Usually, when we say a team’s offense didn’t show up for a game, we are talking figuratively about a bad effort. In the case of the Houston Texans 13-0 loss against the New Orleans Saints, we could almost say it literally.
Lamar Miller showed up with second-year running back Tyler Ervin and two backs signed this week to fill roster spots. Alfred Blue, Akeem Hunt, and D’Onta Foreman were out resting injuries. Houston’s projected starting receivers, DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Braxton Miller were also out, along with Riley McCarron who is in contention for a roster spot.
Of course, injuries can lead to opportunities for other players. Bruce Ellington was picked up off the street before last week’s game and is almost a lock to make the roster. Hopkins is expected back for the season opener, but with Wendell Williams’ injury (clavicle) during this week’s game and Jaelen Strong’s suspension, Ellington should see plenty of action against Jacksonville.
Running back Jordan Todman was just signed this week. He did not run particularly well, with 8 yards on four carries, but he displayed a skill that offers him a chance at making the final roster when he returned the second half kickoff 31 yards. A return game has been sorely lacking in Houston of late.
While none of the Texans’ quarterbacks looked particularly good, Tom Savage solidified his standing as the starter by playing mistake-free ball. Rookie Deshaun Watson suffered an interception and could have thrown two more had his receivers not broken up the plays.
Meanwhile, Houston’s defense, playing mostly without Jadeveon Clowney and J. J. Watt, held Drew Brees and the New Orleans starters to a field goal in five first-half possessions. The second unit gave up a touchdown drive to Chase Daniel and the Saints backups, but not much else.
Of course, the Texans could not be blamed if their minds were elsewhere during the game. With Hurricane Harvey about to pummel Houston, worries about their families and hometown were warranted. As a result of the hurricane, the Texans fourth preseason game against the Cowboys was canceled so the players could return to their families in Houston.
What did we learn?
While injuries are causing havoc on the offensive side of the ball, Houston made it through the preseason accomplishing their goal of keeping Watt and Clowney healthy. The Houston defense looks primed and ready for the regular season.
Tom Savage took the blame for last week’s single sack, telling his offensive line and the press that he is working on getting rid of the ball quicker this season. Against New Orleans, he was pressured quite a bit while he tried to figure out who was on his team. With familiar faces returning against Jacksonville, things should get easier.
Lamar Miller also declared himself ready for the season opener. For all the talk about how impressive D’Onta Foreman has looked, the rookie is more of a threat to Alfred Blue’s limited relief role than to Miller’s workhorse load.
Hopkins, who lobbied for Tom Savage to win the starters job, will be back on the field for opening day. Whether his hand injury affects him or not is yet to be seen, but he does not expect it to be an issue. Ellington could turn out to be the best free agent signing of the year… for any team. Unemployed just two weeks ago, he will challenge Strong and Braxton Miller for targets.
Quicker release or not, Tom Savage will not be on too many draft boards, especially with his receiving corps still under development.
Lamar Miller will be the workhorse he usually is. He finished 2016 with the tenth-most rushing yards (1,073) and 31 catches for 138 more. His limited touchdown total (6) left him as fantasy’s 18th-ranked RB. He is drafting this season around RB16 in the third round. If Savage proves to be a better passing threat than last seasons’ Osweiler experience, Miller could enjoy something closer to RB10 status in 2017.
The rookie Foreman is getting drafted where Alfred Blue went last year- as a late round handcuff. Unless Miller wears down or gets hurt, don’t expect Houston to feed the rookie enough to warrant the roster spot.
Hopkins has shown he can catch contested balls before, so just the expected improvement in passing accuracy this season makes Hopkins a good bet to bounce back from last season’s disappointing finish. His third-round ADP as the WR14 is probably a safe spot for him.
Braxton Miller is expected back from an ankle injury in time for the season opener. He may be worth a late round slot as the presumed number two target, although shaky quarterback play may limit his potential.
Ellington is potentially a great story, but being the favorite quarterback target in Houston’s current crop of receiving options is no guarantee of regular season status. Strong and Ellington should not be on your board.
Those other fantasy guys
C. J. Fiedorowicz got some fantasy action last season when Houston went from the bottom three users of tight ends to the second biggest user under Brock Osweiler. I’m not betting on that to happen this season. Neither are most fantasy owners as C. J. is not registering an ADP.
Nick Novak is being challenged for the kicking position. But it doesn’t matter. There is no reason to consider the Houston kicker.
Houston’s defense is a top-three option in what looks like a big year for defenses. They are a no-brainer choice if available.
So… that’s that.
Houston fans expect their team to challenge for a division title this year, but if they can’t help you win your fantasy league, who cares? Beyond Miller, Hopkins, and the defense, there isn’t much to love about Houston’s fantasy contributions.
Of course, you never know what will happen. But you could know… if you check in with us at RealSport for fantasy news all season long!
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