Few teams can claim they have ever had a more disastrous offseason than the 2021 Texans. From the bizarre high level position in the organization held by Jack Easterby, the hiring of David Culley as head coach over, almost anyone else and the Deshaun Watson situation going from an awful, botched disaster of keeping your star quarterback happy to all of that plus a mile long list of allegations and potential criminal charges. Short of a horrible, completely tragic plane crash, I don’t know how things could get much worse for a single NFL franchise than what the Texans experienced this offseason. Having said that they have made the best of a bad situation and are sitting at 1-4, the same as our Colts.
Let’s see what we can expect in week six.
A note on this week’s opponent scouting report
I just wanted to give everyone a quick explanation for the lack of depth this article is going to contain, the fact that there will only be one article for the Texans and why it’s coming out so late. The past couple of weeks have been crazy for me and it all came to a head last Friday when I got married- I’ll accept wedding gifts in the form of Colts victories. Between Saturday morning and Tuesday at 7 am, I only stopped packing and moving to eat, sleep and watch the Colts on Monday Night. I’ve never been great with planning ahead or time management, this is all my own doing but it’s what happened all the same.
With that in mind this week I haven’t done the normal amount of background work that I usually do. I have watched the Texans past few games and I have a good handle on what kind of a team they are but just know most weeks I spend between 25-30 hours between watching, note taking, clip creating and writing and this week it’s going to be cut down to about five hours. I’m still confident I know who the Texans are as a team but I do all of the work I do to try to discover tendencies, to figure out how teams will use specific players and what a team likes to do situationally. In short, there’s a reason I do all of that work and it’s because I gain a much deeper understanding of the Colts weekly opponent and this week I haven’t been able to do that.
Instead I’ll include some notes I took while watching the Texans vs the Patriots and wrap up this article with some conclusions that can be drawn and my final thoughts for the week.
Texans vs. Patriots
Early in this one, it seemed like neither defense could stop much of anything. Both teams traded touchdowns and missed their extra points on their first drive. The Texans hit a long touchdown pass on terrible coverage from the Pats defensive backs. The Pats got the ball back and drove down the field before fumbling at the goal line and turning the ball over. With a little less than 9 minutes to play in the second quarter, the Texans offense got the ball back for their third possession of the game with a chance to make it a two score game. They did a good job driving down the field only to stall out inside the red zone and kick a field goal with less than two minutes to play in the first half. The Pats moved the ball into field goal range and scored three points to wrap up the half.
The Patriots received the second half kick off only to have their rookie quarterback, Mack Jones, throw an off target pass that was intercepted which put the Texans 44 yards away from another six points. On the second play after the pick, the Texans ran (a really good) flea flicker pass that hit for a long touchdown, bringing the score to 22-9 with the Texans ahead. The Pats next drive stalled out, the Texans next drive stalled out only the Texans did something stupid when it came time to punt. Up 22-9 they ran some bizarre fake, fake punt and ended up punting the ball off the helmet of a blocker resulting in a 0 yard punt. After that play the Texans never scored again and the Patriots won the game 25-22.
I’ve seen and heard a lot of Texans fans say that the Colts and Texans last games were similar due to the fact that both teams blew big leads. While that’s true, the games weren’t similar in any other way. The Colts were dominant for much of their contest against the Ravens. Early in this game neither team could get the other off the field on third down and both teams seemed content to go on slow, methodical drives. The Texans finished their drives while the Patriots suffered from a goal line turnover and the half running out. Even though the score was lopsided at one point, the game was being played very evenly.
Rookie quarterback Davis Mills played a good game. He made a couple of downfield throws and escaped some pressure but he found most of his success because he was willing to take easy completions and move the chains. Veteran running back Mark Ingram looked good when called upon. The other player who stood out to me was defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson (#93). The Texans used him on run downs and brought him off the field on passing downs but I noticed on several plays Johnson did a great job extending his arms, getting off blocks and filling his gap. I didn’t key on him all day so it’s likely I missed some less than favorable plays but at his best, Johnson is a good defender.
This offense is led (this week) by the aforementioned Davis Mills. Mills played well last week but was a mess against the Buffalo Bills in week four and was average against the Carolina Panthers in week three. If the Colts can get a two score lead early, this game will be over as Mills doesn’t look ready to do more than take short throws that the defense is comfortable giving up.
They’re averaging 3.1 yards per rushing attempt which is good for 32nd in the league. A lot of that has to do with the Texans offensive line which has been awful. Not only has it been awful but they will be without both starting tackles and their starting center. Normally I would say that would make an offensive line much worse, but for all we know these guys will be better.* Having said all of that 31 year old Mark Ingram still looks like a good back. I noted multiple long runs that were called back due to penalty that would have improved his paltry 3.1 yards per carry average. If you just look at the box score, it’s easy to believe Ingram is finished. He’s old. He’s ineffective. The Baltimore Ravens were right to let him leave.
The Ravens might have been right in the long term but they would have broken that 100 rushing yards per game streak on Monday night had he still been there. Ingram doesn’t look old and slow and broken. Ingram isn’t a top 5 back in the NFL, but he’s better than his numbers would indicate. The players around Ingram are what is holding him back. Father time will catch him eventually but I assure you, it’s not the cause of his uninspiring numbers so far.
