Saturday Texans Scroller – Season Preview

An tumultuous off-season only eclipsed by the threat of pro-football leaving the city, is the single reason for this period not being considered the worst in Houston’s history. An implosion of unrivalled proportions was allowed to unfold by a second generation owner, who has come across as inept and every bit of the billionaire’s child archetype. This was going to be an off-season of change but the entire future of this team was thrown into disarray as its disgruntled quarterback became embroiled in a flurry of allegations. A total of 22-civil suits & 10 legal pending.

This all occurred whilst hiring a new head coach and general manager, the circus buried the lead. Football is back but what are the area’s of this team that will define the 2021 season?

It’s Football Time In Houston.

A week on Sunday the newly, but untraditionally formed roster will welcome the number one overall pick, in Trevor Lawrence as the Urban Meyer leads Jaguars for his first foray into the NFL game. The limited pro-experience of the opposition should give a clear barometer of where this veteran heavy Texans roster team is placed. Regardless of the outcome, the refreshing element of actual football to discuss, however successful they will provide a welcomed break for a beleaguered faithful.

There’s a huge element of the fan base becoming alienated by the aforementioned turmoil, the atmosphere in NRG & the level of attendance will be something to note. Particularly if the Texans come out looking short against last years worst team, then a perpetual spiral may begin with another 8 home games still to play.

Defensive Lead, Once Again?

The defence has been often the leading unit for many of the previous Texans vintages & it appears to be heading that way into 2021 also. The loss of Mr-Houston, number 99, hasn’t left the hole it could have. In part due to the circus, in part due his physical decline but also due to the multiple role players acquired have given a sense of hope along the D-Line.

The acquisition of Maleik Collins, Vincent Taylor & Demarcus Walker, have all looked better than expected. In heavy rotational front, added to by Omenihu, Jake Martin, plus the development of Ross Blacklock & Roy Lopez, this unit will budren the weight of the team. If they can regularly disrupted up-front, they will give this team a chance.

The pass coverage, for what seems like the 10th season in a row, could be this teams undoing. It will be a baptism of fire against a Rookie gunslinger, with a serviceable cast of receivers, in Shenault, Marvin Jones & DJ Shark. The address of the cornerback position, underserved the issues of talent by only signing Terrance Mitchell & Des King. An improvement of last year of course, but will they be able to hold up in coverage? Part of that question, relies upon their ability but also in-part on the expected zone-coverage scheme and how they can manufacture pass rush without any game-wreckers in the trenches.

The depth of the linebackers, in relations to where the safeties line up will be perhaps the biggest hole in this Lovie Smith 4-3 scheme where they similarly lack talent in the linebacker room to cover the pass. It was child’s plays in the final pre-season game for Tom Brady. A test against the best, playing basic shell coverage, had a predetermined outcome. But Lovie will need to dig deep each week and game plan, relying on his experience as he enters his 42nd year of coaching.

The pre-season headline has been the defensive turnovers but an over-reliance upon that isn’t a feasible way to live in the league. Playing fundamentally sound defence will be first port of call, as turnovers is a mix of mentality but also mostly due to opposition mistakes. Undoubtedly a great habit to have and this team will need it to stay in games but they can’t hang their hat on that alone.

A Special Teams Chance?

Co-ordinator Frank Ross’ job on the special teams unit has shown that they may be the secret ingredient to claim a few more wins that this team may deserve. The signing of Andre Roberts as an all-pro-returner & the unrivalled punting ability of Aussie Cam Johnson gives a tint of excitement. It’s not sexy, it won’t sell tickets or jerseys but the unit may be essential to keep this team alive most weeks.

Running a Watson-less Offence?

Now Tim Kelly/Pep Hamilton want to run the ball with great regularity. But if they are able to against team first units, across a 17-game schedule is the big question. It appears Mark Ingram will lead the attack as long his health at 31 holds up. The age at the position, the underwhelming start by Phillip Lindsay, the errant David Johnson does not garner logical enthusiasm for the units productivity.

Many will hope, for the first time since perhaps the emergence of Arian Foster, the Texans will give carries to Scottie Phillips. It’s a young mans position for the most part. The Texans have persevered with veterans at the position, keeping 5 tail-back was a nod to not losing them to waivers. But Scottie has an extra gear than the rest of the position group. In a season where there is limited to gain, he could be a small silver lining.

What The Heck O-Line?

James Campen has provided a much needed and refreshing change to the offensive line rooms stewardship. But there is still work to do. The re-shuffle of Max Sharping & Tytus Howards into both opposing guard spots is a perplexing one. The planned unit may look different in early games due to the health of Marcus Cannon & Lane Taylor. But the overt desire to reward Charlie Heck with playing time, due to his much lauded off-season physical transformation, may be an ill-fated one. Heck showed a number of errors/being overmatched in the bull rush, that his position may not be tenable. If so, they’ve removing much needed off-season preparation for the the true, first-choice unit.

Whether this unit can be a platform for the team, most notably in the run game, will be the acid test of this offence’s ability to be productive.

Tyrod’s Health Or Floating Davis?

Taylor gives this team the best chance to be serviceable but his recent record of health would point to him missing time. The hopes of Davis Mills have been singed by his pre-season performances. The mere 11-collegiate starts has shown exactly his billing, the rawness & mental process needs refinement at the pro-level playing speed. Assuming Watson lurks in the back-ground for the foreseeable future, until off-field matters can be resolved, then Tyrod’s offence will be a grand departure from recent memory. The unit will rely on his mobility and the play action game to open up the lay-ups needed for the unit to stay on the field.

Efficiency and converting in the red-zone will be huge factor, as relying on field-goals, considering your pass defence’s ability won’t cut it. The formula will be tight end heavy, short-to-intermediate passing to compliment the run game. Highlight plays will be at a premium. The expected ground-and-pound will be symbolic of this teams season. Hard fought yards at every turn for 17-weeks won’t be for the purest but at the very least, we can put some of the mess behind us, for a few hours on a sunday.

Texans Schedule:

Given this teams flaws, 4-5 wins appears their ceiling. A lot can change quickly in the league, the assumption of all things being equal, never proves true. Three rookie quarterbacks, plus 5 games against either new or 2nd year quarterbacks, seems favourable.

