The Texans traded Jadeveon Clowney for a third round pick, Barkevious Mingo, and Jacob Martin, and sent along $7 million for him to play with Seattle. Whitney Mercilus had to match Jadeveon Clowney’s pass rush production from last season to prevent this season from being disastrous. Week in and week out he and J.J. Watt had to dismantle pass protections together to aid a secondary facing the majority of the best passing offenses in the league.
So far, this has happened. He had the only sack on Drew Brees last week, aided by a D.J. Reader earthquake that collapsed on the pocket, and added another quarterback hit on top of that. Yesterday he improved upon his week one performance. He was dominant. Mercilus had 2 sacks, 2 tackles for a loss, 2 forced fumbles, one was recovered by Watt, and 3 quarterback hits.
This is occurring after a 2018 dip. Last season he had 20+ quarterback pressures, but they felt empty, without the sack and quarterback hits totals and meaningful rushes. Can you even remember an impactful Mercilus play in 2018? The only thing my firing neurons can dig up is a Divisional Round sack ruined by a holding penalty.
Health is a major reason for the bounce back. Mercilus was still recovering from a torn pectoral in 2018. Yet, the scheme is the biggest reason why he’s playing like he is. Romeo Crennel didn’t utilize either Clowney or Watt much on the interior last season, aside from tossing Clowney like a flash bang to obliterate the center of the line of scrimmage, and then sending the rest of the horde afterwards to clear out the room. They predominantly played on the edge. Watt was fragile and preserved obliterating the league’s worst offensive tackles in one v. one situations as their right defensive end. Clowney played opposite of him on the outside shoulder of left tackles. This pushed Mercilus way out wide to a position that doesn’t suit his skill set. He’s not a speed rush and bend guy. He’s a close combat hand fighter who engages in brutal fist fights. The majority of his rushes led to him deep in the pocket and unable to turn the corner.
This season he’s Houston’s best defensive player. Yesterday he did the things Watt typically does by obliterating offensive drives on his own, something monumental in a low scoring 13-12 slug race. Matched up close against left tackle Will Richardson Jr. he was able to set up his devastating spin move with a flurry of punch swats and rips around the corner. He was tremendous in isolation, and made the high impact plays required for Houston to emerge from this game victorious by one point, which in this context, comes out to three inches.
It was even more vital considering what was going on opposite of him. J.J. Watt had another down game. Last week he was locked down by Ryan Ramcyzk. This was understandable. Ramcyzk is one of the best right tackles in the game, masterfully timed his punches, and met Watt to the point of attack to defuse anything he could come up. This week he struggled against rookie Jawaan Taylor. This is concerning, and this is coming from someone who said Taylor was the fourth best tackle in this class, an instant starting right tackle, and worthy of a first round pick. Taylor was able to turn his edge rushers wide and drive him past the quarterback. He neutralized Watt’s bulrush. Watt was able to have a little success on inside moves, one of which was stopped by grappling, counteracted only by an earlier dubious holding penalty called on Taylor. So far it’s been an uneventful season from one of the greatest to ever do it.
Watt’s on the decline of his career. Edge rushers typically peak at age 26. Watt has climbed the mountain and is on the way down. The body is doomed by time. The Texans have been able to scrape out 1-1 with Mercilus, not Watt, being the best aspect of the defense. Like last season, it’s going to require Watt and someone else to carry a defense that lacks another pass rusher, and an above average secondary. This is going to be vital when they aren’t playing checkdown cowards like Gardner Mishnew and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Hopefully Watt can get it going soon, and the decline is slower because of the peak its traveling from, because Mercilus, as good as he’s been, can’t do this all on his own.
Lets check in on the 0-1 Jaguars. Jalen Ramsey vs Doug Marrone? Oh pic.twitter.com/hJ7oe2XyAP— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) September 15, 2019
The talent on the Texans roster is capable of greatness, which was demonstrated in bursts last week. Houston needs a new OC and DC who won’t play down to the opponent. Plain and simple. RAC needs to announce his retirement, and O’Brien needs to never manage another offensive series.
