Houston Texans: Welcome to HTown, Fuller

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Meet Will Fuller, former WR from Notre Dame and future Texan. Fuller was picked #21st overall in the 1st round of the draft, after a quick 1-spot trade up from 22 with the Washington Redskins, at the price of a 2017 6th round pick.. Fuller adds speed and a vertical game downfield to complement DeAndre Hopkins on offense.

Fuller was 1 of 4 WRs taken in the 1st round, and the 2nd WR off the board. Others drafted in the 1st round include Corey Coleman, drafted 15th to the Cleveland Browns, Josh Doctson, drafted 22nd to the Washington Redskins, and Laquon Treadwell, drafted 23rd to the Minnesota Vikings.

Rounds 2-3 of the 2016 NFL Draft will commence tonight, followed by rounds 4-7 on Saturday. Texans will likely be in the hunt for some offensive line help, defensive end or tight end help this evening. Likely, safety and more o-line help will come on Saturday, and don’t be surprised if a kicker’s folded in as well. Full evaluation to come after the draft.

Congratulations, Will Fuller, and welcome to the NFL!

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Houston Texans: Loose ends and 2016 Draft

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2007 NFL Draft

Now that the excitement has died down from the explosive first day of the Texans free agency, it’s time to settle down and look at where the team stands, which FA signings may still be necessary, and what to look forward to in the draft.

Going into the free agency, the top needs for the team were primarily offensive players; Quarterback, Running Back, Guard, Center, and Tackle. Other primary concerns on offense were Wide Receiver, and possibly an upgrade at Tight End. Defense needs, while relatively solid as it stands, needed to upgrade at Safety, Defensive End, possible add some speed to Cornerback and look to the future for Inside Linebacker.

Three solid (and possibly four) needs have been checked off the list: QB, RB, G, and possibly C. Texans also signed former Jets Safety Antonio Allen – while that’s not exactly a big upgrade at S, it plugged in…

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Houston Texans: Defensive End

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2014 NFL Draft

Defensive end Jared Crick officially ended his tenure with the Texans, signing a 2-year, $4 million contract with the Denver Broncos; a move that makes it sound like Crick wanted a spot on Denver’s roster in the FA. The contract isn’t a pay day (Denver can’t offer any more of those), and the Texans could have matched, but an over-payment was likely if they wanted to hang on.

Crick joins a former coaching staff that picked him up and reared him in his rookie years – Bill Kollar, Defensive Line Coach, Wade Phillips, Defensive Coordinator, and Gary Kubiak, Head Coach, and he’s headed to a defense where he’ll fit pretty comfortably in a spot left open by the departure of star DE Malik Jackson. Crick’s talent isn’t comparable – he’s certainly a downgrade, but he can fill the hole, and that’s what Denver can afford right now, with their current…

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Houston Texans: Wide Receivers in the Draft

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The Houston Texans have spent the big money they are going to spend in the free agency, without picking up a WR. This means all signs point to the draft. In a draft that is a little light, talent-wise on WR talent outside of 1st round projections, what’s a team to do? The position is the top priority in the draft currently, and the Texans are expected to draft a WR in the first round? Trade up or sit still and see what’s available at 22?

Fortunately, there aren’t many teams in front of the Texans in the draft that have a top priority for a WR, so there will be some talent left on the board when the Texans draft at 22. To trade up, the Texans would have to take a nice leap to get the jump on other teams (probably in the top 10 -12), but there wouldn’t be…

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Houston Astros: Yes, it’s time

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Going into game 2 of the 3rd game, on the road series with division opponent Seattle Mariners, the Astros had a must need win ahead of them to keep a hold on a possible series win, and break a 2 game and 2 series losing streak, as well as get a 1st division win. Keuchel started, and fans rejoiced. Three innings blew by with barely a runner hitting base, for both teams, and then the Mariners snuck one by in a tense 4th inning. Astros were only down by 1, but at bats were still rather strained and unproductive.