Cleveland, Buffalo, LA, Seattle appear forgone conclusion on paper. Getting 2 wins in the four games against Tennessee & Indianapolis will be defining but there are winnable games, if the team, can avoid beating itself. A departure from that mentality would be a step forward in this Nick Caserio era of Texans football.

Saturday Texans Scroller – Pre-Season 3

NRG will host it’s first pre-season game since the visit of the Rams, August 30th 2019. A strange notion, with the impact of covid still a pertinent theme for teams as they make their first attempt to prepare for a 17-game season.

Did The Trip to Dallas Teach Us Anything?

The offence is starting to become a nagging concern, that will be hoping for greater production against Tampa, tomorrow night. In Dallas, they showed little reason to breed any confidence, as for three series, the Tyrod-lead starting unit almightily struggled. With the only notable omission Laremy at left-tackle, the team failed to move the chains barring a short-field, which was created by a defensive turnover. Going 0-10 on third downs, 131 yards through the air and only the feet of Jeff Driskel late padding of the 89 rush yards. We are still unclear on what this offence could be, if anything under Tim Kelly.

Mark Ingram was the lead-back in that scenario, with some relief from Phillip Lindsay. The use of the Tight-Ends, on the only offensive-6 of the day, showed that there appears to be a choice between Anthony Auclair as the 4th TE or keeping Paul Quessenberry as the old-school full-back. Now that ’19 3rd-round experiment Kahale Warring was released this week, joining the Patriots via waivers.

The lack of rush ability on offence for a team “committed” to running the ball, seems to be an imbalance they may be unable to correct. A mixture of scheme and talent deficiencies may be too great of a deficit, with the context of so many new players and limited padded practices to refine their ground attack. The adjustments to the incumbent interior offensive-lineman have added to the changes. Though, Charlie Heck seems to surprise everyone with his physical development.

Nico Collins was held-out due to a leg strain, the training-camp-star will be in much need of some live reps prior to the week one visit of Jacksonville. As it appears Nico will be relied upon early and often to be productive in the passing game.

His fellow rookie, Davis Mills, took a side step in his visible development curve. He was not helped by some questionable play from his team mates. However, there are too many fundamental gaps in his play at this stage, to feasibly rely upon him. For all his pretty looking throw’s there are missed protections, poor reads & questionable decision making. There’s a sizeable job for Pep Hamilton & Tim Kelly, to prepare Davis should he be required. But they will be without much opportunity, once the weekly cycle of game planning commences.

The defensive-front was the real stand out, beyond the bulging stat line, this unit has three core contributors in, Chuck’O, Jacob Martin, & Maliek Collins. And the defence looks far better placed to fundamentally stand-up opposing offences, with Lonnie Johnson making a splash pick-6 play as the highlight, among many turnover and negative yard plays.

Further encouragement must be taken due the clear depth, beyond the main contributors that will see time, in a rotation-heavy front. Vincent Taylor, Jaleel Johnson & to a lesser degree Roy Lopez and Ross Blacklock have rounded together an interior unit that is currently beyond expectations.

Whitney Mercilius & the disappointing Shaq Lawson’s respective contracts may well force a more capable edge-player out, but Greenard’s ankle injury may be timely in assisting that issue, for now. But Demarcus Walker shows interior & exterior flexibility, as well as the impressive Jordan Jenkins, is creating a difficult scenario for Caserio, when he cuts down to 53.


Trades, Transactions & Plenty More To Come

Caserio made another couple of trades this week. Sending a 7th round pick to Green Bay for Corner Ka’Dar Hollman, whilst attaining at 7th from Seattle for former 4th-rounder John Reid. It appears that they are looking for length and the prototypical 6ft-plus corners as they look for developmental players, who can add depth with a longer term view toward playing time.

They further added to that theory with the addition of Rasul Douglas, a former Philadelphia Eagles third-round-pick who’s had a difficult career to this point and wasn’t retained in Carolina last season.

Further Trades on The Horizon?

There are multiple candidates who could be trade-bait as the final roster is decided. A name to watch is tight-end Jordan Atkins – as the team have a ready made replacement in rookie Brevin Jordan. Atkins would be a loss but paying a F-type whilst resetting, before rebuilding, seems unlikely considering he’s set to turn 29.

David Johnson, is a name that could attract a late round swap or player deal, as his role appears to be limited to situational third downs. An out-ball that both Rex Burkhead or Scottie Phillips can supply, at a lower cap hit.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

If teams are in need of rotational defensive players, anyone beyond Omenihu, Martin & Collins, could provide the Texans some future assets, whilst not weakening their current line up. Shaq Lawson seems the most likely but that group is so closely matched, the team will be willing to listen, should the value be there.


The Visit of The Reigning Champs

By all accounts both sides appear to have agreed on minimum first-half of “starters” to be out on the field. This will give the greatest glimpse of their abilities against last year’s best side.

Continuing their aggressive defensive style, attacking to the ball against Tom Brady and his first choice accessories, will be a temperature check on last weeks highlights. They will also have to show they can move the ball on offence, most notably on the ground.

Finding out their flaws now is more attractive than come the real action, but there are issues that aren’t going away. The collective offensive players & coaching need to find answers, as a semi-functional offence will be an essential ingredient, if this team is to be competitive.

Tampa @ Houston – Saturday, August 28, 2021, at 7 p.m. CT; NRG Stadium; ABC 13


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Saturday Texans Scroller – Pre Season 2

Last Saturday night in Green Bay provided some level of football normalcy for Texans fans. Considering the vast array of 50 plus new players, the team looked well coached, disciplined and motivated. It’s a common mistake to take too much stock from pre-season performances. But there were some highlights, that warrant further exploration.

Does Mills Have Foundations of Something?

