The Texans (3-3) don't have a game this Sunday. Normally, this article points out five things to watch in Houston's matchup with their upcoming opponent. Instead, we'll focus on five things to watch over the final 11 games of the regular season. The Texans return to action a week from Sunday at Carolina versus the Panthers (0-6).
1) What's next for Stroud? – Since his arrival in late April, quarterback C.J. Stroud has emphasized the need to improve incrementally on a daily basis. He did that throughout May and June during Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and then continued to do so in training camp.
After a tough first outing in the preseason opener at New England, Stroud got better in each of the next two preseason contests.
He and the Texans started out 0-2, but rallied to go 3-1 over the next four.
Stroud's tossed nine touchdowns and a lone interception, and has his teammates, coaches and general manager singing his praises. After Sunday's win over the Saints, Stroud was happy, but also focused on continuing to improve.
"Got to have a good Bye Week and get better there," Stroud said. "Rest up, because it's going to be a big-time second half of the season that we need to execute better and be better at. So, happy with the win and proud of my guys for being resilient and fighting."
Executive Vice President/General Manager Nick Caserio listed off some attributes like "confidence, his belief in himself, his competitiveness, his pride" that have enabled Stroud's success. But Caserio pointed to how rare it is for a rookie to get voted a team captain. Both he and defensive end Will Anderson, Jr. were elected by their teammates.
"Being a captain is not a popularity contest," Caserio said. "But when you're a captain as a rookie, which both he and Will are, it's really more about what you do and how you handle your job necessarily than what you say."
If Stroud keeps improving on the great start to his career, the next three months are going to be even more fun than September and the first half of October.
2) Rejuventate the Run Game – As a team, the Texans have rushed for 100 yards or more in a game just twice. None of the backs have gone over the century mark individually. Houston's averaging 3.2 yards per carry.
But last Sunday versus the Saints, Houston picked up 97 first half rushing yards, and finished with 120 on the day. That uptick saw more of an even split, carries-wise, between Dameon Pierce and Devin Singletary. That split will likely remain more consistent as the season continues.
"We'll continue to balance those two guys out," Ryans said. "I think both guys are really good backs, both guys can help us in the run game the way our offensive line blocks."
3) O-line shuffling – Especially on the offensive line, the returns from injury over the next week will likely affect the combo up front on offense. Tytus Howard missed the first four games of the season, came back in Week 5 at Atlanta and started at left guard, where also started Sunday against New Orleans.
He's typically the starter at right tackle.
Juice Scruggs was injured in the preseason finale in late August and was the team's starting center then. In his place, fellow rookie Jarrett Patterson has started the first six contests.
Left to right the last two games, the Texans have started Laremy Tunsil at tackle, Howard at guard, Patterson at center, Shaq Mason at guard and George Fant at tackle.
How much that jiggles in the weeks to come will certainly be an item to note.
4) Stingley, Dell and more comebacks – Cornerback Derek Stingley, Junior started the first two games this season and along with Steven Nelson looked really good. But a leg injury landed him on injured reserve. He's not on the season-ending IR, so he should be back at some time in the next month or so.
Adding the 2022 third overall pick back to the defense will help.
So too, will getting rookie receiver Tank Dell back in the fold. He was in the concussion protocol for the last game, but Ryans said Monday Dell "should be back and ready to go" following the bye.
Dell logged a 100-yard game in the win at Jacksonville, and is averaging 17 yards per catch, with a pair of touchdowns this year in five games.
Caserio has loved what Dell's brought to the Texans from the University of Houston.
"Love his mindset, love his attitude, and he's producing when he's been on the field," Caserio said. "When you have the right mindset and you go out there and produce, then you're going to get more opportunity. Doesn't matter where you come from."
5) Possible deadline move -: The NFL trade deadline is approaching. Caserio and the Texans will keep an open mind about acquiring help from other teams, but he also emphasized that they're not locked into trading, either.
"We're going to look at our team, figure out is there an opportunity to add a player that we think can help us," Caserio said. "If there is, great. We'll pursue it. If there's not, then we won't. We feel comfortable with the players that are in the building, that are on the team."
The Texans were 1-3-1 at the bye week last year, and 1-8 at the bye in 2021.
This year, the trade deadline is 3 p.m. CT on Tuesday, October 31.