Then the 5th inning happened. Keuchel had some rather uncharacteristic walks, a base hit, and suddenly bases were loaded with a single out. There was no getting out of this unscathed. Another grounder/force out to home gave the Astros 2, with some hope. Marte singles to Gomez to drive in a run, Mariners up, 2-0. Then Cano steps up to the bat, hits a soft single to left field, which opened up the gates to hell on earth, also known as some trademark embarrassing fielding that has been plaguing the Astros defense as of late.

It was almost comical, had you not been an Astros fan. Even if you weren’t, the series of mishaps that turned into 3 runs on a single with 2 outs hurt to watch. It hurt fans of baseball to watch, because this kind of stuff you shouldn’t see past a little league field. Cano’s ball bounced out to left, and was scooped up to Rasmus, who overthrew home after 1 runner crossed the plate. Castro saved the ball, but not the second run, and threw it to 1st, after Cano had stepped off 1st.

A rundown was on, with White approaching Cano, around 2/3 of the way down the baseline to 2nd with Altuve covering. Runner takes off at 3rd, and White changes course to get the out at home. This is on 2 outs, and Cano is feet away from being called out. White turns to throw home, trips, and misses his throw. Runner scores, and Cano makes it to 2nd. No outs, 3 runs, and an advanced base on a single. Shakespeare couldn’t write a better comedy of errors that this inning became.

The game painfull ran into another day, the Astros have managed only a single run late, and Feliz and Kratz are being the sacrificial lambs for the bullpen. Yes, Kratz took the mound in the 8th. A least the bullpen won’t be spent again. With a shaky McHugh and Fiers coming up, and the recently announced Chris Devenski 1st shot as a starter coming up this weekend, the bullpen needs the rest. And when team collectively jumped the tracks a few innings back, there’s no reason to add to the wreckage.

That being said, it’s time to hit that panic button. There are 3 games left in April. That’s 1/6 of the season gone by, and the Astros are on a heavy downward spiral that’s spinning out of control. All three components of the game – pitching, fielding, batting, has regressed incrementally with each game played. When the team can manage to eke out a win, they create the illusion that the old Astros are back. We all sit back and say, finally. But then they play the next day, and it’s back to square one.

Those winning games, though, show the Astros at their best. They can hit the ball, feed off each other AB and get on a hitting streak. The field comes alive, with barely a missed throw. Even if the pitching is still a little shaky at times, the bullpen can manage the end. When they’re on, they’re on. They’re the team that shocked the world with a turnaround that nobody expected. The problem is, they’ve not been on that much, and this relatively young team can’t seem to shake it off.

In the (I assume) now 15 losses, the Astros have averaged 3 runs per game, and when they get behind in a game, one can almost chalk it up to a loss. The smallest setbacks defeat the team, and send even vets into panic mode. Granted, the average time in the MLB for this team is just heading into 6 years, and the heart of the line-up boasts a group of up and comers with less than 3 years in the league, so this is rather new ground for the whole of the team. After the post season run, the expectations have shot through the roof.

Young teams feel that, and sometimes crumble under the pressure. Right now, the Astros are falling apart at the seams.

So what will help turn this around? Wins, thus far, haven’t boosted the morale of the team. This year’s team hasn’t managed to push a winning streak past a single game. A shake up in the line-up? Well, at least the starting rotation is poised for a change, with Devenski switching spots with Scott Feldman in the starting rotation, bringing Feldman down to the bullpen to see if Devenski can start a game. With the pitching rotation in the mess it’s in right now, how ever, there are few moves that can be made outside of this.

One factor that must be determined is the Tyler White factor. As much as anyone, this rookie’s been in a slump, with some real blunders at 1st base. He’s missed throws, routine pop-ups, and played an integral part in tonight’s implosion in the 5th. He’s regressed at bat after starting out red-hot. He’ll get his opportunity to play through the slump and the rookie mistakes, but I’m not sure I’d stretch it too far past all-star break if he doesn’t find a groove. The fielding mistakes are excuseable if hits are coming (and if improvement is made), but the hits are going to have to continue to keep coming.

