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Incompletions: Texans v. Jaguars (Sacked Ten Times)

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With so much to write and talk about after every game, and not enough time for one man to write about it all, the masthead joins together and writes about Houston’s opening loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans
I bet he’s locked onto that pre-snap read.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Matt Weston:

I’ll never forget the 2014 NFL Draft. Woo. What a time. What a time. I watched the Jadeveon Clowney pick in Austin with BFD and a few others who follow this site. It was inevitable and expected. A golf clap to celebrate the fruits that 2013’s horror produced. Then I rushed to take someone out to eat and go out for graduation celebrations. Between the time of the Clowney pick and leaving to stay out until 4 a.m., a funny thing happened. The quarterbacks began to fall.

Blake Bortles was selected at No. 3. Then nothing else happened. Every team that could have needed a quarterback opted to fill out other positions. Oakland, Cleveland, Buffalo, Minnesota, the New York Jets, and Arizona all could have potentially needed one. They skipped out until Cleveland used their second first round pick to select Johnny Manziel.

Then nothing. I left the house at Pick #31. I thought the Texans were going to get my man, my guy, my dude, Teddy Bridgewater. They didn’t. I was devastated. Minnesota moved ahead of Houston to trade back into the first round. I was devastated. At the very least I thought the Texans would select a different quarterback in the second round and actually invest in the position. With a talented team and a year from hell, the playoffs were imminent if Houston improved at quarterback. There was no way Ryan Fitzpatrick would be the the team’s starting quarterback.

Ryan Fitzpatrick was the team’s starting quarterback. The Texans selected Xavier Su’a-Filo in the second round and finally picked a quarterback in the fourth round. I thought that fourth round pick was inconsequential. A player I never thought would actually start a game. Tom Savage did so much more than that. He started two games last season, and now, three years later, he entered the 2017 season as the Texans’ starting quarterback.

During this time span, so much has happened in my life. My big stupid heart has been broken twice, I backpacked and traveled the country, I left home and came back, I was miserable, and I have finally settled into adulthood with a comfy job, though I endure constant existential dread. The same can be said for all of us. So many more important things have happened in our lives. For the Texans, however, not much has changed. The defense has been great, the offense and special teams have been bad, and they have been able to win games in spite of it. The names above the number have changed: Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Case Keenum, T.J. Yates, Brian Hoyer, B.J. Daniels, Brandon Weeden, Brock Osweiler, Tom Savage, Deshaun Watson, but the results have been the same.

Yesterday was the culmination of those three years. Three years of being unable to fix the quarterback position all flipped together poetically. Bill O’Brien named Savage the starter early on in training camp. Savage got the majority of the reps this summer. Let’s see what he can do.

What he did yesterday was commit quarterback atrocities. 7-13. 62 yards. Sacked six times. 7.8 QBR. Savage did the same thing he did last year, lock onto one side of the field or one player pr-esnap, and then hold the ball until that player did or didn’t get open. This didn’t work in his second career start against Cincinnati, and it didn’t again against one of the league’s best interior pass rushing and cornerback duos in the NFL. So Savage was benched, and Watson came in. Watson was also bad. It was 2015 all over again.

The Texans will probably get over this game and compete in the AFC South. They have before and probably will again. Duane Brown will probably come back soon and solidify the offensive line from syrup to gelatin. The defense will probably play better and allow Houston to run the ball instead of throwing from behind. But as bad as this loss was, it is nothing like the past ones that were similar.

Because at least Watson is back there. At least there is some sort of glimmer to this ‘will he or won’t he start’ situation. At least the unknown option isn’t Ryan Mallett this time. It’s Deshaun Watson, and the sooner Watson starts the better.

I’m just so happy those three years are finally over.

Brett Kollmann:

The offense was still bad with Watson in, but at least it was entertaining and somewhat exciting at times. I'll take entertaining and bad over boring and bad all day long.

That being said, as long as this offensive line is playing like hot garbage, the Texans will go nowhere. They have four days to figure out a solution before playing against Cincinnati in primetime. Let's hope they at least don't embarrass themselves like they did today.