For a quarterback with less than 290 throws under his belt at Stanford, the pro learning curve was destined to be steep. But the Davis equipped himself well on Saturday, his 2nd NFL play however, was a sack, as Cole Tonner whiffed on a 2nd level block:

Mills dusted himself down and found some rhythm. His collegiate issues of missing the easy throws carried over, as he misplaced both screens and swing passes that were layups at the pro-level. For all his fixable issues, he showed command pre-snap, a decent semblance of reading pressures & solid footwork. His red zone efficiency, use of his eyes, identifying coverages and his varied release points off the football, will need to be cleared up.

The biggest questions for Mills to answer, will be can he show gradual improvement across the rest of the pre-season. The coaching staff should not hold back or even give any reps to Jeff Driskel who’s shown he provides limited value to this team. Giving the remainder of the reps, post Tyrod Taylors initial burst, will serve both Davis’ development and the teams understanding of what this year’s third-round-pick will be capable of. But rudimentary mistakes will need to be irradiated if he has a future in this league.

Scottie Phillips – Flashes Again

The level of competition is a constant caveat but the former Ole Miss Rebel continues to flash in a way that deserves closer inspection, ideally with starter type players. There appears to be a log-jam in making this roster at Tail-Back. But it’s young man’s position and Phillips has shown the signs of having potential as a spot filler, in the back-field for someone in this league.

It’s perhaps more of a question if the coaching staff are willing to side with youth, than if Scottie can keep taking the chances given to him. He’s showing he can run it, pass block and catch passes out of the back-filed on third down. His value extends beyond more than just this season, if Phillips can realise his clear potential.

Kamu G-Hill Adds Line Backer Depth

The core skills of reading the play, reacting and getting down-hill to the ball, is on full display in the pre-season, regardless of the competition. Those skills can translate regardless, when combined with the sheer athleticism that Hill showed on Saturday. He is circa 4th in-line to the three roles, in base formation. But Houston has long needed a rangy linebacker, who’s capable of covering ground both ways.

A number of plays showed why Hill was one of the earlier signings by Caserio in the off-season & there were clear signs are he could carve a role for himself, in sub-packages & on special teams.

Green Bay played very few players who will even make their roster, mostly 1st or 2nd year players with limited experience. The Texans conversely are comprised of steady experienced pro’s, so the gulf should have been there, it told us exactly what it should. What this Sunday’s first few series looks like, will provide a more in-depth peak at the 2021 Texans.


Rod, Crossen & Dunn Out

(AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

In the ever-evolving world of Texans roster management, special teamer and the fleetingly seen on defence, Kieon Crossen was traded to the New York Giants. The former 2019 trade acquisition from New England, netted the Texans 2023, 6th-round-pick. A admissible asset in the grand scale of things, arguably under valued considering his continued impact on special teams. But the move shows the faith placed in that position room, that remains one of the biggest question marks of this entire roster. Tremon Smith may well step into Kieon’s role & the duplicity of carrying both players was answered when another team offered some value, in a future asset for this re-building job ahead.

Rod Johnson barely would have had time, if at all, to get back in the building coming off the Covid list, prior to being told of his release. A vastly improved player, who filled in admirably for the 4 games that Tunsil missed last year at left tackle.

Rod Johnson (63) showing his willingness to find work in Pass sets – New England, November 2020

This may point to a decline in his training camp form. His lack of vaccination & therefore his ability to return quickly from close-contact may have deemed him un-reliable. The performance of Gareon Christian at left tackle in Green Bay may have shown a more-cost effective back-up option. His reported training camp performances had possibly seeded doubt and now the team have moved on.

Brandon Dunn, it seemed was given the benefit of the doubt by the coaching staff, to see if he could shake off his injury and lessened form of last year, to make this roster. The signing of Jaleel Johnson, was a direct replacement for PJ Hall. Johnson’s two fumble recoveries coupled with the performances of Vincent Taylor, it appeared Caserio has similar, if not more viable options and D-Tackle and has moved on, again, at a lower cap charge.

Inter-State rivalry, the inclusion of the Cowboys on Hard Knocks may dominate the narrative on Saturday, as the team travel to Arlington. This will be mostly where we see the most starters, at any point prior to week one & it will inevitably give us a truer understanding of this teams competitiveness, come real football.

Houston Texans vs Dallas Cowboys; AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Saturday, August 21, 2021, at 7 p.m. CT

Saturday Scroller – Pre Season 1.1

Football is finally here. After an off-season that has only been eclipsed by not having a team, or one on a stay of execution, tonight allows us to look forward, in part. The Watson situation is continually awkward, though is showing some signs of cordiality between himself and team leadership. But at the hearts of his issue, lies with ownership & materially nothing has or will change without a major point of inflection. Who will be the catalyst for any change will need to step forward, if anything is to change. But it’s game time, at least.

Jacked-Up Calls Surfacing Again

The Texans front office brought up some unwanted parallels from last season, providing a timely reminder that problems still lies within the building, despite some public facing changes. Wednesday’s media access “mis-interpretation” served to reminder that Jack Easterby’s incompetence continues to harm the club. It raised itself in a media faux pas, which was immediately challenged by writers association & via the league office, suddenly being proclaimed as an error. It reverberates those similar themes outlined in last years Si articles and Wednesday’s oversight was symptom of what disfunction which continues to hinder this franchises chances of true success.

Player Movement, Adding Jacksons

Caserio’s endless roster movement continued into this week, as Damon Hazleton was shown the exit after being publicly ostracised by Culley for a pre-snap penalty in the Saturday night scrimmage. As did the odd rotation of Mitchell Fraboni and it would seem the signing of journey-man tail-back, Darius Jackson, who’ll be a pre-season body & a practice squad candidate at best.

However, it was the addition of former Kentucky centre, Drake Jackson, who was a notable addition. This may again highlight the teams concern for competition but Ryan McCollum’s adaptation to the pro’s may have been slower than expected. Drake anchored the third best SEC rushing attack in 2020 & shows they are looking for players who can fit zone running style, which he aptly lead for the wildcats over 44 starts. Finding your feet as O-lineman is multi-year progress for players who who aren’t premium draft picks. Look no further than Matt Feiler who was dismissed by the Texans but then after impressing in Pittsburgh, was given a multi year deal with the Chargers this off-season.