A few more adjustments can be looked into on the roster. There should be some real pressure to prime Gattis to back up Castro behind the plate, and this isn’t going to be as difficult of a transition as people may believe. Gattis played through many games behind home plate with the Braves, as recently as 93 games in 2014. He’s a little rusty, coming off a sports hernia surgery and having not played the position for a year, but he’s not being trained for a new position. Gattis has a higher ceiling of potential than both Castro and Kratz at bat, so there needs to be some movement here.

The leaders on the team need to be leaders, as well. The more experienced players, Rasmus, Altuve, Gomez, have a responsibility to play smarter and lead their teammates out of this collective funk. A little direction on the field goes a long way. Altuve can’t be making the simple base-running errors. He’s too old for that. He’s calmed down tremendously at bat, reading the pitches instead of swinging at everything close to the plate. He  can certainly pace himself on base. The same goes for Gomez and Rasmus – they’ve all made simple mistakes that we shouldn’t expect from veteran players.

These are a few things that key players can do to change the attitude in the game.

Coaching staff and management? That’s another story altogether. I wouldn’t necessarily point all the fingers at Hinch, but he is THE leader in the dugout. Something isn’t clicking and his players are currently out of control. You can see his anger on boneheaded plays that this team shouldn’t be committing with all of their capabilities. You can also assume that Luhnow still has a pretty tight hold on management, too, but that’s another story. Baseline coaching has had some lapses during key plays – not all of these base running blunders fall back on the players.

The team is a big mess, but little adjustments are needed to improve. These mistakes on the field, whether pitching, at bat, or fielding, are not a reflection of the capability of this team. They are actually exceptions to the rule. The season has progressed enough, however, to really worry about these exceptions because they’re starting to become the rule. A few tweaks are essential, but it’s due time to do that tweaking. We can’t afford to wait til the break.

 

Houston Astros: Still early, still bad

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The Astros tied, and then lost, the last game of their most recent home series against the Boston Red Sox, going into 3 extra innings and running through their bullpen in order to try and eke out a second win and second series win at home. Unfortunately, the Red Sox took better advantage of the late inning bullpen pitchers, ran through and tired out a few with endless swings, and managed 2 runs in the final inning. Astros never produced any runs after the 9th inning Rasmus homerun to tie the game.

Another disappointing loss, just after a game where the Astros seemed to come alive and begin to play with the energy and precision that their roster talent allows. When the Astros come out hot, like the Saturday afternoon game against the Red Sox, they are a great club to watch. However, when they’re not, they’re simply agonizing. We’ve seen too many agonizing losses this season – and even a couple of painful wins. The team isn’t playing to the caliber expected, and is well on their way to last place in both the AL and the MLB.

This last home series has really captured the problem of this team. Starting pitchers have folded under pressure. Weak spots have developed at both 1st and 3rd base. Errors are piling up. Baserunning is atrocious. Run production is failing. Players are practically colliding into each other in the field, chasing flies. Surprisingly, no more complaints about the lighting. Of course, a team can’t complain when they’re playing as badly as the Astros are playing this year.

They’ve shrunk in the spotlight, and this young team’s high expectations may be too much pressure to handle. Fingers are being pointed, and blamed being placed, with the starting pitching rotation receiving the large portion of blame. The starting pitching rotation, 1 man short with McCullers in rehab, a relatively horrendous start by McHugh, and some rather poor starts by Feldman, Fiers, and Fister (and even Keuchel against the Rangers) in addition to the bullpen’s newest trade acquistion, Ken Giles, failing to shut down innings can be blamed.

The regression in the starting rotation and bullpen (although starting rotation has taken the biggest tumble) can be seen right here:

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For reference: SR is starting rotation, BP is bullpen. What this means, essentially, is more earned runs per game. Almost 2 more per game, to be exact. To give you the real perspective, Astros ERA for 2015 was ranked #1 in the American League for 2015, and 6th overall in the MLB, meaning the Astros allowed the fewest earned runs in the AL, and 6th fewest overall in the MLB. In 2016, Astros rank last in the AL, giving up the most runs per game, and 27th in the MLB. Just to put that into perspective for you.

