Welcome back to another year of Houston Texans football. Last year, we began a tradition in this space of looking at the basic numbers from the previous game and tracking them over the course of the season. We begin to see trends good and bad. Those trends become predictors of success and failure.
Since this is the preseason, this will look a little bit different. During the season, the Texans are the good guys and the other tram are the bad guys. In this situation, players from your own roster are fighting with each other for playing time and a spot on the roster. There are 90 guys. That will become 53 guys after the third preseason game. So, we will look at not only the good, the bad, and the ugly but also winners and losers on both offense and defense.
Total Yards: Texans (265), Patriots (164)
Total Plays: Texans (61), Patriots (49)
Yards Per Play: Texans (4.34), Patriots (3.35)
Rushing Yards: Texans (89), Patriots (78)
Rushing Attempts: Texans (30), Patriots (25)
Yards Per Rush: Texans (2.97), Patriots (3.12)
Passing Yards: Texans (176), Patriots (86)
Passing Attempts: Texans (31), Patriots (24)
Yards Per Drop Back: Texans (5.68), Patriots (3.58)
Penalties: Texans 3/30, Patriots 5/41
Sacks: Texans 3, Patriots 1
Turnovers: Texans 2, Patriots 0
Time of Possession: Texans 32:28, Patriots 27:58
Often times, the numbers in the preseason games really don’t tell the story. If you watch the game you will end up being bored out of your mind, but you will pick up on little things that the numbers won’t tell you. The Texans dominated this football game from a physical standpoint for most of the game. Obviously, there were some notable exceptions, but the takeaway based on one game is either that the Texans are very much improved or the Patriots are one of the worst teams in the NFL. Both could be true at the same time.
When you look at a preseason game you can get a really good idea about a team’s relative depth. Ones take on ones, twos take on twos, and threes take on threes. The Texans defense dominated throughout the majority of the game. Malik Cunningham gained 34 yards on five carries in garbage time. So, if we take his numbers off the top we see that the Patriots gained 44 yards on 20 carries. That’s 2.2 yards per carry.
The defense was swarming the ball and tackling better than at any point last season. It didn’t particularly matter if it was the first string, second string, or third string guys. There will be some tough cuts on the defensive end and some of those guys will be playing on Sunday for someone else. That’s a huge turnaround from last season. Last season there would be cuts from other teams that would suddenly get real playing time for the Texans.
When you are looking for areas of depth you look at what happens when the ones leave and the twos come in. Laremy Tunsil, Shaq Mason, and Tytus Howard were not playing in this game. Obviously, it is hard to gain a lot of insight into what Sundays will look like but we do know that if any of those guys go down, the Texans could be in a world of hurt.
If you take away garbage time you’ll notice that the offensive line struggled to sustain open lanes for the running backs. Mike Boone had 25 yards on four carries. Otherwise, it was ugly for the Texans in terms of running the football. Again, when you have three starting linemen out then you really can’t gather too much from that except for the fact that you really need to work on your depth.
I spent this space last season talking about how bad Davis Mills was. In order to have some intellectual integrity I have to call out C.J. Stroud. Stroud had a rough go of it in his first game. He stared down a receiver and threw an interception early and also struggled under pressure.
If the first team offensive line was all in, it likely would have been a different result, but the Patriots clearly have a decent first team defense. Most of the Texans first string took the night off. So, we shouldn’t read too much into what we saw on Thursday night, but Stroud didn’t mince words either.
The clear winner from Thursday night’s game was Tank Dell. He showed that they need to find a way to get him on the field as often as possible. That might even mean that guys like Nico Collins and Robert Woods take a step back. When he wasn’t making catches and running after the catch he was getting wide open. He will be a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands. The Texans haven’t had a player this dynamic in quite awhile.
The third running back battle isn’t a sexy one. As long as Dameon Pierce and Devin Singletary are healthy then these guys aren’t going to get a ton of carries. Dare Ogunbowale didn’t run well and had a key fumble in the first half. Mike Boone appears to be the leader in the clubhouse, but there are probably two guys now between Ogunbowale and Boone. He will need to perform really well against the Dolphins to avoid getting thrown out on the street.