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First Glance: Texans vs. Bills

The Texans (2-3) square off with the Bills (2-3) in Week 5. Here are five things to watch when Houston and Buffalo kick off at noon CT inside NRG Stadium. First Glance is presented by First Community Credit Union.

1) 4, sure?: Quarterback Deshaun Watson was a limited participant in practice this week, after taking a fair share of punishment Sunday night in the win over the Cowboys. He was sacked once, hit a total of 10 times in the pocket, and hit 10 more times when he ran with the ball. Nevertheless, in a Wednesday press conference he was optimistic about his chances for suiting up versus Buffalo saying he “for sure” would play.

“I feel good,” Watson said. “I feel great. We got the W. Able to celebrate with my teammates and my family. Another day in the office just recovering from the game and get ready for Buffalo.”

Head coach Bill O’Brien echoed that optimism, and explained what the offensive line, coaching staff, and Watson himself must do to limit his exposure to hits in the future.

“Some of it is coaching, some of it’s some decisions,” O’Brien. “Sometimes the ball can come out a little bit quicker, sometimes the play can be better, but we’re all working hard to improve every area of the offense.”

Offensive line coach Mike Devlin said he and his charges must protect their quarterback, and keep him upright and healthy.

“I say one thing: Deshaun makes us a better offensive line and Deshaun makes me a better O-line coach,” Devlin said. “That’s what I tell them. So, our job is to do whatever it takes for Deshaun because, like I said, he makes us a better O-line and he makes me a better O-line coach.”

2) Get better in red zone: The Texans aren’t having any problems moving the ball. They’re fourth in the NFL in yards per game with 426.4. They are, however, having a problem scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Houston’s next-to-last in the League, getting six points just 36.4 percent of the time they get inside an opponents’ 20-yard line.

Receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who’s caught a pair of scores in 2018, wants the offense to score more touchdowns. But he’s not panicking.

“We’ve got to find ways to execute when we get down in the red zone and we’re supposed to score,” Hopkins said. “Our yards, we’re a top offense in the NFL, but it doesn’t show once we get to the red zone. That’s something that we have a long season to work on.”

Watson agreed, and said he believed it will click soon in the redzone for the Texans. He also offered up a few things the Texans can do to improve there.

“Execute,” Watson said. “Negative plays, no sacks, no penalties and just trust what we see. Just kind of play a little faster. The field gets smaller, the holes kind of close up quicker and we just have to get on the same page. The offense, it could be one person that’s off page and it can ruin the whole play. Once we get on the same page and trust what OB and the coaching staff have planned up front, for us to get in the end zone and we’ll be just fine.”

3) Just Joshin’- The Bill come to town with a rookie quarterback in Josh Allen. He’s started four games this year, guiding Buffalo to a pair of wins and a pair of losses. With a completion rate of 53.3 percent, Allen’s thrown for 748 yards with a pair of touchdowns and five interceptions. Over the last two weeks, he’s been picked off three times and not tossed a touchdown. Despite those struggles, the Texans aren’t underestimating him.

“You never want to take anybody for granted,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “He was a high draft pick. He has a big arm. Obviously, he has great talent around him. He has a great running back. We just have to do a good job of honing in on LeSean McCoy and then hopefully kind of creating some pressure on their quarterback and hopefully we can make some plays.”

Outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, who’s tallied five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks over the previous two games, is impressed by Allen’s relentlessness.

“He doesn’t give up,” Clowney said. “He doesn’t quit on any play. He thinks he can make a play on every play.”

Allen’s been sacked 19 times so far in 2018.

4) Real McCoy: LeSean McCoy’s averaged 4.6 yards per carry over his career, has gained 1,000-plus yards in a season six different times, and has scored 81 touchdowns since entering the NFL in 2009.

This season has started slowly for him, as he’s gained just 170 yards on 45 carries. But the Texans are wary of the back he’s been, and one they think he still can be.

“He’s really fast, he’s really quick, he’s got great change of direction, he runs, he can catch the ball and all of those things,” defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said. “It’s hard for one guy to tackle him, it takes more than one to get him on the ground. So, that makes him difficult. If you give him space, he usually takes advantage of it.”

Defensive end J.J. Watt and the Texans defense are coming off a Sunday night performance in which they held Ezekiel Elliott to just 54 yards on 20 carries. Watt echoed Crennel’s thoughts on keeping McCoy, pointing out how dangerous he can be in space.

“He’s quick, he’s explosive, he can make a big play at any point, you have to do your job at all times because if you give him any sort of crease at all and you let him out in the open field, he can really make you pay,” Watt said.

5) Super safeties: It was quite a Sunday night for the safety trio of Kareem Jackson, Tyrann Mathieu and Justin Reid. The trio combined for 19 tackles, two tackles for a loss and a pair of interceptions. Jackson’s primarily played safety this season after spending the majority of his first eight seasons at corner. His successful transition hasn’t been much of a surprise to Mathieu.

“Coming from where he comes from, especially where we come from as DBs in the SEC, we kind of expect that,” Mathieu said. “I expected him to make those plays. I’ve always been a big fan of him and he’s proven me right.”

Mathieu said Reid, who’s steadily gained more playing time in his rookie year, is off to a good start as a pro.

“He’s playing great right now,” Mathieu said. “He’s very smart, very passionate about the game. He’s kind of in a limited role right now, so it’s hard for guys to make plays, but he seems to be making a lot of plays with limited snaps. I think that says a lot about him.”

Those two picks last week by Jackson and Reid were the first interceptions for the Texans since Mathieu had one off Tom Brady in Week 1.

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