard combo in the league.
Not everything is front porch rocking, chair mosquito slapping sitting. DeCastro is a violent player. When the opportunity comes to create fatalistic collisions, he goes for it, spewing purple guts and turning defenders into a pink mist.
To be one of the best offensive linemen in football, you have to do two things: One, make all your blocks consistently, and two, pull back the curtains and unleash the sublime. David DeCastro does both.
We’ve lost a lot of players like Griffen because of the passing revolution. Edge defenders are no longer sea monsters or leviathans, monstrous men, sulking along the fringes of the line of scrimmage. Instead, most edge defenders are teensy little guys who can run real fast and turn the corner like a cool kid’s tires in a CVS parking lot. Players of Griffen’s 275 pound stature rarely play as wide 9s. They are Calais Campbell rushing as a ‘5’. They are his counterpart Danielle Hunter playing defensive end at 250 pounds.
Griffen, however, is like a great jungle cat that’s almost been hunted to extinction; the ones that haven’t been popped have seen their environment, their home, sliced away to grow palm oil. He’s made from the same stuff as Julius Peppers. Griffen can beat offensive tackles off the line of scrimmage with an insane jump off the snap of the ball, and then use his 3-4 outside linebacker-esque speed to demoralize the blocker.
This was my favorite pass rush from last year. Griffen sees the center dip to start the snap. He unleashes all that wound up energy and takes three steps up the field compared to the very good Terron Armstead ’s one. He does this without even knowing the snap count. Immediately Armstead is splayed and flayed. He leaps to hamper Griffen, but he’s merely a rabbit under late night desert tires. He gently stops his momentum upfield, looks for Drew Brees , and curls back around to bring him down from behind. Rather than murder the little man, he instead gently removes the ball from his hands, but doesn’t recover it. The whole process, from the get-off to the sack, takes Griffen roughly 3.26 seconds.
Griffen can rush wide from a jet position too. On this strip sack, he’s a wide ‘5’. He comes at a direct angle perfectly in line with Matthew Stafford ’s dropback. Sure, there’s some curling around the tackle. Nothing is perfect. The tackle immediately opens the gate and turns and faces Griffen. In a flurry of hand flaying, Griffen slaps both of the tackle’s hands away and rips under, all in unison with his feet scurrying to the quarterback. He dips around the edge and slingshots himself into Stafford ’s back. The ball of course pops out.
Even at the ripe age of 31, when most people expect for edge rushers to decline, Griffen is still 275 pounds putting up 13 sacks and 36.5 hurries in a season. Don’t expect this skull cap wearing quarterback devourer to drop off this year either. Griffen still has edge burst, a vicious spin move, and the hands to vaporize offensive tackle punches.
Cohen and I are entirely different people, and that’s why I love watching him play so much. Cohen is 5’6” and 181 pounds. I haven’t been 5’6” or 181 pounds since sixth grade. I have never been fast. I have never been able to jump high. Just a big stupid caveman dragging his club across the ground is all I am.
Cohen can run fast and jump high, and he does it while being bite-sized. He’s a red laser light terrorizing house cats in a weird woman’s apartment personified. His rookie year was electric. He made some spectacular plays.
Like running in the direction the play was called and quickly realizing it was the wrong direction.
Or tosses where he runs so fast he floats over the field like his feet and the field are magnets with opposite polarity.
He authors quick cutbacks that lead to open field runs that lead to open field tackle attempts that turn defenders into a penalty kick saving goalies who can only close their eyes and pick a side once the foot meets the ball.
At his size, defenders are looking to squish him between their toes like Doritos. They actively hunt him on the field. Sometimes he’s drawn into defenders and gets demolished; other times it leads to silly, murderous penalties.
Other times, Cohen switches and takes advantage of light feet looking by going through the upright defender.
Like Kamara, Cohen is more than just a running back. He’s a pass catcher too. Against Carolina, he lined up as an outside receiver and caught a long, almost but not quite a touchdown pass by torching the cornerback, turning back and looking for an underthrown Mitch Trubisky pass.
With Matt Nagy as the head coach, the Tyreek Hill comparisons will write themselves. I’m thinking more like Darren Sproles , who is still somehow playing football for the Eagles . Cohen still has a journey ahead of him. He was a lot of fun, but he was more like a rash than an effective offensive weapon. Hopefully another year of Mitch Trubisky, a new head coach, and more offensive weapons around him will lead to greener pastures and more one-on-one tackle opportunities so that Cohen can be something more than FUN. He can be a great back that morphs an offense into an entirely different thing.
No matter how many times you say it, or sit there and close your eyes to make time stop, you can never truly appreciate anything while it’s happening. It takes time. It takes departure to fully understand the importance of someone or something. I loved watching Duane Brown play football for ten years. Wide and hulking, by physical dimensions alone, Brown is impossible to get around. Add a perfect kick-slide and pristine hand placement, and you get a perennial Pro Bowler and an All-Pro player.
It wasn’t until watching Kendall Lamm start the 2017 season opener at left tackle that I understood the effect Brown had on the entire offensive line and the Texans’ pass protection. Quarterbacks only had to worry about what they could see when they were throwing footballs for the Texans when Brown was protecting the blind side. The subterranean unknown didn’t concern them. Brown was down in the dungeon, slaying edge rushing beasts so the quarterbacks could stare downfield without concern. It wasn’t until I watched Jeff Allen commit three false start penalties in a row that I understood how difficult it is to hear the snap count in a raucous boot-scootin’ environment or play without fear while being way out there on the left edge. It wasn’t until watching Chris Clark that I understood the gap of talent between Brown and replacement level.
Brown is now in Seattle. The Texans didn’t give into his contract demands and extend him past his age 31 season or enjoy his fist-raised protest during the National Anthem. In a different state, in a different place, he didn’t have the impact you’d expect. The Seahawks ’ offensive line was still droopy, damp, and miserable. An improvement in left tackle play last year didn’t mean much.
Since Juli’en Davenport was drafted, I thought he could play left tackle in the NFL . He has the quickness and the natural kick-slide. Last season confirmed this. And with an offseason turning his arms into quadriceps, Davenport should be able to play competently in just his second year. The Texans will probably come out of this fine. Regardless, I still, and always will, miss Brown kick-sliding along the left side of Houston’s line of scrimmage.
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