Archived Artices from 2017

Brock Bottom
QB Purgatory - Rich C - 4/4/17

Well, the website took a little siesta this past year and I'm going to try to get back into writing a little more, but doing it a little differently. Not so much about the tailgating escapades of our little crew, but more articles related to the team and football in general. That doesn't mean you won't be able to find fun tailgating stuff, and yes, last year’s tailgating pictures are coming soon.

So I'll start off with the disaster that was Brock Osweiler and where the Texans are, going into the draft in 3 weeks. And the Osweiler experiment was a disaster. There’s plenty of blame to go around down there on Kirby. GM Rick Smith certainly played a big part in what became one of the worst free agent signings in NFL history, but a big part of it was head coach Bill O’Brien’s stubbornness in thinking that it’s his system and not the QB.

O’Brien is now going into his 4th (FOURTH) year as HC and when the regular season starts in September, he will have a FOURTH different QB starting on opening day in those 4 years. Not to mention, 7 different QBs have started for the Texans in O’Brien’s tenure thus far. That’s the most in the NFL, more than the QB hell known as Cleveland even.

It all started when O’Brien brought in Ryan Fitzpatrick in his 1st year here, and declared him the started before the 2014 draft even took place. Fitz was supposed to be a stop gap QB until O’Brien could bring in the guy he wanted. In that draft though, the Texans passed on drafting Teddy Bridgewater, Jimmy Garoppolo and Derek Carr, and instead get Tom Savage in the 4th round. He also gets Smith to trade for Tom Brady’s backup for 3 years, Ryan Mallett.

That plan is all fine and dandy until the next season when they trade Fitz away and O’Brien brings in journeyman Brian Hoyer. What? Another stop gap or is that his guy? They also re-sign Mallett and put Savage on IR. Well, Hoyer plays so bad that O’Brien benched him in GAME ONE!! Mallett was so bad he was cut mid-season. So now the Texans are playing with a QB that got benched in the 1st game for a guy they’d just cut, and re-signing a QB he’d let go the year before, T.J. Yates, and pick up another journeyman just released by the Cowboys in Brandon Weeden.

No really, you can’t make this stuff up. It really happened that way.

In year 3, after Hoyer’s 5 turnover game in a 30-0 embarrassment in the playoffs, I believe upper management decided they weren’t going to let O’Brien pick the next QB, and they put a plan together to go after the top FA, Brock Osweiler, who had led Denver to a 5-2 record and then got benched in the last game of the regular season for Peyton Manning whose arm was about to fall off, as they went on to win the Super Bowl with Brock riding the bench. A 4 year, $72M contract with $38M guaranteed is what the Texans gave Osweiler. Problem with that was, Rick Smith is no better at evaluating talent than O’Brien is.

Although Osweiler was 5-2 as a starter in Denver, that Broncos team was Super Bowl caliber, with a dominating defense that pretty much carried them. Part of evaluating Osweiler should have been seeing their top WR Demaryius Thomas, whose catch rate percentage dropped significantly with Brock at QB. Thomas has a career catch rate of about 61%, and was 65% with a broken down Manning the same season Osweiler started 7 games, but with Brock at QB, Thomas’ catch rate dropped to 49%.

Fast forward to Houston with Brock where their top WR DeAndre Hopkins’ catch rate dropped from 58% to 51% this past season. Now, the Texans, of course, didn’t have the benefit of knowing how Hopkins’ numbers would be affected, but they should have been able to see how it affected Denver’s top WR, but they somehow still thought $38M sounded about right.

Brock with the Texans goes on to be one of the worst QBs in the game last season. I mean he ranked in the bottom 3 or 4 in the league in just about every category there is. The end of the experiment came when the Cleveland Browns called and decided they’d take Osweiler’s contract off the Texans’ hands if the Texans gave them a 2nd round pick. So the Texans not only make the worst FA signing in history, they give away a 2nd round pick to get rid of him after ONE year.

The trade with Cleveland took place one day after the Cowboys announced they’d be releasing Tony Romo. Dak Prescott was entrenched as the Cowboys’ future and they weren’t going to keep a $19M backup QB. This, of course, got the rumor train of Romo coming to Houston going downhill with a full head of steam. After the trade, however, the Cowboys decide they’ll hold on to Romo to see if they could find a trade partner and try to get a draft pick for him instead of releasing him outright. Well, nobody’s trading for a high priced, 37 year old QB who has played 5 games the last 2 years.