It’s not all pitching, though. Not by a long shot. Let’s compare at bats:

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These measurements are per game. The Astros are actually right on the pace in homeruns, compared to the 2015 season. Everything else – regressed. Only slightly, though. Last year, the Astros averaged 4.5 runs a game. They’re now down by almost a run per game, with 3.7 runs per game. Not a strength, but it once evened out when the scoring was held to fewer than 4 runs allowed per game. Obviously. Run production, outside of homeruns, which was an area of improvement for the Astros coming into 2016 has actually decreased. They are more dependent on homeruns now than ever.

The Astros have regressed in producing runners in scoring position, and have left a great deal of RISP stranded every game. In 2015, the RISP stranded was 3.26 per game. In 2016, the count is 3.74. That’s one run subtracted out of every 2 games. Fewer hits means fewer bases. Lower RBIs mean fewer runs. Basic stuff. And, while not really measurable (at least from any statistic I’ve run across), baserunning has been atrocious. From leading off base too much, haphazard and costly 3rd base steal attempts, to clumsy and aloof running without watching ball movement or lead runners, and the Astros have a mess at bat.

These two are kind of no-brainers, though. Obviously, the fewer runs the opponent gets and the more runs the Astros get, the better the Astros record will be. Let’s not forget fielding, though:

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The only bright spots here? Average errors per game, believe it or not, has decreased in 2016 as well as stolen bases allowed (STA). UPDATE: as of yesterday’s game…no they haven’t, thanks to the 3 fielding errors yesterday, and stolen bases allowed has evened up with 2015’s stats. The correct number is now almost a full error per game (.74). Fewer double plays are occurring, and that last number right there – the defense efficiency ratio, grades the overall efficiency of fielding – the higher the better. Plainly speaking, Astros defense has regressed along with everything else, more errors, fewer plays made, and combined with pitching regression, more opponent batter scoring.

I am not sure there is an end to this in sight. We can keep saying that it’s still early, but there are fundamental problems at each side of the ball – pitching, fielding, and batting – that need to be addressed. This isn’t a matter of changing the pitching rotation, or the line up. It’s a matter of the Astros getting over this seemingly insurmountable slump. The Astros can play better than this, and it’s represented with last year’s numbers. This is, largely, the same team that surprised us all in 2015 with a playoff run. There are no surprises this year, but there are some heavy expectations.

The club plays best when they’re enjoying the game, loosened up, and having fun. Saturday proved this. They do great when they don’t take themselves too seriously. The pressure’s on, though, and perhaps its overwhelming this young roster. Well, Astros, the pressures off. At this rate, grabbing and average of 1 win per series, you guys are well on your way to breaking expectations. You’re well on your way to a last place in the AL West, AL, and maybe the MLB. At this pace, there’s zero chance to get to the big game, much less another playoff run.

It’s still early, sure. The pattern of regression has already been set, though, and in another month or two, it will be too late.

Houston Rockets: The last stand

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courtesy of @houstonrockets on Twitter

Game 3 of the Rockets-Warriors playoff series had both sides see the emergence of a team with some heart, determination, and hunger to win a series. Game 3 was also the first time the caliber of the talent on the roster, primarily at #1 and #2. Through a few chance alley oops from Harden to Howard, the team finally displayed team leadership and ownership of what happens out on the court, through 4 quarters of ball. The win ignited the team, and today’s pregame practice showed that energy has not left the building.

Is it too late to come back, though? Nobody can argue the impact Steph Curry has on any opponent that faces him. He averages just over 30 points per game, and has an accuracy not matched by any single member of the Rockets. His absense in the second half of game 1, game 2, and game 3 gave the Rockets the biggest opportunity they’ll have in the playoffs this year, and it was all but squandered. The first game was an embarrassment, the second game almost the same, but then the Rockets woke up in game three.

The same intensity will be out on the court today, less than an hour away from tip off. Steph Curry will be out there too, and it’s anyone’s guess as to what level he brings back after resting 2 1/2 games. This game is another must-win game for the Rockets if they have a prayer to advance, because they won’t be coming back from 3-1. Not in Oracle Arena, and not if Curry has a say. If the Rockets post a win today, that evens out the series. That also brings another game back to Houston. That is their only chance.

