HOUSTON – The Houston Texans topped the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday, so we thought we’d provide three takeaways from the game -- both positive and negative.
Will Fuller is important.
The Texans’ speedy receiver showed up to NRG Stadium with gold braces in two and torched the Colts’ secondary for seven catches and 140 yards.
In Fuller’s last two games at NRG Stadium, he combined for 21 catches and 354 yards, plus three touchdowns.
Fuller’s appearance also opened up room for DeAndre Hopkins to catch two impressive touchdowns from Deshaun Watson.
If Fuller can stay healthy, the Texans have one of the best receiving corps in all of football.
Backup defensive backs can really shine.
The Texans came into the season with a starting nickel package of Joseph-Colvin-Roby-Reid-Gipson.
Just Johnathan Joseph and Tashaun Gipson played against the Colts.
Aaron Colvin has since been cut, while Justin Reid and Bradley Roby are sidelined with injuries.
To fill in for the No. 2 corner and slot corner spot, the Texans went to the scrap heap, picking up Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley via trade and Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III via waivers.
Conley has been substantially better for the Texans, picking up a very strong 70.7 coverage rating in his four games. He was at 60.0 for Oakland in his six games with the Raiders.
Hargreaves had his first action against the Colts and picked up a 70.4 coverage grade as the slot corner.
Hargreaves had a 44.7 coverage grade this season for Tampa Bay – among the worst in the NFL. He also struggled in his two games as slot corner earlier this season against Tennessee and Seattle.
Jahleel Addae has been an all-purpose safety fill-in for the Texans this season and was solid against Indianapolis.
Addae struggled in coverage with a 59.8 grade, but was excellent in tackling with six (86.3 PFF grade).
The offensive line can still improve.
The Texans used their preferred offensive line of Tunsil-Scharping-Martin-Fulton-Howard on Thursday night.
The Texans have been excellent in pass-blocking for much of the season, but have struggled in run-blocking. The team’s best run-blocking game came in week one against the Saints, and since then, the unit has struggled to stay above a 60.0 PFF grade.
Four of the five Texans failed to score a 60.0 PFF grade in run-blocking against the Colts, with the top lineman, Laremy Tunsil, checking in at 61.5.
Rookie left guard Max Scharping, a second-round pick, had his best pass-blocking game of the season, scoring an 88.3. He’s been strong in pass-block all year.
Nick Martin is also justifying his contract extension with a sixth consecutive game with a positive-to-strong pass-block grade.
The run will be important for the Texans, but the offense is clearly built via the passing game.
Excellence in pass-blocking will go a long way against the Patriots on Sunday Night Football.