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Houston Texans Quarterly Report

Stock Up: Watson, Watt, 2018 draft class

Deshaun Watson runs for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Deshaun Watson runs for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (2018 Getty Images)

HOUSTON – The Houston Texans reached the quarter point of the season, having earned just one win through their first four games. Here’s the initial quarterly report on the team this season.

Texans Quarterly Report
Record: 1-3, T-3rd in AFC South
Offense: 413.8 ypg (Rank: 5th); 24.0 ppg (Rank: 14th)
Defense: 382.3 ypg (Rank: 22nd); 27.0 ppg (Rank: 21st)

STOCK UP
QB Deshaun Watson
Clearly the NFL has become a passing league and even though Watson is not considered an elite thrower of the football, he’s is moving the team down the field with ease with his arm. He returned from his torn ACL injury to start the season opener and was clearly rusty. In his three starts since, he’s thrown for 1,070 yards, six touchdowns and three interception, while completing 65.7 percent of his passes. Those six touchdown throws have been split evenly among the three games, with a pair in each. In the game against Indianapolis, the team had 13 possessions (not including a one-play possession prior to the end of the first half). They had zero 3-and-outs on those 13 possessions and scored points or at least attempted a field goal on eight of the 13. As was the case after his six starts as a rookie, there should be no debate about whether the Texans have landed a championship level quarterback.

STOCK UP
Texans 2018 draft class
New general manager Brian Gaine and the Texans didn’t have a selection in either of the first two rounds, yet not only drafted a class of players that appears to have long-term promise, but also a deep group that is making positive contributions this season. In third round pick Jordan Akins and sixth round pick Jordan Thomas, the team made a quick overhaul within their tight end group and both are fully integrated into the offense already. They could be set at tight end for the next four years. 

Linebacker Duke Ejiofor missed the season opener, but has effectively been used as a situational pass rusher in the three games since. Even with a very small number of snaps, he’s shown excellent and well-developed pass rush moves that resulted in his first career sack in the Titans game and recovered a fumble in the Colts game.

Offensive lineman Martinas Rankin, another third round pick, missed time during the offseason and training camp due to an injury and was not expected to see much playing time, but that all changed 11 plays into the season when starting right tackle Seantrel Henderson went down with a season-ending ankle injury. Rankin has taken every snap since at left tackle. (The team shifted left tackle Julie’n Davenport to the right side to allow Rankin to play left tackle, when Henderson was injured). Rankin has had plenty of growing pains and has allowed a lot of quarterback pressures, but he also shows signs of being a starter due to talent moving forward, rather than necessity as he is presently. 

Safety Justin Reid (third round) has not been needed often as the third safety since starters Kareem Jackson and Tyrann Mathieu have been off the field for nearly every snap this season. Reid looks comfortable on the field and the Texans have confidence in him when they’ve pushed Jackson to cornerback and used all three safeties on the field.

The best individual performance from a member of the draft class, obviously goes to fourth round selection, wide receiver Keke Coutee. He missed the first three games recovering from a hamstring injury after not playing at all in the preseason. Then he exploded onto the scene with a record setting performance this past Sunday against the Colts. He set a franchise record for the most receiving yards (109) by a player in his NFL debut in Texans history. His 11 catches were also the most by a player in his NFL debut since the NFL/AFL merger. Coutee projects to be a significant part of the offense moving forward.

STOCK UP
Defensive End J.J. Watt
J.J. Watt is second in the NFL in sacks through four games with five. He didn’t have any sacks in the first two games, but all five have come in the last two weeks. It was the seventh time in his career he’s registered multiple sacks in back-to-back, which is the most in NFL history. NO other players has done that more than three times in their career. He is consistently drawing double-teams and again looks like the force he was when he was the most feared defender in the league. Watt is also tops in the NFL with four forced fumbles. 

STOCK DOWN
Texans Cornerbacks
They have yet to register an interception this season and injuries are becoming a huge factor, too. Kevin Johnson was put on IR after week one when he suffered his second concussion in three weeks and Aaron Colvin is now shelved with a serious ankle injury. The team already was forced to add a pair of cornerback since the end of training camp. Keyvon Webster was signed just prior to the season, but is still recovering from an Achilles injury and has been inactive for all four games. Shareece Wright played nearly every snap against the Colts and has only been with the team for three weeks.

STOCK DOWN 
OT Julie’n Davenport
Davenport spent the entire offseason working to be the starting left tackle. That’s what he was for the first 11 snaps of the season. But when Henderson got hurt, they flipped Davenport to the opposite tackle spot, in order to put the rookie Rankin at left tackle. Davenport did not play particularly well after the switch over the next three games, but what got him benched was his penchant for penalties. In the first three games of the season, he was penalized eight times (five false starts, 3 holding calls), with two of the holding calls being declined. (Note: no other player in the league was penalized more than five times. Those miscues got him sent to the bench in favor of Kendall Lamm, who started at right tackle against the Colts.

STOCK DOWN
LB Zach Cunningham
Even after a strong game in Indianapolis against the Colts, the first four games of the season have been an overall disappointment for the second-year linebacker. He had two passes defensed against the Colts, which doubled his total from the first three games combined, when he was repeatedly attacked by opposing offenses. He beings an element of speed to the defense, which it sorely needs up front, but he hasn’t been able to positively affect the games enough.