This game will be tough, but will be exciting to watch. I am still of the mind to state this team doesn’t deserve the championship run that their just good enough to stumble in to the playoffs record has allowed them. I still don’t believe that this team has the leadership and drive to make it. I believe they’ll put up a good fight. However, I simply don’t believe it will be enough to drive them to a win this game. I think the effort in the last game was futile, because it came way too late and at a high cost to the team.

In the event I am wrong, and Thursday’s victory was just the start of an ubelievable comeback for the books, then I’ll be speechless. It will be hard to change my opinion about this year’s team, but if that unbelievable comeback happens, it may start to turn. That depends strongly on the Rockets playing hard for at least 3 to 4 more games. In all honestly, I haven’t seen the Rockets play hard for a streak since 2014. Even their best year in recent history, 2015, saw streaks of phoning it in on the court. Especially in the playoffs.

In the event I am right, and I believe fully that I am right. The Rockets will give their deserving fans a final game worthy of shelling out their hard earned bucks in a heartbreaking loss. Today’s game will be worth the view, and will be a rare glimpse of what this team can really do, so do watch. Do see what this team was capable of all year. And then you can start to realize why this team has to be rebuilt when it’s over. But for now, just enjoy the show.

 

Houston Rockets: #Celebrategate and why it matters

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I’m sure every Rockets fan can remember exactly where they were when Damian Lillard stole the world away from us. I was at my favorite sports bar and just lost my voice with the excitement of what was surely a game 6 win for the Rockets and an opportunity to bring the series back home for a game 7 win. What was a compelling game to watch with two teams that wouldn’t back down came down to the final 9/10ths of a second, but we were already celebrating game 7. The ball was then thrown back into play, and we all got to witness this:

Game over. Lillard’s buzz beater 3 pointer sealed the fate of the Rockets that season, and fans around the city went from immense joy to silent depression. In the moments after, you could walk out on any city street and hear a pin drop.  Minutes earlier, people already started celebrating. That buzzer beater will always remind each and every one of us that anything can happen within the time span of the clock. Hold your breath, get excited, but save the celebration for 0.0.

Last night’s game was played in a similar fashion and mentality. The Rockets came out with explosive energy and played their hearts out. The Warriors, albeit without their star Steph Curry, were knocked on their feet. They did stage a gradual comeback throughout the game, and in the 4th quarter, it was neck-and-neck. This was the kind of playoff game you want to be at. This is the kind of ball we all wanted to see all season long, and it finally appeared in a must-win situation to keep the Rockets alive. For as much disappointment this team has given us all this season, this game began to make up for it.

Most of us, though, still have that memory. When Harden sank his jumper in the last few seconds, the clock stopped at a near-ominous point: 2.1 seconds remaining in the game. The Lillard shot took .9 seconds. This was far from over. The bench, including Josh Smith, Dwight Howard, and Clint Capella, stood anxiously watching Harden’s moves. When he sank it, Capella was overjoyed, Josh Smith looked unfazed, and Dwight Howard seemed to quietly praise God. However, the ever-scrutinous Rockets fan base, as well as NBA critics around the world, began to wonder if the team didn’t get as excited as they should have.

The scrutiny itself seems silly, especially when we can all look back at the 2014 playoffs. However, it’s not just the overly critical Rockets fans reacting to this. It’s the NBA at large, who has been privy to the off-court drama and on-court play this team has dished out this season. A team on the brink of the championship in 2015 comes out in disarray. Multiple players only meetings, one resulting in the incredible and unwarranted firing of their head coach, as well as the pretty embarrassing trade-shopping for Howard clearly demonstrated a team in trouble.

In fact, this season is the direct antithesis of what a championship basketball team is and how one works. Game after game we had players showing up for attendance and checking out halfway through the game. At times, they weren’t even there. Sloppy plays, increasingly desperate 3 point attempts, a hastily appointed interim coach that had no authority over the team, and a group of players that hardly resembled a team, much less the few games away from a Championship game team that left the court in 2015. And let’s not forget defense, even though the team has.