Covid Concerns

For those hoping for answers on the much discussed offensive line, will have to wait a longer as Tunsil, Howard & Rod Johnson found their way onto the Covid list, joining Bradly Roby. Howard will miss out on a chance to get reps at tackle, after being a rotated in at guard, & Rod will allow others vying for the swing tackle spot, to get some live tape, in the race to catch on this roster.

Most to Gain in Green Bay?

The general hierarchies attempt to give Charlie Heck, every chance to be the starting right tackle, will get a public test in the first few series, if the Packers starters get game time. We will quickly understand if the faith paid to the fourth round pick has been well placed.

Johnny Greenard & Ross Blacklock will have a chance to make up for previous coaching staffs hesitation to get them reps, when the 2020 season was lost. Finding out what these guy’s have with the influx of off-season veterans will give a barometer if they’ve made the requisite progress going into year two, will a full and proper off-season, which covid protocols removed last season.

Despite his adonis like frame, showing football prowess to join his clear physical attributes will be the task for third year tight-end, Kahale Warring. The team look set at the position, so it will be down to the former San Diego State product to play his way into them taking a fourth man at that spot.

Generally watching and a keeping track of the 53 new players will be difficult enough on Saturday, particularly as the game draws into it’s later stages – see fuller roster breakdown battles.

Game Time Again?

Drawing a line under an off-season may bring a collective sigh of relief across the Texans faithful tonight. Although the news of a grand jury investigation & public criticism of the NFL’s own private investigation surfacing in yet another Si Article, it’s likely Texans football will be shadowed with “Still the same Shit” for some time yet.

Texans @ Green Bay – Lambeau Field, ABC-13, 7pm CT

Saturday Scroller – Pre-Season 1

The Texans have finally suited up for three days of training camp, heading into this weekend, they are only one week away from a trip to Lambeau Field. For the first of three pre-season games, Houston travel to Green Bay, who have similarly have been embroiled in a quarterback stand off.

Watson and the Texans rift appears to have no logical conclusion, unlike the Packers who were able to appease the 37-year-old Aaron Rodgers, ironically by in-part, when trading with Houston for the bewildering contract of Randall Cobb. The creators of such mess have now departed, well except one, but let’s not go there today. As Watson may have forever disappeared from Texans colours, due to ‘muscle tightness’, an eerily similar strategy to the one employed by Jalen Ramsey, who after his sidelines tantrum at NRG, never suited up again for Jacksonville until his eventual trade to the Rams.

Watson’s endless misguidance off-the-field appears to be compounding in the opposite direction of Houston. But where the situation will inevitably end, is a bigger question than when. Front office’s will not be overly fazed by his legal wrangling, as long as they stay within the civil court and any criminal convictions are dismissed. The endless off-season chatter of leverage, value and public stances, has left the Texans fan base with a sense of fatigue and an eagerness for closure.

The reality is that Caserio can bide his time & truly do what is the best interest of this team, as he’s selling a 15 year investment that has a yield proven to be far higher than many alternatives, bar a few. A prized asset cannot be parted with on a sub-par valuation based on public noise alone. No one appears to know that more than Nick Caserio. He holds the key & only he knows the final tipping point into a new Texans era, which is currently on hold.


Training Camp Flashes or Sunday Contributors?

For the players who are out there grinding, it isn’t easy to properly gauge yet, if they can have true impact on a Sunday, at this stage of the off-season. As many players have flashed in pre-season games, joint practices & training camp but then failed to delver when the lights come on. The real deal, is a world away from what we will watch Saturday, in Wisconsin. It will be prospective look at this newly assembled squad, some of the most important pieces may be under the preserve category such as Tyrod, Cooks & Tunsil will be pulled as soon as they start to sweat.

(Brett Coomer/Pool Photo via AP)

There are also players who turn it on when they walk through that tunnel. The Texans will hope Davis Mills is one them & he can put on a better showing that his limited 11 vrs. 11 has delivered. Littered by missed throws & continual interceptions despite his pro-style flashes, his lack of collegiate games is showing. He’s been out shone by Nico Collins, who’s been as advertised as the prototypical boundary receiver. Brevin Jordan & Roy Lopez have both turned heads, but within this array of new players, who could turn into future contributors for this team?

Groupings of Players to Watch (No., Position):

Drafted & Time To Perform: Lonnie Johnson Jr. (1, SS); Ross Blacklock (90, DT); Jon Greenard (52, DE); Khale Warring (81, TE); John Reid (34, CB); Isaiah Coulter (82, WR); Charlie Heck (76, OT)

Flashed & Taking A Step: Chuck Omenihu (94, DL); Tytus Howard (71, RT); Max Sharping (74, LG); Pharaoh Brown (85, TE); Shaq Lawson (93, DE)

Prove It – Contract Year: Jordan Atkins (88; TE); Keke Coutee (16, SWR); Justin Reid (20, FS); Anthony Miller (17, WR); Jacob Martin (54, DE)

Belong In This League: Des King II (25, CB); Phillip Lindsay (30, RB); Justin Britt (68, OL); Jordon Jenkins (50, DE); Maliek Collins (97, DT); Christian Kirksey (58, MLB); Kevin Pierre Louis (57, SLB); Justin McCray (64, G); Jaleel Johnson (91, DT); Demarcus Walker (44, DE); Terrance Mitchell (39, CB)

Anything Left in The Tank: Whitney Mercilus (59, DE); Lane Taylor (65, G), Marcus Cannon (61, OT); Mark Ingram (2, RB); David Johnson (31, RB); Rex Burkhead (28, RB); Andre Roberts (19, KR);

Under-Radar Candidates: Paul Quessenberry (45, FB); Auzoyah Alufohai (98, DT); Shyheim Carter (38, S)

Despite the shadow of the Watson mess hanging over this team, it feels in some ways a new era. But oddly similar in others. None the less, this week, football is back.

The Watson Conundrum – How Will The Case Be Remembered?

How The Texans choose to manage this unprecedented situation will define the Franchise’s future as viable football entity. 

Looking at underlying causes, Watson’s personal situation & how the team should handle the situation. 