The Texans came out slow and sloppy in all three phases like they had been drinking all night, and they remained ineffective throughout the game. That’s on the coaches to have them ready. They will get blown off the field next week at the Chargers if they repeat today’s performance.
The “ColonGuard” commercials were a perfect advertisement for this game broadcast, which was essentially “poop in a box.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Romeo Crennel will take a lot of heat. Some of it is deserved, but he’s also been dealt an ugly hand. Today, it was clear that Gardnew Minshew was targeting Jonathan Joseph early and often, and there’s not much Crennel can do about a “front office” that didn’t do a heckuva lot to help his secondary in the off-season.
In fact, I wonder how much the poor play call on the two point conversion was because it appeared that DJ Chark was hurt on his TD catch. Chark was not on the field for the two pointer. You cannot run the ball against the Texans, and if even by an inch, they will stop you. Terrible play call by Doug Marrone.
That said, mad props to Whitney Mercilus for a fantastic game, and Jacob Martin looks like a very good prospect. We haven’t had a speed and bend kind of pass rusher for a while now, but Martin has that ability.
On the offensive side of the ball? Yeesh. Deshaun Watson looked off all day, but between the clock management and lack of aggressive play-calling, it was a disaster. When you have guys like Watson and DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller on your team, there is no reason to keep giving Carlos Hyde the rock. Bill O’Brien, once again, played for a tie against a team that should have been motorboated back to Jacksonville.
Bill O'Brien defends not using his other two timeouts on the last drive of the first half. pic.twitter.com/s8MkyDC3YF— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) September 15, 2019
That was an ugly game. Someone has said it before but it seems to be a hallmark of BOB teams that they play down to the level of competition. Throw in the usual slow start (I think it’s safe to say last week against the Saints was an anomaly) and this could’ve been a classic trap game. Sure, division games are normally a little tighter, but the Jags looked really bad against the Chiefs, and the Texans looked pretty good in Week 1.
The offense went back to running the ball to the point of futility and the passing game just couldn’t get off the ground. Credit to Carlos Hyde for looking like a competent running back though. Deshaun looks like he’s already suffering from the amount of hits he’s taking this season. The O-line looked mediocre at best and if Tunsil misses any time with an ankle injury, we could see a repeat of last year where Deshaun had to run for his life and play hero ball just to survive.
The defense held fast against a rookie QB whose mustache was taken more seriously than the actual player. Whitney Mercilus had a great game and looks to be returning to serious pass-rushing threat again. That spin move he used on his 4th quarter strip-sack was a thing of beauty. The secondary played well for most of the game but got torched in the 4th as the Jaguars made a comeback attempt. Minshew kind of picked them apart as he helped the Jags score the final touchdown of the game. If the secondary doesn’t find a way to improve, and fast, this could end up being a long season.
Thanks to Doug Marrone for helping us keep the W by trying to run Fournette up the middle on a 2-pt conversion. Now, I think I’ll go wash my memory by watching some football that actually looks fun.
AAAHHHHEEEEOOOUUUGGHH I DON’T KNOW JIM
This game was so dull, but a win is a win. Just like I don’t want to give the Texans too much credit for playing the Saints so well in week 1 but still losing, I’m not going to be over the top with criticism for an ugly win. The team of course is somewhere in between. They look very much like the team they are - a 1-1 .500-level team. I was disappointed to see Keke Coutee not play a more prominent role, and Deshaun was very off on this day. Disappointing when you recall how masterful he was in week one.
The Texans are mere inches (and maybe a replay angle) away from being 0-2, and it doesn’t get any easier next week against the Chargers. I felt like there were a few moments in the win where the offensive line showed some real improvement. Deshaun didn’t do himself any favors on a few of the sacks, though. He’s still clearly getting hit way too much, but I’m hoping they are starting to build some momentum as a unit. We’ll see if the Texans can string two weeks together with the same starting five on the O-Line next week.