These past three weeks have been testing times for the Texans. Not only have they had to deal with tragedies back home after Hurricane Harvey, but they’ve also had to overcome an incredibly underwhelming start to the season without key members of their lineup.
However, the sun is finally shining on the city of Houston, as it’s Texans began to show signs of genuine promise in their most recent loss to the Patriots. Okay, praising a defeat may sound somewhat counter-intuitive, but bear with me.
Deshaun Watson - Finally a franchise QB?
Granted, this was only his second career start and therefore it is far too early to hail him as the future franchise QB for a team that has arguably never had one (Other than Matt Schaub, but that isn't saying much). But, as has been widely discussed in the days since, Watson has seriously impressed in recent weeks.
Coming on against the Jags amidst one of the Texans' worst performances in recent years, to say he was thrown in the deep end would be a massive understatement. And it showed. While there were glimpses of potential, his play was underwhelming, to say the least, as his pocket presence was poor and his reading of the monstrous Jags defense was worse. However, come Week 2 and despite mounting injuries and a short week, he already began to show signs of improvement. He completed 15 of 24 and passed for respectable 125 yards - when you consider he had 0 tight ends and only one genuine starter quality receiver in Hopkins.
Fast forward to Week 3 and the change was astounding. To say he appears to be a fast learner would be criminal, as he completed 22 of 33 attempts for 301 yards, two touchdowns, and rushed for a further 41. And this against a Bill Belichick led defense that, while is lacking pass rushers, still has one of the best secondaries in the NFL.
While some praise must go to the Texans O-line which was remarkably improved on their earlier performances and held up admirably throughout, allowing just 2.0 sacks, most credit has to go the way of the former Clemson QB who showed vastly improved pocket presence when opting to look for running lanes when pressure built, instead of stepping backward as he had done earlier in the season. More importantly was his emergence as a genuine dual-threat QB. Everybody knew he was a talented runner after what he showed for Clemson, however, whether or not this would translate from a spread college offense to an NFL offense was yet to be seen. But, on multiple plays he was able to extend the play by rushing for extra yardage and particularly impressive was his capability to avoid the sack (Or four as one of his plays shows).
Front seven shined
From the positive to the positive with a markedly improved showing from the renowned Texans front seven. They were able to keep the Patriots mixed running game to just 59 total yards and just one first down conversion all game - a season-low for New England. While Jadeveon Clowney will grab most of the headlines with his fumble recovery for a TD, the entire line had a good game with Clowney, Marcus Gilchrist, Christian Covington and Whitney Mercilus all recording sacks against a tough Pats O-line.
It's not all positive
While I'd love to leave it here with a message that all is well and a Super Bowl is on the way, unfortunately for Texans fans I cannot. As has been the problem thus far this year, the secondary remains a weakness. While Andre Hal and Corey Moore have been doing a decent job as the new starting pair of safeties, the main issue remains their thin group of corners. Without AJ Bouye, Kevin Johnson was expected to step up and return to starters form, but a rusty first two games and then yet another injury has hampered his season so far, with Kareem Jackson filling in well in his place. But, they lack depth and quality at this position, as showed by Johnthan Banks' remarkably poor debut performance for the Texans last weekend as he clearly struggled to keep with the pace of the Pats receivers and struggled to fit into this new playbook.
Combine this with multiple instances of confusion in the Texans backfield which frequently left either Chris Hogan or Brandin Cooks wide open with no corners in sight, and the Texans have a real issue that they must address quickly if they are to have any hope of containing Marcus Mariota and this talented group of Tennessee Titans receivers in Week 4.
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