Looking at the bright side of things is always easier following a win. Yet, we are doing the same following every game no matter what the end result is. The name of the game for the Houston Texans this season is to find building blocks for the future. Most of these guys won’t be on the field when the Texans win their next playoff game, but some of them will be.
Of course, the reverse is also true. In order to get to that playoff game, the Texans will need to identify those guys that just aren’t good enough to cut it. They did this last year with the likes of most of their secondary and it has paid immediate dividends this season. Lonnie Johnson is gone. Eric Murray has hardly seen the field. The overall improved play can’t be a coincidence.
Week Five Top Five
Desmond King— 84.9
Christian Kirksey— 77.7
Nico Collins— 77.0
Laremy Tunsil— 76.6
Rasheem Green— 75.3
The name of the game is sample size. When we include enough weeks and enough numbers overall they begin to make sense. For instance, when we see the same names appear multiple times we begin to notice some trends. Week five is a good time to begin noticing those trends. For instance, King, Collins, and Tunsil have been in the top five multiple times. Maybe there is something to this.
Seeing Kirksey and Green in the top five might or might not mean anything. We can hope that Kirksey’s presence here might be a positive sign for the linebackers, but we will see other indications later. As for Green, this is just another example of seeing the collection of veteran defensive ends all produce something. They probably won’t all perform well at the same time, but if each does enough at different times it might be enough for overall improvement.
Biggest Offensive Improvement— Nico Collins
Nico Collins went from the 50th best wide receiver according to PFF to the 36th best following the week five win. More importantly, that improvement wasn’t hidden. He made a couple of huge catches that show what is possible if everything is going right. Collins isn’t ready to be the focal point of an offense yet, but he is showing that he can be a viable second receiver on a good team.
Biggest Offensive Tumble— O.J. Howard
This is literally true as he fell from the 30th ranking to the 53rd ranking according to PFF, but this has to be taken with a grain of salt. The tight ends have been significant contributors every week and as long as that continues to be true we can excuse any individual tight end taking a backseat. Jordan Akins (the big contributor this week) has not played enough yet to be considered a regular yet. We assume that will happen if he continues to get significant playing time.
Biggest Defensive Improvement— Christian Kirksey
There are any number of performers that could go here. In particular Desmond King and Rasheem Green were also significant performers. Kirksey went from 50th to 34th amongst linebackers, so he barely edges the other two. In particular, the linebackers have come under scrutiny and he deserves credit for lifting his play to meet the challenge. With every solid performance he has the look of someone that can stick as at least a rotational player on a good defense.
Biggest Defensive Tumble— Kamu Grugier-Hill
This one is a bit tricky. He “only” tumbled four slots, so he is not literally the furthest faller. Roy Lopez fell more, but Hill went down only four slots because that’s all he can fall. He is literally dead-ass last amongst qualified linebackers. Christian Harris is probably going to be activated for week seven and it isn’t a moment too soon. If he can play even close to Kirksey’s level then it will be a vast improvement for this defense. Either way, upgrading over Hill will be a key priority in the offseason.
The Mills Report
Davis Mills fell one slot after Sunday maintaining his 70.0 grade for the season. He is now the 14th ranked quarterback amongst those qualifying according to PFF. I’m not sure what is going into this grade. It certainly isn’t his escapability. His two yards rushing is the lowest on the planet. It certainly isn’t his accuracy, big plays, or decision making either. Maybe they are seeing something we aren’t. If we are being charitable, we could say there are definitely starting quarterbacks that are worse. Baker Mayfield just got his coach fired, Marcus Mariota, and Justin Fields have looked awful in the early going. So, saying Mills belongs somewhere in the middle is probably an accurate statement.