The Rundown: A Closer Look at the Houston Texans 3rd Preseason Game

Patrick D. Starr

The Houston Texans played their 3rd game of the preseason against the Los Angeles Rams and came away with their first loss. The Texans lost 21-20, although the team had a chance to win on a late field goal attempt by Nick Rose. Even though the starters played limited series, there are plenty of take aways coming out of the last preseason showing for the starters heading toward week one.

Here are some thoughts from the Texans loss against the Rams.

Deshaun Watson

Saturday’s showing was a complete 180 from Deshaun Watson’s work last week against the San Francisco 49ers. Going 3-of-6 for 15 yards and a touchdown against the Rams, Watson looked under control but he just could not get it going through the air. Watson said in his post-game presser that his interception was like a punt, but on 2nd and 10, that is not a throw that you want to make, especially as Ellington was blanketed with two defenders. Watson will have to cut out those types of mistakes and he is going to have to get help from receivers like Ellington, who dropped a 3rd down pass on the opening drive.

Offensive Line

Starters Julien Davenport, Senio Kelemete, Nick Martin, Zach Fulton, and Kendall Lamm looked okay in their time as a group on the field. They opened up some holes and protected Deshaun Watson, allowing one quarterback hit on a pass that Watson should have let fly way before the pressure arrived. The biggest issue was how offensive tackles struggled with speed rushers off the edge. Davenport and Lamm are little heavy footed and it showed as both were called for holding. The group was tested some with the E-T and T-E stunts, a Wade Phillips defense likes to run, which led to some good work for the group.

Braxton Miller Solidifying his Spot

With Will Fuller out for the game due to a hamstring injury suffered earlier in the week, Braxton Miller started opposite of DeAndre Hopkins. That was a big turn of events for many who have already been signaling the end for the third year wide receiver, but with all the roster decisions coming down, it is hard to see Miller’s time with the Texans coming to an end. He had 3 receptions for 26 yards, plus a touchdown reception. Versed in all three wide receiver spots, Miller is an important piece to the offense given his ability to jump in at any wide receiver spot, allowing the Texans to continue to run their offense with little disruption. It was a good showing for Miller who made catches when given an opportunity.

Martinas Rankin’s First Appearance

Saturday saw the first real game action for rookie Martians Rankin, who has missed the majority of training camp with a foot injury. Rankin worked at both left tackle and left guard on Saturday, looking lost on a few plays, one of which led to pressure getting to Brandon Weeden which led to Weeden rushing a throw, which led to an interception. However, when he was dialed in, Rankin showed good feet in pass pro and that he can clear the way in the run game. All things considered, it was a good showing for Rankin and now he has to continue putting good practices together before the start of the season.

Three Rookie Free Agents Making Noise

Every year, rookie free agents start developing faster than most expect and that is exactly what Andre Chachere, Vyncint Smith, and Jester Weah are doing heading into the final week of the preseason. Chachere is showing that he can handle both outside cornerback and the “Star” position. He has shown some coverage ability and the willingness to be physical when needed. Both Smith and Weah show that each can catch the football when it is thrown his way, with Smith being more of a vertical threat and Weah a big-bodied possession receiver. All three have had rookie hiccups, but they have shown they can handle what is thrown to them on the field.

Great throw. Great catch.@JoeWebb_14 ➡️ @vyncintsmithpic.twitter.com/U2GOVj8rn3

— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) August 25, 2018

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Trying to Wake up Dee Virgin

The Texans defensive staff keeps pushing cornerback Dee Virgin to make plays and has been actively giving him opportunities to put his plays on tape. Virgin has shown that he is inconsistent on the field and that is both in coverage and tackling. With the depth chart open at cornerback, the Texans have been giving Virgin every chance to get his game right. It has not been the best preseason for Virgin to this point.

Consistency Needed from Bruce Ellington

The Texans primary slot wide receiver needs to work on being more consistent from that spot as Ellington dropped a third down thrown from Deshaun Watson in Saturday’s game,. Sure the pass could have been in a better spot but it hit Ellington in the hands and he has to pull that in. This makes two weeks in a row that Ellington has dropped passes and in his last 9 targets, he has dropped 3. He showed last week that he can make big plays but then he has those moments where he struggles. A veteran like Ellington needs to start putting it together or it is just a matter of time before Keke Coutee takes over at the slot.

Inside Linebackers

This is more about inside linebacker coach Bobby King and the job he has done with the entire group. Now in his second season as inside linebacker coach, King has his group playing the way the position should be played: downhill and attacking ball carriers. This is especially seen with the play of Zach Cunningham, Dylan Cole, and Brian Peters this preseason. The inside group is talented and King is finding ways to help them perform at an even higher level heading into the 2018 season.

J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney

Watching their first work of the season, the edge duo had a good showing, demonstrating their speed and power. At different times, both showed their inside moves, used to eat up ball carriers for only a short gain, and both showed their ability to lock out linemen and tight ends to control the line of scrimmage. Additionally, the team utilized sets where Romeo Crennel put Watt and Clowney next to each other and then put Tyrann Mathieu outside of Watt. This is even without Whitney Mercilus, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury all preseason but will be available at the start of the season. These four leaders give the team the opportunity to show so many more looks to opposing offenses.

Kareem Jackson

Jackson has had an impressive preseason, during which he has not only bought into the position change but played extensive snaps when other starters were out of the game. On Saturday, he picked off a Sean Mannion pass, under-cutting a crossing route which is a great sign that Jackson understands his role in the defense. He has shown that he can play both man and zone defense, even though a receiver dropped a pass in his hands. Teamed with Mathieu and Justin Reid, the safety group is in the best spot it has been in a long time.

Texans Need Help

The Texans still have needs to address especially at running back and cornerback. The Texans look comfortable with Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue making the roster but they need another back who can help out until D’Onta Foreman returns from injury. As for cornerback, the Texans have three they can trust, while Johnson Bademosi is more of a special teams player. The team worked out Kayvon Webster on Sunday (who they signed) to see whether he could be an option for the roster, so it is clear the Texans know they have an issue there.

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