The Texans season, to this point, has been one to forget. The resulting bi-product of such a dismal start, it may allow many to realise a long held aspiration – to remove the man that has almost single-handedly created it. The organisation has trusted O’Brien to operate in a unique way and the pay-off reached isn’t respectability on the field. Amongst this short term pain, even his greatest detractors will find solitude in the fact that a regime change that may well be approaching. But at what pace?
It’s been a common occurrence under O’Brien, when all seems lost, he finds ways to revive his squad back to mediocrity. Though with an alarming sense of predictability, Houston are 0-3, facing a fellow winless team that Houston have never defeated. The feeling of deja-vu, entering week 4 is consistent at every turn, predominately yielding trepidation throughout Houston, as their star-quarterback is continually hamstrung by deficient coaching and personnel evaluations.
Familiar Faces Return
In welcoming Minnesota, former head coach Garry Kubiak, returns as the Viking’s offensive co-ordinator. The former Aggie, though is arguably similar to O’Brien in terms of their offensive outlook being somewhat limited, though they are quite the contrary in persona. Many listening to “Kube’s” in this week’s media availability would have understandably twinged with nostalgia. Over his seven years in Houston, he gave everything to this franchise, including suffering a stroke walking off the field at half-time, on Thursday Night Football. He left amidst the 2012 season 2-14 slide, but re-established his credentials, winning a Superbowl with Denver a year later.
Two former Houston Head Coaches will be on the opposing sideline Sunday. As Don Capers, also sits on the Vikings pay-roll as a defensive assistant, as both could be the protagonists in the Texans 4th straight loss. A result which could finally turn the pressure dial up on Kirby Drive and another coach leave after year 7 being unsuccessful.
Improvements… As You Were
The keys to the game, just as they were last week, are football basics, a startling indictment of this team’s talent, execution and fruitless scheme that has seen them fail in aspects of the game, through the first three weeks.
The Run Game
The Texans are a team that cannot run the ball, nor stop it. Facing Vikings ‘back Dalvin Cook could provide another harrowing outing for the limited fans inside NRG. Until the Texans can find a suitable counter-formula in this rudimentary aspect of defence, then their fate is already assigned. As they are still to face three of the top four running teams in New England, Green Bay & Cleveland on their schedule.
Whilst the trade that brought David Johnson to Houston, has shown limited benefit to a team, ranked 31st in rushing yards. Their paltry 198-ground-yards compared to 345-yards, after three weeks a year ago, face a significant structural issue. They hope to welcome back Duke Johnson to the line-up as the coaches trust beyond their top two running backs, has been nil.
Offensive Output Versus Talent
Similarly, if the passing game cannot find greater levels of consistency, for more than a handful of drives per game, they will become a play-off afterthought. Their talented quarterback has continued to pose a frustrated figure in recent weeks. It’s clear Watson’s connection with Tim Kelly’s communication and play-calling isn’t fluid. His thinly veiled references in two media calls this week, has noted that.
Tim Kelly’s ability to call plays at this level or lack of it, has been apparent. The inability to plan a scoring opening-drive is a perpetual issue. Added to the inefficient play calls, which has added unnecessary pressure to an offensive line who have not fitted their billing. The lack of cohesion and play design is less effective revision of the O’Brien called product which continued to underwhelm with regularity. Asking your players to fit the scheme rather than the logical inverses continues to draw dismay.
The Texans will have by far their greatest match-up advantage against un-drafted cornerback Holton Hill and rookie Cameron Dantlzer (third round pick) as both are likely to play the majority of snaps, due to injuries to Jeff Gladney and Mike Hughes. If the expensively assembled cast of wide-receivers do not have a breakout performances, that would further underpin this roster’s fundamental flaws.
Livening A Decimated Defence
This is the weakest Quarterback and Offensive Line combination the Texans will face this side of the bye week. Cousins has the ability to make plays, but if this defensive front-7 cannot have a season high in pressures then another defeat may be on the horizon. They will welcome back Ross Blacklock from a self-imposed 1 week ban, who is overdue to show flashes of potential upside.
The ailing impact and expensive contribution’s of Watt and Mercilus has been well documented. But the Texans urgently need to find players who are capable of impactful performances beyond their two former standout’s if there is to be life in this unit. If they are not currently on this roster, then their issues are perhaps rooted deeper than many could have feared.
Similarly, can the Texans go another week without forcing a turnover? It’s a feasible notion, for a defence who is ranked in the tail end of all majority categories. Anthony Weaver has drawn some praise but they present as a unit trying to hide their lack of talent whilst searching for an identity. Though, the teams offensive struggles have unfairly compounded their issues on the defensive side of the ball.
This is far from the traditional “Get-Right” game that some may hope it to be. The sobering thought at this stage would be, that even if a transformational type performance is found, it would be with only be to chase a wild card berth. Another all too depressingly familiar outcome for team equipped with a franchise passer.
A New Dynamic Emerging To Be Considered
The feeling of repetition will linger around this and franchise for another few weeks, at a minimum. But a storyline this week, has unmasked a new visible point of disillusionment within it’s fanbase.
The Texans often point to their sell-out record of every game in their history as a barometer of health. The rolling purchases of season tickets and lengthy waiting listing of many, eagerly awaiting their chance to purchase a season ticket, is a positive narrative that suits the team.
The reality is more clear cut but in the opposite direction. In these Covid times, the Texans had to manually sell the reduced capacity of 13,300 tickets this week. As of Saturday morning, this is something the team had failed to do. A tangible indication of current fan sentiment, delivered in a translatable message to ownership. Often, monetary consequences will help engender change far more rapidly than boo’s from a filled stadium.
It would appear that there are some rumbling in the hierarchy, considering how the Earl Thomas situation was oddly managed this week. It may have taken a significant on-field low to achieve this, but the McNair’s may have finally awoken to the fact that this team’s leadership isn’t performing. If Bob’s team then slips to a forth consecutive defeat tomorrow, then that process may start to accelerate.