Are the Texans a sleeper?
It’s been an eventful week in the NFL. We had big moves on the trade deadline and the first head coach to bite the dust. We all heard in the lead up to Tuesday that some names were on the trading block, so even if it wasn’t a surprise who moved, a few of them ended up in interesting locations.
The podcast excellently broke down the Cleveland and Golden Tate situations, so I want to talk about Demaryius Thomas going to the Texans. I love this move for them for a couple of reasons.
One thing that was on my mind after their Thursday night football dismantling of the Dolphins, was how much would Will Fuller going down hurt them? Obviously, DeAndre Hopkins is a future Hall of Famer and a Top 5 receiver. He’ll get his yards and TDs regardless of how much coverage he draws. He’s that type of player that will always be able to go and get it if it’s thrown up to him, even when it’s not thrown right at him. That catch was a thing of beauty even if it didn’t count. You can’t have enough weapons though and the more players you have to spread the ball around the more it opens up the field for your elite talents and the more it forces defences to pick their poison.
Before Watson went down last season, he had built a great connection with Fuller; connecting for 7 TDs in just 4 games (remember Fuller missed the first 3 games of the season). Coming off the type of injury that he did it was always going to take a few games to get back into a rhythm with his receivers but Fuller remained a bit of a security blanket for Watson, catching a TD in each of the first 3 games that he started (after missing week 1). A bit of a drop off followed but they were back in business again against the Dolphins with 125 yards and a TD. Watson looked back to his best, carving up Miami for 5 TD passes in total, connecting regularly with both Fuller and Hopkins.
The news then came that Fuller had torn his ACL and was done for the year. With Coutee also missing the game against the Dolphins, the receiving core was beginning to look a bit thin and lacking depth behind Hopkins. The Texans defence is top 10 in both points per game and yards per game allowed, so if they start firing on offence they could be a dangerous team to come up against in the playoffs.
That’s why I love this move, adding Demaryius Thomas instantly gives them a 1-2 punch at receiver that needs to be respected by opposing defences. Thomas has had some issues with drops but I believe he is still a special player and capable of turning it round. He has also suffered a little bit from the play at QB in Denver.
The Texans are a good situation for him because Thomas doesn’t have to be a field stretching, deep threat, in Houston. Thomas can still be really effective in the screen game, running slants and anything that allows him to use his physical skills to make defenders miss and get yards after the catch. Bill O’Brien learned his trade as a member of the Patriots offensive staff, becoming offensive co-ordinator before moving on to Penn State and then landing in Houston. He will have a few tricks up his sleeve to get Thomas the ball in space and provide a quick release option for Watson. This last part is important because that Houston offensive line is not good. Watson has been sacked 26 times. If you can’t protect your QB by blocking well, then get the ball out of his hands before he gets hit.
Houston has a 2 game lead in the AFC south, a division that 9 or 10 games could easily win, so they’re already half way there. Looking at their schedule they have tough games against Philadelphia, Washington and this weekend’s contest against Denver, where it is never easy to win. But the other games are all winnable (TEN, CLE, IND, @NYJ and JAX). It might be a bit early to sign off on Watson as being back to the player he was last season but with the right weapons around him and a good defence then he is talented enough to make this team a tough out in the playoffs.
Beyond this season it sets them up well for next season too. A healthy Fuller coming back to support Hopkins and Demaryius Thomas is right up there with one of the best receiving corps in the league. This defensive unit has deserved a high powered offence to take the pressure off it for years. Now they might have it.
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