The Texans looked like a team in disarray during the offseason and, although they beat Jacksonville in their opener, they lost eight games in a row heading into the bye week with many of them being blowouts, so they were looking like the league’s worst team. However, coming out of the bye, they shocked the Titans to improve to 2-8 on the season and will look to build on that as they host the struggling Jets.
Houston’s season was thrown into chaos due to Deshaun Watson’s off-field issues but they’ve not actually looked that bad with Tyrod Taylor at the helm. The Texans have won two of his four starts as he’s passed for three touchdowns and run for another three.
Taylor missed several games, though, and the team really struggled with rookie Davis Mills under center. They lost all six of Mills’ starts and only averaged 10 points per game.
Watson remains on the roster but has been inactive every week. Jeff Driskel is also on the roster but he’s in the middle of converting to the tight end position.
As if things weren’t bad enough for the Texans offense, they were also forced to place their three best offensive linemen on injured reserve. Tackles Laremy Tunsil and Marcus Cannon remain out but the Texans just activated center Justin Britt so he could return on Sunday.
With Britt out, rookie Jimmy Morrissey - a seventh round pick for the Raiders who failed to make their roster - has started the last couple of games but struggled. Current starting right guard Justin McCray also started a few games at center.
The other guard is former first round pick Tytus Howard, who leads the team with six offensive penalties.
The replacements at tackle are Geron Christian on the left and Charlie Heck on the right. Both have struggled in the running game but they’ve apparently moved ahead of Max Scharping, who has started eight games but came off the bench on Sunday.
The only other reserve on the roster is Cole Toner who has yet to start any games yet so far this season.
The Texans are last in the league in rushing yards and made some recent changes by trading Mark Ingram, releasing Phillip Lindsay and claiming Royce Freeman.
Rex Burkhead and David Johnson have been sharing the workload but both have averaged under three yards per carry. Johnson has contributed 26 receptions though, albeit for less than 200 yards.
The Texans’ top offensive weapon is easily Brandin Cooks, who has racked up 59 catches for 659 yards. However, none of the Texans’ other receivers have 20 catches.
Chris Conley is the other starter on the outside while Danny Amendola plays in the slot. Third round rookie Nico Collins has some nice size but hasn’t made much of an impact yet. Chris Moore and Davion Davis round out the rotation.
Collins and Davis are both listed as questionable heading into Sunday. Davis didn’t practice all week due to an illness and Collins appeared on the injury report with a hip issue on Friday.
At tight end, Pharoah Brown is listed as the starter but Jordan Akins has actually been more productive with 21 catches. Reserves Antony Auclair and Brevin Jordan will try to retain their spots ahead of Driskel.
The Texans’ defensive line was always going to have a different look this year with JJ Watt’s departure and they’ve also let veteran Whitney Mercilus go and traded youngster Charles Omenihu since the start of the season.
Jonathan Greenard has emerged as a key contributor with seven sacks in seven games. However, he’s missed some time and is listed as questionable after suffering a foot injury on Wednesday. He did return to practice on a limited basis on Friday though.
The other starting end is Jacob Martin who has three sacks and leads the team in total pressures.
The main reserves are Derek Rivers and former Jet Jordan Jenkins. However, Jenkins has been ruled out due to a knee injury. DeMarcus Walker, who had been playing inside, has been lining up more on the edge over the past few games anyway so will presumably stay in that role.
At defensive tackle, the starters are sixth round rookie Roy Lopez and Maliek Collins. Lopez is really the only contributor from this year’s Texans’ draft class, which consisted of just five players, all drafted in the third round or later. They also don’t have any undrafted rookies on the 53-man roster. Collins is a disruptive pass rushing presence.
The reserves at defensive tackle are Ross Blacklock, who was drafted in the second round last season, and Jaleel Johnson.
At linebacker, Zach Cunningham plays an every down role and was one of the league’s most productive tacklers last season with 164. However, this year, Kamu Grugier-Hill actually leads the team with 61 tackles. Grugier-Hill, who is often employed in coverage assignments also has two forced fumbles and six tackles for loss.
The other starter is another ex-Jet, Neville Hewitt, although he doesn’t play much of a role because the Texans are mostly in sub-packages. Christian Kirksey had a big role earlier in the year with 56 tackles in eight games but he’s now on injured reserve.
Off the bench, the reserves include another ex-Jet, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Eric Wilson and rookie Garrett Wallow.
The Texans’ secondary has struggled but, in the past two games, Houston’s defense has improbably come up with 10 turnovers, including six interceptions.
The starters at cornerback are Desmond King, who intercepted two passes in the win over the Titans, and Terrance Mitchell, who leads the team with seven pass breakups. Tavierre Thomas gets the majority of the work in the slot and has had a good season.
However, Lonnie Johnson leads the team with three interceptions. He is listed as questionable for Sunday though.
Jimmy Moreland, Tremon Smith and Cre’Von LeBlanc are available to provide depth. The Texans also got five starts out of Vernon Hargreaves before opting to release him.
At safety, Eric Murray and Justin Reid are the starters with AJ Moore and yet another ex-Jet, Terrence Brooks, on the bench. Brooks has made one start this year.
Ka’imi Fairbairn, who missed time due to injury earlier in year has had a poor season so far as Houston’s placekicker. He’s missed five of his 18 kicks, including three extra points.
Former Aussie Rules player Cameron Johnston is the team’s punter after signing with the team in March. He’s 8th in the NFL for net average.
The kick coverage unit has been helpful in that regard with Moore recording six tackles in seven games as a punt gunner to lead the team. Pierre-Louis, Thomas and Smith have also been contributing well.
The Texans let return specialist Andre Roberts go since the start of the year but King is a viable replacement on both punts and kickoffs with Smith and Amendola as reserve options.
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