Last Sunday’s part performance against the Patriots was encouraging but it delivered yet another reminder of how this team is spinning their wheels this season. What can be accomplished or what payoff their plans may have are both unclear. But Sunday’s 22-25 defeat to New England was spiralled by coaching errors & a similar set of issues that continue to plague this team through 5 weeks.
Culley & Special Team Calamities
Game management, accepting a penalty that killed the the clock, burning time outs to buy decision making time, all undone a strong first half of positive 4th down calls. Culley’s inexperience of game-time calls, despite the attempted support circle around him, has made multiple inexcusable errors, Sunday was just the first time that it cost the Texans a result.
The inconsistency of his errors, added to his unclear recollections post-game, when sitting in front of the media is borderline alarming. There were always fears around his hiring and some of those have now been justified, putting his glowing personality to one side. When choosing to attempting a career long 55-yard field goal, Culley burned a time out, then chose the field goal, after Fairburn had missed two PATs. But when faced with the same call at almost an identical position, he chose to punt against Carolina.
His poor calls were pre-faced by a special teams error, where they chose to fake, a fake punt. To then only have Punter Cam Johnson shank the ball of his teammate’s head and give the New England offence unmissable field position. It was a monumental swing in the momentum, handing the onus to their opponent. After this team was billed as well-coached with a strong focus on special teams, it suddenly became their undoing.
Mills’ Best Performance Yet
Davis’ first half and a short-field drive into the third quarter was the most professional looking display thus far. A record breaking outing against a notorious rookie-quarterback planner, was something to take significant encouragement in. The offence was supported by a number of pleasantly aggressive third & fourth down calls which allowed them to stay on the field.
On another day, the 70-something yard throw to the surprising Chris Moore, is perhaps picked-off, as he was double covered. But the 18-play drive that concluded in an Anthony Auclair 11-yard touchdown showed a strong command of the offence. Overall, there was more growth on display than all of Mills’ previous outings combined. Though there was still too much left on the field, although most are easy fixes to address, more games are required, as it’s still very early days.
Bringing Jeff Driskel on to the 53-man roster, added to the cagey nature of the teams comments around Tyrod Taylor’s return timelines, Mills may have a minimum 2-3 games to show he can maintain the arrow pointing up. Finding a level that can be consistent for this team to feel comfortable in relying upon him must be the goal. The highs of last week versus the lows of the week prior in Buffalo, shows such a disparity to feasibly make any form of conclusion on his longer term suitability.
There are more concerns than reasons to hope but we are watching early stages development occur it real time, which will have a wild range of outcomes. But with a supporting cast with limited talent at the skill positions and zero run game, the odd’s are stacked against Mills. But a hamstring strain has brought about the most intriguing story line of this season & give’s a “why” to these remaining games.
Revolving Irons In The Fire
Although there’s been no breakout-type performances through the first five weeks. The Texans have potentially acquired some future role players in Gruger-Hill at linebacker & John Greenard at defensive end. There may be more emerge over the season. As Roy Lopez has out-snapped his draft slot, Lonnie Johnson has made impact plays, despite his continual mistakes & there is a reasonable core of veteran players who could serve as placeholders.
The omission of Charles Omenihu from the game-day roster was a shock. Whether it’s linked to his agent’s position in removing the Texans franchise quarterback or not. Regardless, in his third-year, the former UT, Big12 defensive-player-of-the-year, hasn’t been up to scratch. The move to a 4-3 system was poised to benefit him more than most but it’s certainly not worked out that way. Charles may well be headed for the exit door, along with any player who teams are willing to offer value for.
Zack Cunningham, at present appears to be at the top of that list but it would be surprising if Caserio doesn’t pull the trigger prior to the trade deadline. Teams will be aware they’re in a selling position and for contract-year players like Justin Reid & Jordan Akins may temp teams into offers.
A Trip To Indy Beckons
Last week’s second half collapse against New England’s rookie QB was a game that the Texans had a real chance of a result. Their subsequent trip to Arizona & the visit of the Rams appear to be forgone conclusions. But the Colts who are surprisingly sat at 1-4 also, may be a game where Houston, playing their best ball, could scrape a result. Their defence, running a similar version of Lovie Smith’s scheme, has lost any notable corners and despite it’s strength up-front, can’t defend the pass. So there will be opportunities to move the ball. Hopefully the return up of Nico Collins this week can find some level of groove and re-start his season after promising much in the pre-season.
The trenches may well be undoing of the Texans game plan. If the Deforest Buckner lead-front is allowed to wreck the game. As Houston will need to keep Mills clean & healthy to form a path to victory. But there appears to be a mismatch emerging as the offensive-line will be without both Tunsil & Britt. Added to the struggles of the guard play, Charlie Heck will be making only making his second start of year, post his Covid set-back.
A somewhat stuttering start from Carson Wentz after a heavily priced trade from Philly, hasn’t sought the level of play that either he or Frank Reich would have hoped. The MNF showing against Baltimore, despite the defeat was perhaps their best performance to date. So the Texans may be a “get-right” game for Indy. Their talent on paper is heavily weighing the tie in their favour.
If the Texans can piece a complete four quarters, then they’re in with a chance. But if would seem likely the team will be sitting at 1-7 heading to Miami, prior to the bye. When Tyrod will return will rest on the performances of Davis Mills. He will have to lead Houston to at at least a couple of victories prior to the bye week, if they Texans are to resist that change.
Texans @ Indy – Lucas Oil Stadium, 17th October, 12Noon CT, CBS