The Houston Texans won their 2nd preseason game of the year Friday night, against the Los Angeles Rams. Davis Mills finally had a good drive at the end of the 1st half, after 4 grueling punts and a Rex Burkhead fumble. And the defense managed to land 6 sacks, including 4 just in the 1st quarter. But in addition to the signs of success, these games have also brought hints of trouble for the Texans this upcoming season.
Maybe the biggest win for the Texans yesterday was Davis Mills’ performance. Fans and critics had much more to work with after he played the entire 1st half. Although it took him nearly that long to get some points on the board, he avoided making major mistakes and was generally pretty accurate.
Mills was sacked once each on the first 2 drives, but managed to avoid being taken down for the rest of his outing. His best throws came at the beginning and end of the 1st half, going to Nico Collins for 17 yards on his first pass and again to Collins for 18 yards and a TD on his last pass. He completed 10/17 and avoided throwing any interceptions.
Houston’s QBs overall had a pretty good night in Los Angeles, with Kyle Allen and Jeff Driskel each getting their own TDs. Allen, who made his return after being diagnosed with Covid-19, went 9/12. Driskel only went 3/3 but added 2 impressive runs – one for 10 yards and another for 14.
The Texans’ defense also did quite well. Although the Rams completed 25 passes on 35 attempts, they only managed to get 14 first downs across 11 total drives. They only scored one offensive TD, with their other coming from a fumble recovered right outside the end zone. And in addition to the Texans’ 6 sacks, they also landed another 5 hits on Rams QBs, underscoring the threat of their pass rush.
Signs of Trouble
One of the most troubling aspects of the Texans’ preseason so far has been the penalties. In week 1 against the Saints, Houston tallied up 11 penalties for a total loss of 99 yards. Coincidentally, the Texans had 99 rushing yards in that game. In other words they screwed up so bad they totally negated their own running game.
Week 2’s game saw the Texans give up slightly fewer penalties for less yardage, but not by much of either. They were penalized 9 times to give the Rams 70 extra yards. Comparing that to the Rams’ 46 total rushing yards shows just how much that helped them keep the game close.
Another continuing problem for the Texans seems to be their running back corps. Dameon Pierce was listed as active but didn’t suit up, however we got to see plenty from the other RBs. Backup Rex Burkhead fumbled on his second attempt, and Marlon Mack was only able to pick up 29 yards on 8 carries. Dare Ogunbowale picked up 26 yards on 6 carries, but no running back was able to get a single run of more than 8 yards.
The Texans’ passing game was similarly unable to produce any big plays. Their only pass over 20 yards came late in the 1st half, a 32-yard pass from Davis Mills to Phillip Dorsett. Of course we shouldn’t be expecting Mills to be completing deep passes left and right like the old Tom Brady. But the Texans simply need more production to compete in today’s NFL.
Looking Ahead for the Houston Texans’ Regular Season
Clearly the Texans need to take the number of penalties they’ve been getting seriously. At this stage of their rebuild, it’s hard enough for them to compete with the more developed teams in the NFL. The Rams’ starters didn’t even play last night, and the Texans only won by 4 points. Few teams can afford to make all these penalties, least of all the Texans.
Although it’s often not easy, the Houston Texans also need to keep trying to make big plays. All 3 of their QBs averaged between 5.6 and 5.9 yards per completion. Texans RBs all averaged between 2.5 and 4.5 yards per carry. Conservative football can and does work in many situations, but they need to have some success in branching out. If they can better utilize Philip Dorsett’s speed and their unique combination of tight ends, that might help sustain their drives.
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