The Origin:

Two diverging worlds are emerging: people who are entrenched in social media and those that aren’t. The latter, it could be argued, have a far broader perspective, seek more in-depth and credible information sources to help to shape opinions. The former are shaped by algorithms. These two factions co-exist in isolation but have consequences when they collide. As the majority of NFL on-lookers are abstract from this reality and the Watson case has brought this clash, jarringly out into the open.

Instagram serves to showcase a variance of product or services, whilst equally it provides an entry point for those seeking infamy. Tactics often employed are to derive associations with those of reach, to create the interactions with an end goal of monetisation. But for all the scenic pictures and videos of the family pet, there are equal waves of advertisements & paid subscription gateways.

Therefore, creating a dynamic where monetary gains & by default notoriety, are the drivers for the platforms success. It provides a prime construct for the rich and (in)famous to exploit. Combining those elements, the reality likely has a harsh outcome due to the human element involved. This outlook has been ingrained in a generation of people, that use to determine their self worth, where the an App & real life continue to intertwine. 

It’s unfortunate for Texans fans that their quarterback or departing quarterback, falls into that generation. But as Watson & his ‘camp’ have found, there is a sharp fall between these lines of cyber learned behaviours and what society can deem acceptable. It appears for some, that these lines have never been so blurred, but when the two meet, it’s been shown in an ugly & public light, that many wouldn’t have considered even existed. 

The Watson Uprising: 

Now back to football, sort of. 

Watson, prior to March, had positioned himself as the model sports professional. His trade demands were rooted in exactly that. The organisation had wronged him. To a highly principled man, this was an irreversible relational fracture with the Texans. Back in January, few would have differed.

Subsequently the foundations of his stance have dissolved through the ensuing, public character assassination. Taking the moral high ground versus a bumbling owner was now, diminished in its credibility. 

But could have this mess been avoided? Were the trade demands and this off-field matter linked? Those answers will likely never be public knowledge but what is certain – Watson was ill-advised by his agency. 

Previously, the information flow to ESPN had been constant throughout the play-offs peak-news-cycles, as Athletes First set out to publicly tarnish the Texans. Perhaps a tact that David Mulugheta may regret, against a group of billionaire owners who’ve developed a fine track record of collusion. Particularly against those who pose a threat to their ‘industry’ and individual talent is a distant secondary consideration. 

Fast-forward to a situation where Watson is the recipient out public out-cry, his agency now sits silent. Watson initially released a statement and now the strategic direction of his defence appears to have changed. So, should have the lawyers at Athletes First advised him on what to or not say? Could this have been a more sensible starting point to this saga?

His agency, as public evidence has shown, dismissed the opportunity of managing this situation in a proactive manner. It appears now that Rusty Hardin was hired as reactionary measure to the sprawling list of accusers. But the the long-time Houston lawyer-to-the-stars was handed a standing start. The modern day PR battle via social media, the public pursuit by Tony Buzzbee has left a trail of doubt, regardless of the evidence. That doubt will perennially hover over the remainder of Watson’s career & life after football.

The breadth of complaints and span of timeline of these allegations are what may see a settlement manifold or his reputation tarnished, inhibiting a departure from Houston, in the interim. As it’s already curtailed his income in endorsements, prevented owners signing-off trade packages and Dessaun will eventually receive some form of suspension by the league. 

As this news blocked the light shone on the NFL’s new TV deal announcement, that had been years in the making. The sound of that lead balloon bouncing along the corridors of a certain plush Park Avenue office, will not go unscathed.  That day will last in the memory of Goddell & his 32 employers, who inevitably will seek retribution. 

It returns again to the question: was Watson was advised to pursue a trade, only 9 months after signing his contract, with the looming external legal factors and blocking off any communication with the team? As regardless of the motivation or outcome, his representation has failed him spectacularly. Taking this anti-establishment stance, with limited leverage, Watson’s career, reputation and legacy will all be lessened as a result. 

So has the experience humbled him or some of his agencies thinking? As Watson could now benefit from stability as person and as a football player. A familiar place to re-habilitate and re-build would be a logical step for the guy who promised a super bowl to the city only in November last year. 

The whole rationale of a desired exit has appeared forced, inconsistent from the outset. Now the legal case has curtailed any immediate movement. Enter, Nick Caserio who could salvage this house of cards, he unknowingly inherited.

A Sensible Outcome:

In order to steer a pro-sports entity such as the Texans, it requires prudence in the ability to separate the broader view, from every swinging axe brought with each news cycle. The McNair’s showed this abundance with the Jack Easterby retention & Nick Caserio hiring, the resulting furore was met steadfastly in defiance. Can they display this once more, in a situation that is critical in shaping the franchises future?

As a business first & foremost, the uncertainty is not welcomed. The sentiment within the McNair family is largely unknown & they may well task Caserio with moving on, if allegations are proven and the stain is too much to bare. The issue in that instance is, in selling to a reduced market, due to no other factors than perception would unlikely yield a true return. A position this team have found themselves in too many times. 

Allegations, civil court settlements or not, Waston’s talents remain. As this process concluding Houston’s best course action is to help their quarterback. Deshaun has undeniably made some questionable life choices and put himself and other people in an unforgiving positions. He’s caused substantial damage, but is it irreversible?

In years from now, whichever team Deshaun Watson is throwing touchdown passes for, will the current acrimony be just a distant thought? Were Ben Rothlisberger’s legal cases an insurmountable issue for the Steelers? Was it a central theme when Pittsburgh won a super bowl? It was a different situation, in a different era but the choices faced by the team are similar.

Post the conclusions of the legalities, can Houston be bold enough to provide a platform for rehabilitation? A case of redemption for a player who was and could be again the face of the franchise. The court of public opinion can be fierce but if there was a player to stand by, with a public showing, on how people can correct their ways, by draw awareness to a cause he has wronged and then do right, it’s Watson.

The McNair’s claim they are invested in the community and by dollars donated on paper they are. But this could be the truest test, of that philanthropy. Is it bound only by perception & it’s resulting impacts on their billion-dollar business? Or by a genuine will to help people? As custodians of Houston they have a duty to help all of those surrounding this case, if they are true to their word, they will, not just when it sits comfortably with their bottom line. 