After nearly a month of speculation, and Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones willing to do anything to keep Romo out of Houston, Romo has decided to retire and go into the broadcast booth. So that leaves the Texans, who cleared out cap space by getting rid of Brock, and who did NOTHING in free agency, we assume because they were waiting for Romo, with egg on their faces yet again. No free agent signings, no 2nd round pick next season, and Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden as the only QBs on the roster.

And all of this taking place since Bill O’Brien took over in early 2014. But it’s not all on O’Brien as the Texans woes at QB started well before he got here. Rick Smith became GM of the Texans in 2007. One of the 1st things he did, most likely at the request of then head coach Gary Kubiak, was to trade two 2nd round picks for Matt Schaub. A big risk, but it’s the 1st time the Texans organization has really ever addressed the QB position. Can’t really count David Carr on an expansion team. And until the Osweiler fiasco, it was the only time they ever really addressed the position.

Now, Schaub turned out to be a pretty good QB, ranging anywhere from about 8-12 on the QB rankings in a good 5 year period, even leading the entire NFL in passing in 2009. But again, it’s the last time the Texans ever really addressed QB. In Rick Smith’s 10 year tenure as GM, he’s never drafted a QB higher than the 4th round, and has drafted just 3 from the 4th round on in his 10 years. Alex Brink in the 7th round in 2008, T.J. Yates in the 5th round in 2011, and Tom Savage in the 4th round in 2014. That’s it.

With QB being the most important position on the football field, and in a league always desperate for good QBs, the Texans and Rick Smith, never thought about life after Schaub. And it should have started the year Schaub was lost for the season in 2011. That very next draft in 2012, had some quality QBs that the Texans could have easily taken considering they had 5 picks in the 3rd and 4th rounds, yet choose to pass on names like Russell Wilson, Nick Foles and Kirk Cousins. Add that to the list they passed on again in 2014, Bridgewater, Garoppolo and Carr.

So here we are in 2017, FIVE years after Matt Schaub’s career came to a screeching halt, and the Texans are still looking for his replacement. With Romo retiring, the only free agents that are being talked about are Jay Cutler, an aging QB who is starting to have injuries creep up, Colin Kaepernick, who isn’t much of a factor now that NFL defenses have figured out how to defend the zone read, and Robert Griffin III, who in 5 games in Cleveland last year had very Brock-like numbers, and that’s about it.

The 2017 draft doesn’t really have a consensus top QB that anyone would trade half their draft to get. Deshaun Watson from Clemson, led the Tigers to 2 national title games, winning one, but had 30 INTs in those 2 seasons. Mitch Trubisky from North Carolina has just one full season of college, and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes, who has a ton of mechanical flaws. And all of those guys may not even be there for the Texans at 1:25.

So that’s the QB hell the Texans find themselves in, and how they got there. How they get out of it, with the management team and talent evaluators they have in place, is anyone’s guess.

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Fall Calendar
2017 Schedule - Rich C - 4/21/17

There are several dates on a calendar that people look forward to each year...what day Christmas falls on, birthdays, anniversaries, planning weddings, etc. Football fans sometimes have to hold off on making such plans until the NFL schedule is revealed each April.

We’ve known next season’s opponents since the end of the regular season 4 months ago. We just didn’t know the when and where part of it. With the release of the 2017 schedule yesterday, now we do. Now fans can plan their weddings on the weekend the Texans are out of town. We know when and where the Texans are playing on the road and can make plans to attend road games for those who do so.

The NFL schedule release is a pretty big deal. So big it has a 3 hour show on NFL Network dedicated to revealing each team’s schedule. It also gives fans a chance to scrutinize even more, how they think the following season will unfold. And for most fans, no one is ever completely happy with the way the schedule unfolds, whether it has your team playing 3 straight road games, a 4 out of 5 stretch away from home, and how the holidays are affected, for example, the Texans having a Christmas Day afternoon home game on this season’s schedule.

The Texans get the 2017 campaign started off at home with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Starting at home has become pretty routine for the Texans as it’s the 4th straight year they’ve done so. In fact, in this their 16th season, they’ve opened away from home just 4 times. And it seems the Texans have taken advantage of those starts at home as they are 7-4 in week 1 at home.

The good fortune in the schedule doesn’t last long though, because their week 2 game comes just 4 days later with a Thursday night clash with the Cincinnati Bengals in Cincy. And week 3 has them traveling to Foxborough to play the Super Bowl champion Patriots, a place the Texans have never won (0-5 including 2 playoff losses). The only good thing coming from any of this so far is that with the Thursday night game, the Texans will have a few extra days to prepare for the Patriots instead of the normal week of preparation. Not that it likely matters, but still.

