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Texans hope for strong defense in Cleveland

Weather could also play a factor in the game

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 30: Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars scrambles out of the pocket under pressure by Whitney Mercilus #59 of the Houston Texans in the first quarter at NRG Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 30: Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars scrambles out of the pocket under pressure by Whitney Mercilus #59 of the Houston Texans in the first quarter at NRG Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

In Week 10, the Texans are in an odd spot. They’re 2-6, with both wins coming against the Jags. Former head coach and GM Bill O’Brien is gone, with Romeo Crennel and Jack Easterby stepping in. This past week, the Texans unexpectedly fired VP of Communications, Amy Palcic. That may not seem like it has to do anything with football, but it was another indication of the Texans being in bad shape behind the scenes.

With how this season has gone, a win in Cleveland would be more than valuable. It would bring the team to 3-6, but it won’t come easy. Whitney Mercilus returns after a week on the Covid reserve list, and talked about some of the improvements he’d like to see.

“Just gap discipline," said Mercilus. "Just trusting one other, more so especially during the run. Guys have been doing that, especially at practice. Just being where we need to be instead of jumping out of our gaps, playing or seeing ghosts out there and stuff like that. Just little minute things that can cost you. If one person’s out of place sometimes these offenses really can hurt you when that one mistake happens. Just making sure we’re pretty much perfect on each play.”

Cleveland’s superstar running back Nick Chubb is back in the mix after injuring his MCL in Week 4. Add in Kareem Hunt, and the Texans are up for a challenge.

“Yeah, they’re very good players,” JJ Watt said of Chubb and Hunt. “Obviously they have a lot of success running the ball. Those guys are very good backs. The offensive line does a good job blocking for them.”

"They’re both just very physical, downhill backs, said defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver. “They have good vision, speed. They run hungry. That’s what you like about them. They run hungry. They’re always falling forward. It’s going to be a challenge for our defense, but a challenge obviously that we’ll accept.”

This Browns team can run the ball, and the Texans rank 32nd in rushing defense; a stat that is unsettling heading into Sunday.

“They have Baker (Mayfield), who obviously can throw the ball and play-action off of what they do in the running game,” said Watt. “They’re very effective. That’s up to us upfront first and foremost as the front line of defense to do our job to set the edges, build the wall in the middle and the backers to come up and make tackles.”

Weather won’t be the Texans' friend; reports call for wind gusts up to 50mph, an 80% chance of showers, and temperatures in the 50s.