When Will the Texans Reach The Pinnacle of Public Ignominy?

There was a time this off-season where the `Texans failings were rooted firmly in its owner. Cal McNair’s ambivalence to their two year plight left fans outraged, as they vented at the shadowy figure of Jack Easterby. The media humiliation seemed unprecedented as they slowly folded to a 4-12 record, as their lack of organisational structure underpinned their fundamental failings.

Those seemed like better days than the present. As Cal & Jack can now step back as the anarchy of Houston pro-football reaches bizarre heights, even for a team defined by disfunction.

In an offseason where it appeared to be on the crest of a new dawn. Fast-forward only three months: the GM appointment lead to Watson’s trade request, an underwhelming head-coach hire and Watson is now embroiled in a civil legal case against 22 complainants.

Nick Caserio was never going to start on an even-footing but to have this many issues, problems that extend beyond the realms of X’s & O’s, isn’t something that many can prepare for. His level of drudgery in acquiring over 30 players was an expensive means of re-setting a threadbare roster but it was understandable.

Not so comprehensible was the sheer volume of short team deals, which in order to accommodate, a flurry of re-structures were required. In essence the team are now spending more in future years in order to understand the contributory value of these 3rd & 4th rate players, who would command a higher price, should they perform & be resigned.

Free agency is not a sustainable or preferred means of team building, that is the primary role of the draft. The Texans could go at almost any position, across their 8-picks, bar offensive tackle. After the over-spending of future picks at that position, is the primary reason they are short in ammunition.

The premise of drafting players for a new coaching staff, by a GM who’s decisions are based up upon an inherited personnel department, doesn’t necessarily bode well. Similar to this ’21 season, the draft has tempered expectations & finding one or two starter level contributors would be a heralded success. The draft weekend will provide a distraction and the novelty of some genuine football narrative to consider. But this class will unlikely impact the teams win total.

So it begs the question, when will the Texans have finally hit the bottom of the football barrel?

Will it be the moment Deshaun Watson is traded?

The impending legal process is being navigated by Rusty Hardin, though the timeline remains at the mercy of the Harris County Courts. This could mean a number of years with a quarterback disgruntled not willing to play, that continues to hang over the team. The possible deadline of a pre-draft-trade now seems to have dissolved. Mainly due to the scarcity of willing parties as the 49ers & Carolina have both made alternative QB arrangements.

This means Watson’s 2021 season could be a mixture of hold out, suspension & reputation damage control. His next snap of football may reluctantly come in a Texans jersey until a teams situation or outlook on his allegations suddenly change. By no means are either beyond the realms of possibility, as change is a constant that can favour teams through none of their own doing.

Will it be in the midst of this season?

The ’21 Texans would have been hard pressed to field a less viable pro-football side, than the version that stumbled through the 2020 season. But they seem to have found a way. A convoluted free-agency period plus a draft slate devoid of picks until the 67th slot, does not show a path to progress.

Fans are set to watch a team unlikely to scrape together a handful on wins, filled with no named contributors, lead by Tyrod Taylor. By no logical means can a case be made that this will be any better than the early expansion days. That backward step will lean firmly against even the most devout sections of the fanbase. The teams handling of that, plus the Watson drama, will stretch the organisations goodwill limits with fans, yet again.

Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Or could it be an even slower demise?

Envisaging the pain of an elongated Watson departure, downward trade-market pressures (AGAIN) leaving value firmly on the trade-partners side of the table. Those acquired picks are re-invested and for the most part don’t pan out. They yield 3 to 4 versions of Kevin Johnson, Amobi Okoye, Travis Johnson & David Carr. By that point the team have likely run through two coaching staff’s, a turnover of over 100 players and the 2019 season will be the “if only” moment for a generation of fans, the ones who are left.

The Murky Future

The actual outcome is somewhere in between. Caserio will likely be given time, should he want it and if there’s some luck along the way, there may be some Rick Smith-years type of product to enjoy.

A lot can change in the blink of an eye. But being the team who searched for its entirety to find a player like Watson & for it to fail due to a host on non-football reasons is a stigma that will take many year to shake, if at all.

Trading Watson makes zero sense from a football standpoint. But the origins of this mess are far removed form football. The next few season will put to the test this franchise’s direction if it will lay in doldrums or rise again to a point that took them over a decade to reach – relevancy.

Caserio In Full Swing – His Plan Is Unclear As The Future Of His Franchise Quarterback

The sheer volume of Texans new signings in free agency has been staggering. As of March 22nd, there have been over 30 players acquired, 4 by trade, whilst onboarding over $60million in guarantees. Details are still to emerge but Caserio’s first free agency, has been full-throttle but hard to accurately depict in it’s direction.

The historical shape of free agency has been one of big money deals, followed by declining contract values thereafter. But that was thrown into disarray by the suppressed salary cap. Teams were forced to restructure and release players, the wide-receiver market stalled and edge rushers failed to set new parameters. Only three offensive line stalwarts of Joe Tuney, Corey Lindsay & Trent Williams were rewarded the traditional type of market defining deals.

However, the Texans approach to free agency continues to be unique & perplexing in equal measure. Caserio may be within his honeymoon period until games are played, the Easterby-factor aside, but his approach has been arguably been scatter-gun. As he threw dart after dart, in the hope of incremental roster talent, the question arose: What exactly is the offseason strategy for the Texans?

Beyond hoping the law of averages, via a high volume approach, will yield a few talented players who can fulfil specific roles, longer term. The startling high volume or limited quality of singings for a team that had circa $22million in cap space entering the legal tampering period is puzzling. This was after restructuring Brandon Cooks and the heart-felt goodbye of JJ Watt, amongst others.

All moves are currently only reported and have yet to be formalised by the team. Partly, because their salary-cap space won’t allow them to sign all reported agreements. Subsequently, Laremy Tunsil has restructured his contract (a possible trade pre-requisite), Darren Fells, Zack Fulton, Cullen Gillaspia, Bryan Anger were all released. Clearly Caserio fully intends to spend right up to the cap. Rolling money into 2022 & beyond isn’t currently on his agenda, it would seem.