In October, the schedule makers smile big time on the Texans as they come back home for 3 straight home games, followed by their bye week in week 7. Those 3 straight home games start with the division rival Titans on Oct. 1st. The Kansas City Chiefs come to town the following week for Sunday Night Football, then it’s the return of Brock Osweiler and the Cleveland Browns. That’s if Brock is still a Brown by then.

Though the Texans will likely enjoy being home for a month straight, it gets a little tedious for tailgaters, but even for us it’s coming at a time where we’ll have had 2 weeks off prior, and then 2 weeks off after, so it shouldn’t be anything we can’t handle.

The Texans come off of their bye week to finish October in the great northwest with a game against the Seattle Seahawks. It will be just the 2nd time the Texans have ever played in Seattle, losing their 1st ever game there in 2005.

Sunday, November 5th, the Texans are back home to take on Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. There’s probably going to be birthday cake or something at the That’s Bull Tailgaters camp.

The following week, week 10, the Texans make their 1st ever visit to the city of Los Angeles to take on the Rams. Then it’s back home for the Arizona Cardinals, before they hit the road for 2 straight weeks starting with a Monday night game against the Ravens. Then it’s off to Nashville on a short week.

December 10th, the Texans start a home, road, home, road stretch to end the regular season with the San Francisco 49ers coming to town, heading out to Jacksonville, back home for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and finishing with the Colts in Indy. As far as the team is concerned, they’re probably not happy about having 2 division games on the road to end the season, not to mention it being the 7th year in a row that the 2nd Indy game has been on the road.

As far as the fans are concerned, the game with the Steelers at NRG might feel like a road game if people decide to stay home or sell their tickets because the game is scheduled on Christmas Day. The slate of Sunday games for week 16 falls on Dec. 24th, Christmas Eve, but the Texans and Steelers are scheduled for Monday, Christmas Day. And it’s not even a Monday Night Football game. It’s a Christmas Day 3:30 in the afternoon kickoff.

Had it been a Monday night game, folks would still be able to have some Christmas festivities that morning, then head out to the tailgate that afternoon. With a 3:30 kickoff, hard core tailgaters like us, will now have to be there around 10:30 or so, and won’t be getting back home until 8:00 or later. The Christmas Eve home game last season was bad enough, a Christmas Day day game seems a little ridiculous.

So the stage is set. Now the long 5 month wait to get it started.

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Elementary My Dear Watson
2017 NFL Draft - Rich C - 4/30/17

It’s that time of year again where 253 amateur football players get selected by 32 NFL teams in what is know as the NFL Draft. Not all 32 teams are equal come draft time as draft picks are one of the biggest commodities in trades. In fact, most of the trades that happen in the NFL are for draft picks, and most of that is done during the draft. That’s how teams like the Bengals, Vikings and Seahawks each have 11 picks in this year’s draft and the New England Patriots have just 4.

For our Houston Texans, they have 7 selections in the 7 round draft, but they do not have a pick in every round. Because of the Brock Osweiler trade to the Cleveland Browns earlier this month, the Texans will have 2 picks in the 4th round and none in the 6th.

The draft started with the Texans slated to make the 25th pick in the 1st round. The Texans, of course, come into the draft as one of a few teams desperate for QB. And things get crazy right off the bat. The Chicago Bears, who had the 3rd overall pick, decided to trade up 1 spot with San Francisco to #2, to get their QB, Mitch Trubisky. Not long after, the Chiefs made a deal with the Bills to move up from #27 (2 spots behind the Texans) to #10 to take a QB many fans in Houston were sure would be a Texan, Patrick Mahomes.

These 2 moves, the Chiefs move in particular, got Texans GM Rick Smith wondering if one of the QBs they were targeting would be available at 25 or not. So once again, the Texans are in talks with the Browns, who had the 12th pick, and the Texans move up from #25 to #12, and all it cost was the Texans 1st round pick next year. With the Browns owning the Texans 2nd round pick next year in the Osweiler trade, the Texans now find themselves with no 1st or 2nd round pick in next year’s draft. Cleveland owns them both.

The only reason the Texans would make a move like that is to go after a QB, and they do. With their 1st pick (12th overall) in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans select QB Deshaun Watson from the 2016 national champion Clemson Tigers.

Watson helped lead Clemson to 2 consecutive BCS Championship games, winning last year. In those 2 title games, Watson completed 64% of his passes, had over 400 yards passing in both games, and had 7 TD to just 1 INT combined. And this was against an Alabama defense that just had 7 players drafted this past weekend, FOUR in the 1st round.

