Last year, when the Texans defense lost J.J. Watt in week three, they went on to put up the best total yardage number in the league, despite losing their front man. Sort of like Journey conducting successful tours without Steve Perry. It was hardly ideal but it worked out.
Now the Houston D has lost Watt and Whitney Mercilus, and somehow the show must go on.
Never mind that the injury report this week seems longer than the season ticket waiting list, it's going to be very tough to maintain the level of defense that we've enjoyed here in the last few years.
I've been asked a lot this week, 'how do you replace Whitney and Watt?' The answer is –collectively. It'll take a village to get it done. You're not going to get the same amount of explosiveness. Aside from Jadeveon Clowney, you don't have that kind of player up front that keeps coordinators up late. But you do have a lot of solid talent that can create havoc and help out the secondary.
The Browns come in as a winless team aching for anything positive to happen. Kevin Hogan is making his first start, in a tough environment. Cleveland might play loose. The expectations may be low but there are a lot of playmakers on both sides of the ball who cause problems.
This is around the time in the article when I usually point out the benefits of a nutritional ground game to keep the sticks moving and the clock churning. Not anymore. Bill O'Brien gives Deshaun Watson a few more files to download every week. Watson is eager to keep his sensational debut going with an aerial scoring assault that's making us reach for the record book every time he takes the field.
But I still will underline the benefits of the running game. Remember that drive last week in which the Texans ran on nearly every play? That's fun and effective. It shows that the offensive line has made some strides now that they've been through a few battles together. Plus. Lamar Miller and D'Onta Foreman running great will keep Watson's uniform clean and keep him out of the trainer's room.
The big reward for grinding out a win will be a bye and a 3-3 record before embarking on a stretch of two west coast games with a Colts clash, presumably with Andrew Luck, sandwiched in between.
Make no mistake, this is a big one. The Texans need to start feeling comfortable without two of their best players and they have to rebound from a frustrating Sunday night loss.
The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 12/29/2020)