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Houston Beat New England Without Bill O’Brien’s Trade Acquisitions

We can win without them.

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Texans are 3-3 since firing Bill O’Brien, and they put on a performance last Sunday that was beyond anything we’ve seen this season. Any win against New England, even if Tom Brady isn’t their quarterback, feels like a pivotal victory. After posting their worst offensive performance of the season against the Browns, the Texans finally opened up the offense and unleashed Deshaun Watson. It was crisp, effective, and consistent. Noticeably, the run game wasn’t a factor; i was completely abandoned.

You know what else wasn’t a factor this game? Almost every player the Texans acquired via Bill O’Brien’s trades. It’s wildly agreed upon that what the Texans gave in the trades are much worse than what they received. Unfortunately, the lack of production the Texans have received in return make the trades appear even more one-sided. That said, he Texans hardly benefited from any of the players they received in recent trades in their win over the Patriots.

Laremy Tunsil was a scratch this week due to a non-COVID related illness. The 2019 Pro Bowler missed his first game of the season but was hardly missed. Roderick Johnson subbed in at left tackle and played the best game of his career. You’d expect when the highest paid offensive lineman is out that the entire offensive line would struggle, but for the first time this season, the Texans didn’t allow a sack.

As Texans fans know, Houston pretty much traded two first round picks and a second round pick for Tunsil and Kenny Stills. Stills has been less than advertised in his short career in Houston. After his great catch in Week 1 against the Saints last year and a wide open catch against the Chiefs in the NFL Playoffs in January, Stills has not been a factor in the offense. Before an injury took him out of the game, Stills hadn’t caught a pass. Stills only has 11 catches on the season for 144 yards. As of publication of this post, both Rams receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp have each matched all of Stills’ 2020 production in one game.

To not only trade the foreseeable future away but to not need the players they received in a blockbuster trade to beat the Patriots is all you need to know to understand the disaster that the Tunsil trade was. I completely understand that the Texans needed to protect Watson and give him more weapons, but they haven’t been that effective and the tuition for their services has been too high.

The only O’Brien trade acquisition that redeemed himself against New England was Brandin Cooks. Cooks has finally become comfortable with the offense, though it took him half the season to do so. After being acquired from the LA Rams for a second round pick, Cooks was slated to become the Texans’ perennial WR1. Cooks did have a good game and recorded the most yards against the Pats, but he was nothing more than a solid option; he didn’t do anything spectacular outside of one long catch.

Another O’Brien trade addition, the prize of the Jadeveon Clowney trade, Jacob Martin, has been vanilla the entire season. Out for a few weeks under COVID guidelines, Martin saw a return to action on Sunday that wasn’t anything to gawk over. He recorded two tackles playing half the total defensive snaps. Most of the game, he was dropping back into hook zones. He was touted to be the pass rushing threat the Texans desperately needed, but the Texans have occasionally found other ways to get to the quarterback. Even if not signing Clowney to a big extension was a smart move, Martin has produced next to nothing for the Texans.

Duke Johnson, who O’Brien acquired for a third rounder in the 2020 NFL Draft, had a miserable day running the ball. As mentioned above, the Texans abandoned the run on Sunday; it was simply not working. The holes weren’t there to begin with, and Johnson was incapable of breaking any tackles. The backup running back has been playing fast in comparison to David Johnson, but the promise of a third round pick, especially one that could of been a running back with long-term success, is a tough proposition.

It’s safe to say the trade for DeAndre Hopkins has not gone as hoped for the Texans. Shocker! Ross Blacklock has taken his time this season to develop. He was the pick the Texans received for trading Hopkins. Blacklock played the third-least snaps on the defense and didn’t record a single tackle.

David Johnson. Imagine walking into a situation like this. For all that he has to bear, Johnson hasn’t held up his end of the bargain. Now, he’s on Injured Reserve with a concussion. I wrote an article a while back about how the Texans shouldn’t draft a running back because there isn’t much difference in production regardless of the quality. To that point, the trade for Johnson was a clear disaster because Houston didn’t receive a production bump based on the quality of the running back. With Johnson potentially out for a couple more weeks, his value drops immensely. The trade looks worse and worse.

Not to mention players like Gareon Conley, who has yet to play this year; Barkevious Mingo, who is playing well in Chicago with an actual defensive role; Charlie Heck; and Keion Crossen. The fruit of O’Brien’s trades has been rotten and spoiled. It’s obvious that he made poor trades, but what is now obvious is that the Texans don’t even need them to win.