Just a 2 year starter at Clemson, Watson had over 4,000 yards passing both seasons, including 4,593 last year (3rd in the nation), his junior season. Watson had a 67% completion percentage in his collegiate career, with 90 TD and 32 INT. Interceptions are a concern with Watson as he had the 2nd most INTs in the nation last season with 17, and 30 in his 2 seasons as the Tigers starter. That is a concern but I think that is something that can be corrected in the NFL with coaching and experience, and having NFL caliber receivers will help too. The Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan had 29 INTs in his last 2 seasons at Boston College, including 19 in his senior season, and he’s doing pretty well for himself.

To make a move like this is a huge, I mean, it’s so huge that it’s the 1st time ever the Texans have moved up in a draft like that and it’s the 1st time they’ve ever drafted a QB higher than the 3rd round since David Carr in their inaugural season. So Watson is the QB of the future. It’s just not a certainty when that future begins. The Texans are still adamant about Tom Savage being the starter, and in a perfect world it would probably be best for Watson sit for a season or so, especially with the concerns still on the o-line. But when camp starts and the competition begins, or if Savage isn’t all we’ve been hoping for the last couple of seasons or can’t stay healthy, there’s a good chance we could see Watson sometime this season.

For the rest of the draft the Texans aren’t picking up the phone. They make no more moves and draft where they’re slotted the rest of the way. In the 2nd round the Texans try to upgrade that #1 defense that’s already getting J.J. Watt back, by selecting Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham. Lots of positive reaction to this kid because he’s the type of LB that does some things the Texans have never really had, and that’s cover RBs and TEs. How many times has the Chiefs’ TE Travis Kelce or Patriots RBs burned the Texans? The Raiders RBs in Mexico City? Cunningham solves this problem that has been plaguing the Texans since their inception. Mr. C is also a tackling machine - 10th in the nation in tackles last season for Vandy.

Cunningham can play inside or out and we know how the Texans like that versatility. There’s speculation that the Cunningham pick is the replacement for Brian Cushing (the Fonz?), maybe not this year, though they could save $5M against the cap, but certainly next where they can save $8M.

The Texans finish day 2 going back to offense and using their 3rd round pick on University of Texas RB D’Onta Foreman. Hard to get an unbiased reaction to Foreman because of all the UT fanboys around these parts. Foreman started just one season for the Horns but in that one season he was the 2nd leading rusher in the nation with 2,028 yards along with 15 rushing TDs. Over 1,100 of his yards came after contact.

Foreman is a guy who can bust it up between the tackles, as opposed to Lamar Miller who you want to try to get outside in space more. Foreman also has pretty good vision and the ability to make people miss even though he’s doing the dirty work inside. Foreman wasn’t used much in the pass game at UT, just 13 receptions in his 3 years there. Foreman is definitely here to take some of the load off of Miller who was overused and took a beating last year, and I think it could/should spell the end for Alfred Blue in H-Town.

One of the biggest needs going into the draft for the Texans was offensive line. Unfortunately, this year’s draft wasn’t a very deep one for o-linemen. As a result, when the Texans do decide to address OL, it’s for a guy that is probably more of a project than a day one starter. With the 1st of two 4th round picks, the Texans select T Julie’n Davenport out of Bucknell.

What Davenport will have going for him is that he will be facing the likes of Watt and Whitney Mercilus during training camp, so he’ll be learning real quick what he needs to do in the NFL. I assume Davenport would be plugged in at RT, and even though he may not be ready to start day one, with what the Texans have at RT (maybe Derek Newton back from injury and Kendall Lamm), Davenport very well could be thrown into the fire on day 1.

The Texans 2nd 4th round pick is the one they got from Cleveland in the Osweiler deal. With that pick the Texans go back to defensive and take Deshaun Watson’s Clemson teammate, DT Carlos Watkins. With the retirement of Vince Wilfork, the Texans needed some depth at DT behind D.J. Reader, who is now your starter. Watkins was projected as a 2nd rounder last season but decided to stay in college to help the Tigers win a championship. Watkins went on to do even better his senior season, picking up 10½ sacks with 12½ tackles for loss, but because of a stronger class this season, Watkins falls to the 4th. Watkins should provide the Texans with good depth in the middle of that d-line.

The Texans stay on defense in the 5th round, picking up some secondary help by selecting Oregon State CB Treston Decoud. Unsure whether the Texans will leave him at CB to fill the spot vacated by A.J. Bouye, or if they will move him to FS (free safety) where he may be a better fit. Decoud held his own against some pretty good receivers in the Pac-12, including California WR Chad Hansen taken in the 4th by the Jets. Then again, the only 2 INTs he had last season came against a small school, Idaho State. I would expect Decoud to have more of an impact on special teams in 2017.

