While it was pretty obvious the Detroit Lions are probably not going to be a threat to the Green Bay Packers this year, based on how each team played the Houston Texans so far, the Lions are still a professional football franchise filled with professional players and coaches. And Houston beat ‘em. So take that, Motor City!
During the game, there were several things that really stood out as reasons to be excited for the Texans’ upcoming campaign against the world of pro ball. Here are the top five.
5. The Houston Texans’ Offensive Line
While some have taken the level of praise to outlandish, unbelievable places, including a whole Twitter dust-up about how great the protection was on one play despite the fact that the Lions only rushed three, not having Matt Kalil on the field really seemed to help the Texans o-line. Roderick Johnson filled in - you know, the guy everyone has been talking about as the savior of the Texans’ o-line leading up to this game - no... wait...
The 2017 fifth round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns was certainly not on anyone’s radar as a competent option to replace the overpriced Kalil, but he stepped in Saturday night and did just that. At this point, Houston should be looking for a way to dump Kalil and give his salary to Jadeveon Clowney, who does more to improve Houston’s pass protection despite the fact that he’s not even with the team or on offense.
Number 4: Bradley Roby Has Come to Play
When gauging players, the x-factors are often hard to quantify yet easy to spot - even though many don’t always know what they’re seeing, just that they’re seeing something awesome. Bradley Roby is showing us something awesome right now. In the online gaming community, people would call Roby a “try hard”... the kind of player who never takes a second off and drives to win at all costs. Roby has a nose for the ball, closing speed like no other Texans cornerback in recent memory, and zeal that will hopefully motivate the rest of the secondary to get after it.
If Roby’s inertia carries into the season and he continues to grow, he might just be Pro Bowl bound.
Number 3: UDFA Austin Exford
Every year the Texans seem to strike gold in the undrafted free agent pool, most notably with former All-Pro running back Arian Foster. While Appalachian State product Austin Exford may not be the next Foster, especially since he’s a defensive back and not a running back, it was hard not to notice him Saturday. Whenever Exford was on the field, he was around the ball. While he only had four total tackles, 3threeof them were assists, which means he clearly gets the “here come the reinforcements” mantra defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel preaches. Exford probably won’t crack the starting defense, but there’s a good chance if he keeps going like this he’ll sneak onto the roster through the special teams door.
Number 2: Speaking of Special Teams...
Signing special teams coordinator Brad Seely might just be the Texans’ best ever coaching hire. Ok, maybe not, in light of guys like Wade Phillips, Gary Kubiak and Romeo Crennel, but what Seely has managed to do with Houston’s special teams units is amazing. Long a weakness of the team, Seely has turned his area into a serious strength for the team, and it showed against the Lions. Players routinely swarmed the ball carrier on kick coverage and opened holes for the return men. Let’s not forget last year’s special teams MVP, Ka’imi Fairbairn, who was perfect when it came to field goals inside 40 yards last season. He also led the league in most points scored with 150 (ALL HAIL THE ALL FIELD GOAL OFFENSE!)
Seely managed to give the Texans the second best average starting position last season. If he can improve on that, it will go a long way toward helping Deshaun Watson and the offense overcome a much tougher schedule this year. Watching the special teams against the Lions indicated they’re not only better than last year, but still improving. With the addition of one home run threat returner, this unit could potentially be historically great. I can’t believe I just typed that...
Number 1: Tytus Howard and Max Scharping
While the knee-jerk reaction is disappointment that Houston missed out on Andre Dillard, Jonah Williams and other higher ranked, pro-ready offensive linemen, both Howard and Scharping were top ten prospects according to Walter Football. So far, each has shown that tough work ethic, a desire to be the best teammate they can be, and all the other things Bill O’Brien’s culture looks for in a player. Is either one as polished as Dillard or Williams? Not yet. Is either one going to be the next Duane Brown? Mmm... the Magic 8-Ball says “Reply Hazy, Try Again.”
However, it’s easy to confirm that both appear to have a huge upside. While neither might be the Pro Bowl level guys Houston needs in 2019, having them grow with Deshaun Watson over the next 5-10 years should pay huge dividends.
The tight end corps is so deep even guys that never get talked about are disrespecting the opponents. Case in point:
Not sure it’s possible to watch that enough. Someone should make a GIF of that akin to the DeAndre Hopkins spin move one from the Dallas game last year.
Ok, there’s the RZP Top Five. What’s yours?