As traditionally, teams spending are less focused on future years and are are planning to win now. That would logically be the case if their public soundings of keeping Deshaun Watson, despite his trade demands, held true. However, only two of the players acquired, cornerback’s Terrance Mitchell & Desmond King (traded mid-season) played over 65% of snaps last year. Adding so few quality, starter-type players isn’t improving a 4-12 roster, considering the departures of Will Fuller & JJ Watt. Moreover, they are exhausting resources of future years to spend on difference makers, when circumstances dictate.

If not in pursuit of quality, it’s been commonly mooted that Caserio is improving competition across the depth chart, with 1 & 2 year deals – this is the start of the rebuild. Possibly hinting that they know Watson has played his last snap in Houston. Whilst Singing a Quarterback & trading for another only adds weight to that theory. Though Caserio’s assessment of the incumbent players must have been reasonably damning and a “drain the swamp” approach would explain the volume of transactions required if this is to be correctly assed as a rebuild.

Although the traditional means of rebuilding would be to acquire picks, draft and find as many young, talented players as possible. But the average age of all the signings is over 28.

The Texans traded for a 33-year-old tackle in Marcus Cannon, who’s coming off a year out of football. At an ever young-man’s position, they’ve committed $5.58million to ageing running backs, across Mark Ingram (32), David Johnson (30) & Phillip Lindsay (26) most notably. Also committing a combined $5.5million in guarantees to a Punter (Cameron Johnson) and 33-year old kick returner (Andre Roberts) does not signal re-build. Whilst accumulating countless linebackers and said devout special teamer’s. Some, if not many, may not make the 53-man roster, come August.

The timing or seeming rush to agree with a multitude of new players so early in the process, is also questionable. As they currently manoeuvre to get under the cap, they will be likely out of contention for any surprise cuts. In the way they acquired Tyran Mathieu in 2018. Between now & September, there are multiple options available in adding to your roster. Considering potential post June-1st cuts, camp cut-downs, street FA’s & and a large rookie class will need to be accounted for also. So Further cap scurrying will be required.

Change is the only constant in the league but how much can one team sustain, with a new coaching staff, on a limited contact model as Covid continues to define schedules. Added to the fact Tyrod Taylor is trending to becoming the starting quarterback. The coaching staff will have a big role in herding Caserio’s band of recruits come September if some cohesion is to be derived.

Caserio has given a fresh feel in terms of running the pro personnel side of the Texans despite the Jack Easterby linger. Most notably the stains of signing Derek Rivers, retaining David Johnson and Vernon Hargreaves may all be a result of that influence – as it cannot be based on 2020 tape. But the ingenuity of the Shaq Lawson trade must be applauded whilst agreeing terms with Maliek Collins, Kevin Pierre-Louis & Jordan Jenkins could provided must needed upgrades to a hapless defence, transitioning to a 4-3 base.

The limited clarity of Caserio’s approach may simply stem from the off-field issues surroundings Watson’s desired exit. As his retention or departure is the defining move in deciding the Texans future, there will be no choice if it’s the latter. But as we standstill at these cross-roads, Caserio’s moves appear like he’s faced with co-ordinating multiple action plans as the on-going saga unfolds.

The Texans Continue Their Collapse, In Attempting ‘The Next Right Thing’

After the the firing of Bill O’Brien, all those connected to Houston carried hope of a new dawn, that Cal McNair was set to instil. This was a chance to re-define Texans Football. The possibilities seemed limitless due to their much-revered franchise quarterback, added to a fiercely loyal fanbase that felt real success was a possibility.

Of course it wasn’t going to be an easy task for the incoming General Manager & Head Coaches staff. As Houston fans had seen the team implode over a treacherous 18-month stretch of puzzling personnel decision. Cal McNair, understandably paid faith in O’Brien’s ability to do it all – across the GM and Head Coach roles. They arguably had the luxury of making moves to “Win-Now”, when in the envious position of a wining football team, with a transcendent passer under his rookie contract.

Look no further than the deluge of trades and contracts, all consistent with the theme of buying high and selling low. O’Brien didn’t have the awareness of NFL market value, nor the ability to evaluate talent, as results were disastrous. The net effect the over-investment in players so his offensive scheme could work, left the Texans with a defence unable to compete at the pro-level in 2020.

Last season petered out with only one-win against a team who’s head coach wasn’t fired & a series of close divisional loses. The one shining light – it’s quarterback, who lead the league in passing, despite having the worst rushing attack seen in franchise history. Their 4-12 record represented a spectacular feat of underachievement, considering the qualities of Watson.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The first major decision Cal made, after taking over from his late father, was an epic fail, O’Brien was relieved of his duties with time to find the new leaders of the football club.

Despite O’Brien’s early removal, he was only part of the problem. Now after a series of hires, the team are no better of than they were prior. They have completely unaddressed the issues that their own players stated to the media.

Though suspected & now crystallised, the true driving force in this unparalleled nose dive is Jack Easterby. Yet despite the continual pressure form fans and former players. Added to the public unmasking by the media with unrivalled scrutiny, McNair continues to cut an unconcerned figure in his spate of public outings.

Jack Easterby’s influence is catastrophic for McNair’s ownership, which is tittering closely into the realms of brining the league into disrepute or as the rules state: “conduct detriment to the league”. As the Texans are now in a position where they could be feasibility in breach of that, considering:

THE NEXT RIGHT THING

“Empty Cups Don’t Get People Wet”

AILIENATED FANBASE

STAR QB DEMANDS TRADE

CLUB PRESIDENT RESIGNATION

DECORATED EX-TEXANS PROCLAMATIONS

BEST-EVER PLAYER REQUESTS RELEASE

BOTCHED HC & GM HIRINGS

UNIVERSAL MEDIA HUMILIATION

AN UNMANAGEABLE SALARY CAP

LIMITED DRAFT PICKS

ROSTER BEREFT OF TALENT

The headline reasons for wanting nothing to do with the Texans are plentiful for players, fans and sponsors alike. It’s beyond reasonable doubt Jack Easterby’s rise to power, directly correlates with the teams downfall. The team are on the precipice of footballing hell. As they may lose the player who’s they’ve spent the majority of their 19-year existence trying to find.

