11 Observations From the Texans Preseason Opener Against the Patriots
C.J. Stroud's debut is a short one while the offense struggles
The Houston Texans won their preseason opener 20-9 against the New England Patriots. The Houston defense suffocated the Patriots almost all game while Davis Mills and Case Keenum each put scores on the board.
Here are 11 observations from the preseason win against the Patriots.
C.J. Stroud had a short outing in his debut. It was far from spectacular but to be expected when the starting offensive line wasn’t playing. Stroud did hit Nico Collins on his first pass attempt but it would be downhill from there. I agreed with the decision to see Stroud for a short stint considering the weather and the poor play of the backup offensive linemen. Stroud got the planned amount of reps according to DeMeco Ryans after the game.
The rookie quarterback locked in on his wideout and never saw Jalen Mills of the Patriots. It was third and very long, and C.J. Stroud never saw Mills as he was trying to get it to fellow rookie Tank Dell. Tight end Dalton Schultz was wide open underneath. It wouldn’t have been a first down by any means, but a few yards and a punt is preferable to the interception. DeMeco Ryans explained after the game Stroud was late with his read and execution.
The blocking for C.J. Stroud was ugly. The offensive line featured just two likely starters in their position. Kenyon Green at left guard and Juice Scruggs at center were playing, but the rest of the line was backups. George Fant, the likely right tackle while Tytus Howard recovers from his injury, was playing left tackle. Michel Deiter was at right guard where Shaq Mason would usually play. Austin Deculus played right tackle. Deculus got smoked a few times. Kenyon Green even allowed some pressure when it looked like the defender was blocked. The depth on the offensive line isn’t there. Fant at right tackle should be fine until Howard returns early in the regular season, but any backups playing at other spots will be a problem for the Texans. It might be too late to do anything about it too.
C.J. Stroud said he was thrilled to make his professional debut. He said he wasn’t super excited with how he played and wanted the interception back. Stroud said he needed to trust his eyes more on the play that led to the interception. Stroud noted he saw that look in the lead-up to the game and said next time he will dump it down to Dalton Schultz. He joked the team had a good day offensively “except for me.”
How about Tank Dell? The rookie wideout was fantastic! I wondered if when the lights came on if he would shine more than practice and he certainly did. Dell put a Patriots defensive back in a blender before C.J. Stroud threw an interception. He had a first down catch erased by a penalty. Then he came up just short on a big over-the-shoulder catch. Then, he went to work. He had a catch of 15 yards then started the next drive in a big way. Catching one over the middle Dell took off for a gain of 24 yards. Then Dell would get the Texans in the red zone. Followed by another catch to get them in a goal-to-go situation. Then the eye-popping play! Dell couldn’t catch the Davis Mills pass as it squirted out of his hands. He batted it up and as he was falling came down with it. Touchdown. Dell is going to be a key element of this offense.
The Patriots offensive line got a taste of the Will Anderson experience. The rookie defensive lineman was nasty in his early opportunities. He forced Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe up in the pocket for Denzel Perryman to earn a sack. Albert Breer did note on social media the Patriots started four, maybe five, backup players so take that into account. But for Anderson, beat who is in front of you and that’s what he did.
The defensive line as a whole had a nice night. Jonathan Greenard had a one-armed stop to help earn a tackle for a loss. He along with Anderson and Jerry Hughes are the top ends on this team. A healthy season for him should be a productive season. Roy Lopez was solid and almost had a sack chasing down a quarterback. Kurt Hinish made some plays. Byron Cowart and the newly-signed Khalil Davis were stout later in the game. There are some interesting backup names to sort through on this defensive line.
It’s just one preseason game, but the tackling looked much better than in recent years. Missed tackles had become a hallmark of the defenses under Lovie Smith, but not so in this one bit of game action. It is something to monitor in the coming weeks of preseason work and the early parts of the regular season.
Henry To’oTo’o showcased what he had displayed in practice. The rookie linebacker read a play perfectly on third and short and forced a punt. He also came flying in on another stop for no gain. It has to be great for coaches when the play in practice translates to the game.
Andrew Beck’s injury is something to pay attention to in the next few days. He is the lone fullback and the offense makes use of the fullback quite a bit. He also can play tight end. It didn’t look good, and he was spotted on the sideline later and seemed to be ok, but you never know how someone will feel the day after. DeMeco Ryans said after the game “Beck will be fine,” so that eased my mind a little.
The battle for running back three got a little more interesting. Mike Boone looked solid in his few opportunities in this game. Dare Ogunbowale did not as he fumbled and turned the ball over. The third running back might not be on the roster right now, but Boone has flashed a bit more to this point than any other running backs competing for that third spot.
The Texans will get back on the practice field Saturday. The Miami Dolphins are in town next week for joint practices and the second preseason game.
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