Capt Ron:

I'm already looking ahead to see if there is a game this Texans team can win, but TAMU isn't on the schedule, so I don't really think so. Kevin Sumlin might be the only guy O'Brien can outcoach with this roster. That might even be a stretch.

Terrible preparation, terrible play calling, terrible coaching, and terrible execution all around. I don't know what the Texans did in West Virginia during camp, but this isn't NFL-level football.

Why did they continue to run plays inside the last two minutes in a lost cause?!! Now tight end Stephen Anderson may be out with a concussion, which would make FIVE players in all including Brian Cushing, Ryan Griffin, C.J. Fiedorowicz, and Bruce Ellington. Oh, and the play that Anderson got hurt resulted in another QB sack, the tenth of the day.

A point worth noting on Cushing's concussion is that he apparently just cleared the protocol last week for one suffered late in camp. It may take extended time to clear this one, and the Texans are scheduled to play the Bengals in four days.

This looks very bad for Houston in 2017.

WHAT NOW?

Luke Beggs:

Bill O'Brien's go-to offensive move is to sub out his starting QB midway through the game and hope the opposing team’s defense can't adjust to a new QB who they've never prepared for.

The problem with that plan is that the new QB is still running the the same repugnant playbook that got the first guy benched.

Even the stuff the Texans were supposed to do well they struggled to do today.

The only mercy in playing the Bengals next is that Andy Dalton might be as bad as Tom Savage now.

BigFatDrunk:

The Houston Texans have treated the QB position as unimportant since 2012. For the past four years of that trend, Bill O'Brien has been front and center in not understanding the importance of the position. Finally, in 2017, your Houston Texans did a thing, trading up to get Deshaun Watson.

And Bill O'Brien, in all his OFFENSIVE SUPER GENIUS wisdom, gave almost all the first team reps to and started Tom Savage. Genius!

As poorly as the offensive line played today, and as uninspiring as the defense looked, the rot lies at the top of the Texans: Bill O'Brien.

The Texans were at their best when the offensive line is good, and clearly that's a major problem today. I'm not sure who is responsible for state of the offensive line, but it seems to have been a focus under Gary Kubiak and an afterthought under O'Brien. I can't blame this on Rick Smith, either.

O'Brien is right: it's on him, and until this situation changes, we can look forward to a 7-9 season.

P.S. Mike’s right.

Mike Bullock:

Unlike BFD, I can blame the horrible, non-professional quality offensive line on Rick Smith. Year in and year out throughout his tenure, he's treated the O-Line like a necessary evil, dumping decent players and replacing them with the likes of Jeff Allen just to save a few dollars.

Houston lost their starting right tackle, possibly forever. So what does Smith do? He lets the Duane Brown holdout go one because Rick refuses to renegotiate a contract on principle.

So, the team takes the field with two starting caliber offensive linemen and three collegiate level backups.

Is it any wonder a pocket passer like Tom Savage got destroyed and the Jaguars set a team record for sacks?

Rick Smith's principles are going to get Deshaun Watson killed. When they do, the cost is astronomically higher than it would have been to keep guys like Eric Winston, Brandon Brooks and Duane Brown happily employed by the Texans...

Let's not worry about that though, because Bill O'Brien is an offensive super-genius (see: Wile E Coyote).

There’s Always Next Year!

Uprooted Texan:

I've recently been watching a show on Netflix called "Rake." It's a legal dramedy from Australia and the first episode has the main character defending a man (played by Hugo Weaving) accused of killing and eating his victim. As it turns out, the guy killed himself by overdosing on sleeping pills and was eaten by the accused after he died (which oddly enough is not a crime in New South Wales).

After the game ended and the score was final, the first thought I had was, "Maybe that dead guy might've been onto something."

Because holy hell this game made me want to die.

Our vaunted defense couldn't get any pressure on Blake Bortles, couldn't stop Leonard Fournette, and at times simply looked flat out lost on the field.

Tom Savage proved to be worse than advertised. I swear to you, I so badly wanted to give Tom Savage the benefit of the doubt. But at some point he would have to do something to justify cutting him some slack, and there was just nothing. He held onto the ball too long. He gave up some seriously bad passes. On the fumble that essentially ended the half, I literally cackled for a solid 30 seconds.

