HOUSTON – As dire as the Texans’ quarterback situation has become, with a lot of uncertainty at the most important position in the game, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to make a desperate move.
The Texans are 1-10-1 and own the highest priority in the waiver wire, and general manager Nick Caserio recently used the roster-building tool to claim running back Eno Benjamin and wide receiver Amari Rodgers. They are considered extremely unlikely to claim quarterback Baker Mayfield off waivers from the Carolina Panthers, according to league sources.
Mayfield could wind up with the San Francisco 49ers in the wake of Jimmy Garoppolo’s season-ending foot injury, or perhaps the Los Angeles Rams with Matthew Stafford out for the season.
Plus, Mayfield hasn’t inspired any confidence to justify adding him to the roster. He asked for and was granted his release after being demoted to third-string in Carolina behind starter Sam Darnold and backup P.J. Walker. The former Cleveland Browns’ top overall pick and Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma has completed just 57.8 percent of his throws with six touchdowns and six interceptions for a 74.4 passer rating this season.
Texans coach Lovie Smith didn’t sound inclined at all toward exploring the Mayfield option.
“To be truthful, the only video that I’ve been really studying is ours,” Smith said during his Monday press conference at NRG Stadium. “That’s a hard story a little bit. To answer your question, everybody that’s available we look at. We see if they fit. We’re constantly trying to improve our roster, so if there’s anybody that’s out there, that’s what we do. Don’t know enough about Baker or anything like that. We’re trying to get better play from the guys we have on our current roster. That’s what we’re really focused on right now.”
Smith was noncommittal on having Kyle Allen when asked if he will remain the starter after two underwhelming starts in losses to the Browns and Miami Dolphins and being intercepted four times with one lost fumble. The Texans are seriously contemplating going back to former starter Davis Mills, who was replaced two games ago as QB1, according to league sources.
Against the Browns, Allen struggled mightily. He was intercepted twice with one returned for a touchdown. He also lost a fumble on a quarterback sneak that was returned for a touchdown. He threw one late touchdown pass to Nico Collins, but connected on just three of 10 targets to the second-year wide receiver. Allen looks out of sync with the offense during the 27-14 loss at NRG Stadium as the Texans managed to lose despite not allowing one offensive touchdown.
“Kyle was the quarterback of our offense yesterday,” Smith said. “We didn’t get anything done offensively, so it’s pretty hard to talk about many of the good things that anybody on that side of the ball did. Kyle is a part of that, and as we go forward, I’ve seen the video of course a few times, and the play at the quarterback position wasn’t good enough.”
When asked if he will name Mills, who has 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, the starter again, Smith didn’t confirm or deny that’s happening.
“Guys, you kind of know how we do it right now,” Smith said. “On a Monday afterward, we can talk about that play right there. Things get out a little bit quick around here, so if there’s a change that we’re going to make at any position, you guys will know it right away. But first, I’m going to talk to the guys about all of the things that we’re going through at all positions.”
Allen completed 20 of 39 passes for 201 yards for a 53.5 passer rating. Allen’s first interception was caused by rookie tight end Teagan Quitoriano not being able to secure the throw and it popped into the hands of Browns safety John Johnson in the first quarter. The interception was signaled after an instant replay challenge from Browns coach Kevin Stefanski.
The Texans’ offense was terrible, as it has been for most of the season as the lowest-scoring offense in the league.
They manufactured just 16 first downs and 283 yards of total offense, averaging 4.6 yards on 61 total plays with oft-criticized offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton calling the plays.
“No team in the league would win if you made some of the mistakes we made,” Smith said. “Just some of the plays you don’t make. Can’t give up 14 points on the offensive side of the football, and you can’t really give up 10 points with the special teams. That puts you in a hole that’s really tough to get out of. Our passing game was off, throws to the receivers and just protecting the football. I talk about things you do wrong, of course, the turnover ratio normally tells the story a little bit. Offensively, the interception for a touchdown, the fumble when we were backed up. We’ve got to make it a lot harder on opponents to score that way. These are things we need to clean up.”
Allen accounted for six points scored, and 12 points against the Texans on two of his three turnovers.
The Texans went 1 for 4 in the red zone, another major reason why they lost the game.
The most glaring sequence was a 1st-and-goal situation in the second quarter. First, Allen threw incomplete to Quitoriano followed by a missed connection with Collins, who had three receptions on 10 targets with Brandin Cooks out with a calf injury, before a two-yard run by running back Dare Ogunbowale. Instead of having primary running back Dameon Pierce in the game and carrying the ball, the Texans threw it to rookie fullback Troy Hairston. Hairston got drilled by safety Grant Delpit, a former Lamar standout, and had his ribs examined in the locker room before returning to play.
Allen hasn’t provided the spark the Texans were hoping for offensively.
And he isn’t making sound decisions.
“As we look back to a couple of weeks ago, a lot of it comes down to the decisions you make at that position,” Smith said. “A lot of them you have to make pretty quickly. Looking at that screen that we had, sometimes it’s okay to just live to see another day, whether it’s taking a sack or throwing the ball away, but not throwing the ball where you don’t have a clear vision.
“The other two we had issues with just quarterback-center exchange. That shouldn’t be something that we’re having a problem with. Even the quarterback-running back exchange, those are things that we should be able to clean up, and we’ll need to. Two weeks in a row right now we’ve had some of those things that have really hurt us.”
Smith doesn’t sound at all like a coach looking for outside help. He’s working with the players he has on the roster.
“I was asked a question about a quarterback, let’s start with that,” Smith said. “No one said we’re going to add anyone. What I said is we’re trying to figure out our current roster and how we can get better play from the quarterback position. We haven’t gone any further than that.”
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to KPRC2 and click2houston.com