Deshaun Watson made Houston relevant to a whole generation of fans. He made this team worth watching. He covered up a myriad of mistakes, made by those in power. But after it became clear the GM hire had been undoubtedly been botched due to the intervention of Easterby. The burden became too great for Watson and his representation to bare. He has no faith in ownership and therefore requested a trade. Who could blame him? This off season was yet another example of the McNair family’s inability to run this club.

The McNair’s misplaced but well intentioned trust continues to be in the wrong people. The limited credence given that recent hiring of Head Coach, David Culley, has been yet another milestone of their slide. The justification of Culley being an amenable personality, considering the dire situation is a case in itself. Only the Texans under their current ownership could feasibly justify a head coach hire, due to the mess THEY created. Rather than hire the best coach they could find for Watson, they sought a fixer, to reprieve them. But the Texans issues are on a far grander scale than a patsy head-coach & sub-par staff assembled.

The future for this team & fans alike is incredibly bleak. There are precisely zero reasons to believe they can compete, when their leadership, sets them back irreparably with every decision made. The recent hiring of Character Coach Dylan Thomson, is yet another reminder of who’s making the decisions for the Texans front office. A long term disciple of defacto-CEO, Easterby.

The role or lack of autonomy given to conduct his role effectively, Nick Caserio is a glaring concern for those trying to see a way forward. His hire was objectively a good one but after a month his position, he appears undermined. The unshakable cultural problems created by the religious-fulled trust in the Easterby way of ‘the next right thing’ has lead to successive star players and long-time executives leaving.

Who would have believed the notion after the 2018 season that Clowney, Hopkins, Tyran Mathieu, DJ Reader, Kareem Jackson, JJ Watt & likely now Will Fuller, Deshaun Watson, all wouldn’t be on the 2021 roster?

The chance was there this off-season. Yet, somehow ownership cannot seem to fathom what & how they have missed it. Not only have they missed but they have also hampered future chances of addressing it.

The ‘next right thing’ is all they seem prepared to focused on. They have lacked any sense of plan or guile in the way Cal McNair has squandered a chance that will set this team back a minimum of 5-10 years.

They remind us “change is hard” but by retaining Easterby, hiring Caserio & Cully has not created any progressive change. They’ve taken the very worst of recent failings and blown them up on the jumbo-tron asking people to pay for the privilege, whilst being eviscerated on every sports network across the globe.

Whilst the Texans are attempting to “create memorable experiences”, by doing the next right thing. They’d be better placed by doing just something right, if anyone is to deem this 2021 team is worth considering, come August.

Despite The GM Hire, McNair Is Unable To Take A Step Forward

Tone deaf, indifferent and inept, Cal McNair is showing once more, he isn’t fit to own a pro-football team. As the hiring of his new GM is over-shadowed by his lingering, unaddressed mistakes.

The announcement of Nick Caserio would have struck a raw nerve instantly with many of the Texans faithful on Tuesday. A hire that with any objective lens on Caserio’s track record, would seem a desirable franchise leader. And it of course would have been, if not for the source of his experienced being intrinsically linked to the source of previous failures. Notably the last 7 seasons were design by those of a similar ilk.

When removed from Foxborough, MA., the “Patriots Way” rarely pays dividends. After seeing this first hand, to reach out again, in hope of it transferring to Kirby Drive, appears an ill-fated premise. As the mistakes co-signed by both Bill O’Brien & Jack Easterby reverberate around every facet of the Texans. The most notable output being it’s talent deficient roster, which lent itself to 4-12 season, despite the talents of Deshaun Watson under centre.

O’Brien was sent packing after week four, some three months ago, allowing Cal McNair and his search firm significant time to jump start their efforts in the 2021 hiring cycle. Despite that, the preferred option was to resurrect a previous failed hiring attempt from July 2019, as the Texans opted for Caserio. A clause in his contract inhibited him from joining Houston then, now out-lawed by the league, the Patriots subsequently filed tampering charges. Though the Texans had fired Brian Gaine on the premise they had their man.

Left red-faced, Houston opted to allow O’Brien and Easterby to dual-control the franchise, that ultimately sent the team on a collision with the depths of mediocrity. McNair stood idly by allowing the incumbents to run riot. The very mistakes his new GM will be tasked with correcting.

Financial cost seems to be secondary to McNair which is admirable in a sense but it more likely an output of his ineptitude. He had also hired a search firm, Korn Ferry, paying an exclusivity fee to then only ignore their final candidate list. A rather expensive exercise to conduct so publicly, to then hire someone who could have been previously available whilst still having outstanding interviews scheduled with prospective candidates. But the trigger was pulled and Caserio is now in the top-three GM’s in terms of salary.

The end result in arguably a good one but it’s the cloud of controversy that Nick enters the building with doesn’t allow his to start his reign on an even footing. His ties to Jack Easterby, the man who orchestrated the Brian Gaine firing to bring over his former colleague, could well be his undoing in Houston. Though Easterby is widely credited with pushing the search firm’s advice off-course, it should be noted his role in the firing of O’Brien. Caserio may be advised to tread carefully when handling footballs most maligned character.

Even the faintest murmur of Easterby’s name incites instant vitriol across the Texans fanbase. Added to the fact, the players have intimated they would like to see him removed. He provides a toxic influence that has eroded the culture every bit as much as the talent in the building. Easterby’s position is one that whatever he brings to the organisation is overwhelming outweighed by his drawbacks. So in Caserio’s initial assessment of the franchise, if this isn’t an obvious early course of correction, then yet more rockier waters may lay ahead. But if there was ever a way to get the fans & players alike to back you in the early days as the Texans GM, then theres an easy call to make.

The next part in the Texans off-season process is for Caserio to appoint a head coach. A task, if not successful, appears to perilously close for a consecutive off-season of counterproductively. This team cannot afford that. They cannot afford to get this wrong as they face a disgruntled quarterback and locker room, never mind the already indignant fan base.

An uphill task faces Nick Caserio and his early decisions will likely follow him, for however long he see’s out the freshly inked 6-year deal.