The Houston Texans will travel to Cleveland to face the Browns in Week 2. Coming off a big 37-21 win, the Texans hope to build on their Week 1 performance which included the most points scored on opening day in franchise history and three interceptions by the defense, leading the NFL.
Here are some of the top stories and quotes from the week heading into Houston's first road game of 2021.
QB Tyrod Taylor played for the Browns during the 2018 season. Currently, the Texans have seven players, in addition to Taylor, who played for the Browns. Aside from DL Vincent Taylor, who is out with an ankle injury, TE Pharaoh Brown, LB Christian Kirksey, OL Justin McCray, DBs Terrance Mitchell, Eric Murray, and Tavierre Thomas all wore the Browns uniform.
"I'm pretty sure this is their first home game, so I'm pretty sure the crowd will definitely be excited," Taylor said. "I'm excited to go on the road, group of guys that we have in our locker room and compete. Great test for us. Cleveland has a very good team in all three phases, so just looking forward to going out there and competing."
Kirksey had the longest career in Cleveland, where he played six seasons (2014-19) and started every game he played in from 2016 to 2019.
Head Coach David Culley says that Taylor has improved since 2017 when they were with the Buffalo Bills.
"He's much better inside the pocket," Culley said. "He is seeing things a lot better. I think being the first game, we moved him around a little bit. He was just a little bit off right there early. He is much better in his pocket presence. I think he is getting the ball out better than he was when I had him before. Pep (Hamilton) has done a good job of making sure he's on time and on rhythm. He's just got to continue to do that."
Brandin Cooks and Taylor's chemistry stood out in Week 1. Cooks, who had team-high 132 receiving yards, and Taylor worked together this offseason and outside of practice.
"They get a lot of work together before and after practice," Culley said. "They know that in order to be on the same page, you got to be able to know the ins and outs of what each other is going to do. He's kind of getting the feel now of the kind of ball that Tyrod throws."
Cooks said his favorite part of the Texans offense is how many players are involved. Against Jacksonville, three running backs scored a touchdown, and seven receivers caught a pass in the game.
"I think the biggest thing I love is how everyone is touching the ball," Cooks said. "You can't really just key in on one guy because (offensive coordinator) Tim Kelly does a great job of getting everybody the ball. I think that helps out in many ways throughout the game."
WR Danny Amendola, who caught five passes for 34 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, is quickly adjusting to the Texans offense after signing with the team just last week.
"I'm familiar with a lot of the formations, a lot of the motions obviously, and the packages I am in," Amendola said. "Some of the verbiage and play calling is something that I have to do a lot of learning, get in the books and learn like everybody else did this year."
Laremy Tunsil started in his first game after having COVID-19. Tunsil came off the Reserve/COVID-19 list prior to Week 1 but had been working on regaining his stamina whenever and wherever he could. That included 100-yard running sprints at random parks.
"Yeah, they did look at me weird, like 'What is he doing?' But I had to stay in shape," Tunsil said of parkgoers.
The Texans defense leads the NFL with three interceptions after Week 1. Defensive Coordinator Love Smith has been emphasizing takeaways every day since the offseason.
"In order for takeaways to come, you have to do other things right, though," Smith said. "You have to get in positions where you can intercept the ball. We had a lot of favorable third-down situations last week. In order for that to happen, you have to take care of the run on first and second down. It all goes together. And again, I can't wait to see if we can have that normal first to second game growth."
Justin Reid loves to see a live microphone on RB Mark Ingram II, who was mic'd up for Game 1 and Training Camp.
"Ingram needs to be mic'd up every week," Reid said. "This dude is hilarious."
Ingram, who rushed for a team-high 87 yards on 27 attempts plus a touchdown, says he always prepares as if he's going to carry the ball 30 times.
"I always prepare myself to carry the ball 30 times if needed," Ingram said. "I prepare myself, and I'm ready to get 15 carries, five catches, whatever it may be. Whenever my number's called, I'm just ready to go out there and perform and do the best of my ability. It's nothing more, nothing less. If I'm getting 20 carries a game, I'm happy with that. If I get 30, I'm happy with that. If I get 10 and we win, I'm cool with that, too."
Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly says the running back strategy is less about load management between the backs and more about "riding the hot hand."
When the Texans head to Cleveland, Taylor prepares to face a tough defensive front with a Myles Garrett-Jadeveon Clowney duo. He played on the same team as DE Myles Garrett during his time with the Browns.
"I think that's a very dynamic duo," Taylor said. "I spent a year with Myles. I understand the type of player he is, and I've played against Clowney and understand the type of player he is as well, too. So having those two guys, they're trying to be the first one to the quarterback, obviously. So for us, this week, we're definitely going to have to handle those two in pass protection."
Kelly recalls watching Clowney during his time with Texans from 2014 to 2018.
"From the moment he got here, he was a guy you had to know where he was every single snap, or he has the ability to wreck every play," Kelly said. "So that hasn't changed."
Special Teams Coordinator Frank Ross was pleased with K Joey Slye's performance. Slye was 3-for-3 on field goals from 40, 26, and 25 yards last week and 4-for-4 on extra-point attempts while filling in for Ka'imi Fairbairn in Week 1.
"Especially for coming in after a short week of working with a new snapper, new holder for him, the operation kicked the ball well," Ross said. "Definitely pleased with where he started off here for his first game as a Texan."
Culley celebrated his 66th birthday, and first as head coach, on Friday. The team played a video for him, and then the rookies sang "Happy Birthday." Chris Conley said they were "terrible singers."
"I'm glad they are good at football," Conley said.
The Texans will travel to Cleveland to face the Browns in Week 2. Kickoff is set for Sunday at noon on CBS and SportsRadio 610.
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