Granted, a lot of that can be laid at the feet of the offensive line, which gave up 10(!) sacks on the day. On the off chance that Rick Smith reads this blog, in the name of all that is good and holy, give Duane Brown whatever he wants. He won't fix all the offensive line's problems, but anything is better than whatever we saw today. Also, I'm not sure how seeing Breno Giacomini on the field hasn't given me an aneurysm, but I'm grateful it hasn't yet.

Add all that to the myriad injuries and concussions that the Texans suffered today, it just made for miserable watching.

The one good side is that in the half that Deshaun Watson was playing, he looked like he belonged out there. He looked really good in stretches between really bad plays, which led to turnovers. That's not saying a lot, but it's encouraging to see that we might actually have a franchise quarterback once he shakes off all the rookie mistakes.

As for the rest of the game...it never happened.

Diehard Chris:

This was the worst loss of the Bill O’Brien era. There really is no debate. Yes, there were the two road losses in Miami and Atlanta a few years back, and those were no-doubt low points, but with full context applied, there’s no question the worst was the absolute turd we witnessed yesterday.

Now actually typing that thought out, it really is an obvious take. I saw the game in-person yesterday and as you know - you miss a lot (or at least I do) when you are in the stadium, so I’ll save any “analysis” for after I watch the TV copy (I will never do this).

My pregame thoughts on this were - the Texans’ defense is going to get some sacks, sure - but I was worried the Jags would feast on Houston’s offensive line. That said, I didn’t think it would be near enough for the Jags to actually win the game. I’ll be very interested to see how the Jaguars trend on both sides of the ball in the next few weeks. Are they that good? Are we THAT bad?? Ugh.

Please, I’ll take the blue pill.

Tim:

Cheery prediction aside, I didn’t expect the Texans’ offense to come out on fire yesterday. The concerns about Tom Savage and the offensive line were well documented. I never, however, thought they’d be as bad as they were. I thought Savage more often than not actually did a decent job stepping up and away from pressure on the first series or two. He got absolutely no help from his receivers early, as they dropped passes like it was going out of style. The offensive line was on skates from the first snap until the last.

As the first half progressed, Savage got worse. He seemed oblivious to pressure at times. Granted, that pressure often arrived instantaneously after the snap. Whether Savage couldn’t get through his progressions or was incapable of doing so because the pass protection kept failing, the offense was entirely nonfunctional. I can understand why Bill O’Brien made the switch to Deshaun Watson at halftime, even though I didn’t think it would happen after O’Brien had expressed regret about how he handled the infamous Brian Hoyer benching in the first quarter of the regular season opener two years ago.

That said, why did it come to that? How did O’Brien not have a better handle on his offensive line and quarterback situations? Was it simply that the Jaguars’ defense surprised him? None of the answers to those questions inspire confidence in the Texans’ head coach.

Speaking of surprises, the most shocking thing to me about yesterday wasn’t the system-wide failure of the offense. It was how the Texans’ defense was rendered wholly ineffective by an offense that has Blake Bortles at quarterback. For all the praise heaped on the Texans’ front seven, they didn’t have any real success. J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus...how many times did you hear their names? Even in an offense that was clearly designed to minimize Bortles’ ability to lose the game for them, how does this team get through a game against Jacksonville without a single sack and what seemed like nary a pressure? That’s before we even get to players in the secondary like Kevin Johnson, who was targeted early and often by Jacksonville before having one of the more embarrassing missed tackles of Leonard Fournette we’re likely to see this year.

I’m not sure if what happened at NRG Stadium yesterday was worse than the eggs laid against the Chiefs in the playoffs or on the road against Atlanta and Miami in 2015. What I do know is that the team we saw yesterday had better be an aberration—and it surely could be, as the Texans have shown an ability to bounce back under Bill O’Brien—or we’re headed for a wretched season without even the promise of a high draft pick at the end of it. I’m doing my best to hold off on overreacting for now, as it was only a single game, but what we saw yesterday was so heinous that it’s tough to find much to feel good about at the moment.