With no 6th round pick, lost to Cleveland in the Osweiler deal, the Texans have to wait ‘til the 7th round before making their final selection. And with the 243rd pick overall, the Texans take Baylor C Kyle Fuller. With Nick Martin set to return this season, and Greg Manz backing him up, this pick doesn’t make much sense to me unless the Texans plan on moving him to guard. But that may be an issue considering the skinny on Fuller is that he’s not very athletic.

So that does it for the 2017 Draft. The Texans get their franchise QB (hopefully), add a RB and 2 o-linemen, and 3 to the defensive side of the ball. And of course, have already signed about 20 UDFA’s (undrafted free agents). Mini-camps and OTA’s will begin soon and we’re just about 3 months away from training camp, when we’ll find out who makes the cut and who won’t.

And for those keeping score at home, 2017’s Mr. Irrelevant, selected by the Denver Broncos, is Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly, nephew of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly of the Buffalo Bills and Houston Gamblers.

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We Want Watson
Is He Ready? - Rich C - 8/24/17

With less than a week to go in training camp, the focus on the Texans QB position is reaching fever pitch proportions. Especially considering the price paid to move up in the draft and take who most think is that "franchise" QB, Deshaun Watson. It was said when Watson was drafted, and reiterated by head coach Bill O'Brien this week, that Tom Savage is the starter. And with almost 4 weeks of camp and 2 pre-season games in the books, I'd tend to agree. The youngster just doesn't appear to be ready yet, and it's not even close.

Still, you have people arguing vehemently that Watson should be the starter. Tom Savage, even though this is his 4th NFL season, has started just 2 more games than Watson's zero starts. I certainly get that and the fact that in Savage’s previous 3 seasons he was passed for the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer and Brock Osweiler. So there’s that.

Now let me preface this by saying that pre-season stats never should be taken to heart. A pre-season game is not the same game a regular season game is. There's no game plans, there's tons of players rotating in and out of games, and a good portion of those players will not have NFL jobs by this time next Saturday. Teams try to get reps in situations they'd never dare try in a real game. For example, the Texans 1st drive last Saturday where they went for it on 4th and 6 at the Patriots 8 yard line. 99.9 times out of 100, the Texans are kicking a FG in that situation in a regular season game. But in pre-season, where the wins and losses don't matter, you can try things just to see. So pre-season and regular season are like apples and oranges.

Players still have to execute though, and the snaps they take accumulate stats. Through 2 pre-season games, Tom Savage is completing 85% of his passes and has a QB rating of 118.1. And with Savage being considered the starter, he's playing against better competition than a backup or 3rd stringer would be.

Everyone is excited when Watson steps on the field, I think mainly because of the investment, and partly because of the hope that it brings to a position that has been an absolute disaster for the last 4 years. And through 2 pre-season games the rookie is completing just 51.4% of his passes and has a QB rating of 78.4. And this is against lesser talent, 2nd and 3rd stringers. It should be noted though, Osweiler last pre-season completed 69.2% of his passes with a QB rating of 97.9 and we all know how that turned out. There’s that not taking pre-season stats to heart thing.

OK, well how do you evaluate these guys then? I think trying to compare a rookie’s very 1st camp to those of guys who’ve had 3 or 4 camps is a little unfair, so let’s try to compare him to other’s 1st camps. In 2014, Savage’s rookie season where he faced the same level of talent that Watson is facing now, he had a 73.1% completion percentage with an 81.1 QBR. Again, Watson is sitting at 51.4% and 78.4.

And let’s take it a little further. Let’s compare the rookie with other rookies from THIS year, who are all basically playing against the same level of talent, in other words, not starters. There are 10 rookie QBs that have thrown 20 or more passes in the 1st 2 pre-season games this year. Of those 10 rookies, Watson is 8th in completion percentage, 6th in QB rating, and tied for last in TD passes with 0. Now, Watson is tied for the overall league lead in rushing TDs (2) and he’s 1 of 8 of those 10 who has not turned the ball over, but even compared to this year’s rookies, all but 2 drafted lower than him or undrafted, he ranks middle to bottom half against those guys.

None of this means I’d take rookie Cooper Rush with the Cowboys, who has a 68.4% completion percentage, a 125.2 QBR and a 4/0 TD/INT ratio, over Watson, but it does illustrate a little better how Watson still has a ways to go before he’s ready to take over an NFL football team.

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