Their pass catchers have also been uninspiring. After being traded what felt like 25 times, Brandon Cooks finds himself as the Texans top receiver. He’s currently on pace for 105 catches, 1,300+ yards and 3 touchdowns. Cooks has been and is a good wide receiver. Behind him, things get interesting.
The second most receptions on this team go to running back David Johnson with 13 for 113 yards and 1 touchdown. Tight ends Jordan Akins and Pharaoh Brown have combined for 15 catches for 165 yards and 0 touchdowns. Then Chris Conley and Chris Moore are each averaging more than 20 yards per reception but only have 6 and 5 catches respectively. Each man has hauled in long catches, that account for the bulk of their productivity.
Then you have Anthony Miller with 5 catches for 23 yards and a touchdown and 36 year old Danny Amendola with 6 catches for 43 yards and a touchdown. Both Miller and Amendola have been limited by injuries so far in 2021.
*Losing Laremy Tunsil probably won’t result in an upgrade at left tackle but I was feeling hyperbolic and I went for it. Forgive me.
The Texans have yet to allow an opponent to score less than 21 points in a game so far this season. They give up a lot of points. They give up a lot of yards. This defense isn’t terrible at everything however. They’ve forced 8 turnovers which is 6th in the league. That success is easily attributed to Texans defensive coordinator Lovie Smith. Yes, that Lovie Smith.
Lovie’s beard makes him look his age but given the talent he’s working with, he’s not coaching like someone who has lost touch with the league.
Based on the games I watched the best unit this defense has is in the trenches. Maliek Collins, Whitney Mercilus and Jaleel Johnson have all made plays. Last week Charles Omenihu was, inexplicably, a healthy scratch and this week they welcomed Ross Blalock back to practice. While I feel this is the most talented unit, they haven’t been consistent and even at their best, they aren’t the Texans of old. There’s no more J.J. Watt, no more Jadeveon Clowney, no more D.J. Reader and Whitney Mercilus doesn’t look like the guy he was a couple years ago. This is a fine unit but it’s not great.
At linebacker the Texans will trot out Christian Kirksey, Zach Cunningham and Kamu Grugier-Hill. Texans fans seem to have high hopes for Grugier-Hill and while he has a sack and a forced fumble, I didn’t notice him flash in any other aspect of the game. Cunningham who was such a promising prospect out of Vanderbilt, isn’t playing well. Kirksey leads the team in tackles and has intercepted a pass this season looked decent in coverage but was largely invisible otherwise.
On the back end of the defense the Texans have used a lot of players and for the sake of brevity I’m just going to highlight a handful. At corner you’ll see Desmond King II, Vernon Hargraves III and Terrance Mitchell. At safety Lonnie Johnson and Justin Reid will carry the load. King is dealing with an injury and didn’t practice on Friday. Hargraves has been and continues to be a bust of a draft pick after being taken 11th overall in 2016. I didn’t notice Mitchell much in the games I watched, so that could be a good thing. I would need to study actual film to say for sure.
Reid and Johnson both have two interceptions so far on the season and in his second season Johnson looks to be well on his way to becoming a very good safety for these Texans.
I’m only writing this section to tell you that these Texans have had a worse time kicking than the Colts. Seriously. At least our kicker was hurt when he missed his kicks. Last week Ka’imi Fairbairn missed two extra points and a field goal in week 5 and he was (seemingly) healthy.
Also according to Pro Football Reference his full name is, John Christian Ka’iminoeauloameka’ikeokekumupa’a Fairbairn.
So while the Colts kicking issues helped lose them the game last week, neither team has been good but at least the Colts don’t have a kicker named John who prefers to go by a shortened version of Ka’iminoeauloameka’ikeokekumupa’a*.
*This is just a joke, it isn’t meant to be culturally insensitive in any way, just an attempt at humor. If you don’t find it funny, I apologize, if you want to laugh at something funny relating to Ka’imi Fairbairn just watch him miss kicks during NFL football games, he’s bad at his job and it’s hilarious!
These Texans are a bad team. They seem to have unified as a team in the face of being universally panned for their offseason moves. If you’ve ever seen the baseball movie Major League, these Texans are reminiscent of that Cleveland baseball team, but I don’t see the same kind of midseason turnaround and playoff run led by the strong arm of Charlie Sheen. This is real life, it’s not the movies and in the highly competitive world that is the NFL, talent can trump everything. Nothing can overcome an institutional lack of talent.
The lead they held against the Patriots came because the Pats couldn’t get them off the field and the Texans rookie quarterback was patient and took what the defense gave him.
The Colts seem to be getting healthier and they’ve played really well for large portions of games against really good teams. I won’t try to convince you the Colts at 1-4 are a good football team. I believe they’re better than their record and I’m absolutely positive that not all 1-4 teams are created the same. The Colts are a lot better than these Texans.
If the Colts come out, move the ball well on offense and then actually find a way to convert drives into points and the defense can force a few third down stops early, this shouldn’t be much of a contest for our Colts. That said, if Indy lets them hang around long enough, Davis Mills has shown he’s willing to go on long methodical drives and these Texans can hang around all day. This isn’t a good team, but it’s still an NFL team, they’re going to win a couple more games this season and the Colts have to be sure they play their game today or one of those Texans wins could come today.