The Houston Texans have to get something in their final three games from rookie talent on this team.
Ross Blacklock and Jonathan Greenard haven't had solid rookie campaigns, but there is a clear path to salvaging some of their first years as professional football players.
Unfortunately, in our opinion, the Texans coaching staff has had a hand in holding these players back in 2020. Bill O'Brien's mantra in the offseason was "rookies don't know anything." Additionally, the transition to the NFL for young players was already hard - and the pandemic exasperated it.
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Interim coach Romeo Crennel, and by extension his former understudy defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver, have been reluctant to play the first two draft picks for Houston.
Crennel has multiple times explained playing time is the quickest way for players to get better.
"I mean, rookies have to get playing time," he said when he was asked about two rookies from the Colts. "When they get playing time, they get better."
He was, however, quick to put a caveat on the youngsters getting playing time, though.
Said Crennel: "Now, when do they get that playing time? When can they get that playing time? It varies from team to team and from ability to ability ... What we do is we put what we think are the best guys on the field to give us the best chance.
"Now, I mean, everybody doesn’t agree with that but that’s what we do."
Crennel is right: everybody doesn't agree ... because we believe the Texans are doing it wrong.
The wins and losses do no matter to this team. There is no draft spot to improve. There is little to no chance any of these coaches are retained. Doing right by the fans and assisting, even in the slightest, the future? That should be the charge of this staff.
Ross Blacklock, selected 40th overall, was picked with the draft selection acquired in the DeAndre Hopkins trade, so there is naturally an added bit of scrutiny on him. Let's ignore that extra element and compare him to his peers in the second round.
Tee Higgins (33rd), Michael Pittman (34th), Laviska Shenault (42nd), K.J. Hamler (46th), and Chase Claypool (49th) are all impact wide receivers this season. Jonathan Taylor (41st) and Cam Akers (52nd) are the main running backs for their teams. Antoine Winfield Jr. (45th) and Jeremy Chinn (64th) start at safety and have impressed pretty much from the jump.
The Texans relegated Blacklock to a spot in the rotation along the defensive line from the start of the season. Carlos Watkins, finally playing in his fourth year in the NFL, got more snaps than him. Veteran Brandon Dunn out-snapped Blacklock. Watkins is a free agent at the end of the year. Dunn is injured.
The time to play Blacklock is now.
Jonathan Greenard was the sacks leader in the SEC last season. He was a terror in the toughest conference in all of college football. Sure, he was hobbled to start the year, but since being healthy he hasn't played as much as he should.
Brennan Scarlett was an O'Brien favorite, but even his injury didn't immediately mean regular snaps for Greenard. Whitney Mercilus has recorded zero tackles in the past two games. Coaches can spare fans the conversation about "things that don't show up in the box score" from Mercilus' games. Fans have eyes.
There is little benefit to playing the veterans over the rookies at this point, especially Blacklock and Greenard, who were the premium selections for the Texans in 2020. Even if the players with experience provide a slight overall increase in the potential of the defense, seeing if there is potential in the rookies is more important the franchise.
It is not important to be marginally better, if that is even the case, for three more games. What is imperative is the Houston Texans find out about players who can be key contributors in 2021 and beyond. By not doing so? It won't be the rookies who "know nothing''; it'll be their coaches.