Today’s story would be different, much different, had the Rockets brushed off the tulmutuous season and hit the playoffs in a mad sprint. They didn’t. The first game was as much of a mess as the entire season had been. It’s a game that had everyone chanting “sweep” from every couch cushion, barstool, and stadium seat around the country, watching this series. If game 3 had been a testimony of the effort and heart these players put into the whole series, nobody would be watching the bench instead of the court in the final seconds of the game.

That didn’t happen, though. We were treated to two abysmal games in which the Rockets had each and every chance to make this a 3-0 series, especially considering Curry’s exit in game 1, but continue their haphazard season in the same way they carried themselves throughout. Had this team hit the court in game 1 or 2, the Rockets would have a 3-0 record, and an opportunity to advance and actually sweep the Warriors – the record-breaking, unstoppable Warriors – to advance to the next round. This playoff series was theirs to prove what they had, and we heard it loud and clear.

A team with the talent, to step up when they really have to – and last night, they really had to – but not a championship team that has what it takes to step up every game.

People are confused and irritated about the scrutiny on the sidelines with 2 seconds left in the game? They shouldn’t be. By all appearances, this now-infamous vine wasn’t even posted by a Rockets fan or affiliate. So it’s not Rocket fan scrutiny happening here. We can turn our heads when Barkley slams the team, but when the fandom of the NBA is speaking up, that is hard to ignore. Sure, Rockets fans and critics alike jumped on the scrutiny, but it came from a place existing outside of the Rocketsphere. Those queries and critiques are the ones we should listen to.

Regardless of how far the team gets in the playoffs (which I predict will be 3 more games, tops), the problems within this organization are a little to loud to ignore. When it comes down to whether or one half of your feuding players are celebrating the counterpart’s success on the court, instead of what’s happening on the court, the organization can’t brush it off. The scrutiny is there for a reason. So let’s stop defending the players and criticizing the fans for their eye toward detail that usually shouldn’t matter. It matters this year, and we all know why.

 

 

Houston Texans: Eight days away

2007 NFL Draft

The 2016 NFL Draft is just 8 days out, and the FA moves before the draft are pretty much done, as far as the Texans are concerned. The latest move was to release QB Brian Hoyer, who was set to make $4 million in 2016. The move to remove Hoyer from the roster wasn’t a surprise, but the move to cut him instead of trading him had some people confused. Why not try to get something for the guy, even it if would be nothing more than another draft pick?  In short, because it wasn’t worth keeping him for a 6th or 7th round pick in 2017.

A lengthy discussion could point out the current situation in the QB free agency, with 2-3 QBs still waiting for signings, and the simple fact that these potential signings have stalemated any trades or deals for QBs in the current FA. The bottleneck is occurring between the San Francisco 49ers an the Denver Broncos, with not even free agent but likely to be traded Colin Kaepernick, and the reticence of either team to pick up the remaining value of Kaepernick’s contract.

Both teams hope to resolve this before the draft, but the whole situation is creating a real issue with other QBs left in limbo right now. What that means it the Texans holding onto Hoyer and tying up cap space that may be needed in the direct aftermath of the draft. Is all that worth the possibility of an additional 6th or 7th round pick in the coming years? Do the Texans really need to get caught up by the unneccessary stalemate that the 49ers and Broncos are willfully causing, over $4 million?

No. No they do not.

You have to look at the fact that every team knew Hoyer would be released, with the signing of Osweiler and the re-signing of FA Brandon Weeden, with Tom Savage still being on the roster at a much cheaper price than Hoyer. Potentially higher tier QBs like Kaepernick and even Fitzpatrick are still available and in limbo because of contract/trade negotiations, which means Hoyer would certainly take a back seat, possibly for months. And, knowing that Hoyer would eventually be released, there isn’t a team out there that would give a favorable trade to the Texans.

You can also look at the recent draft pick trades that have occurred with the top 2 picks. Last week, the Titans traded the #1 overall pick to the Rams for a quite ridiculous number of picks for this year’s draft alone. The Rams want a QB, and want the first pick. Today, the Browns and Eagles announced a trade of the #2 overall pick, with the Eagles coughing up a heavy number of picks, presumably for the 2nd choice of QB in the draft. The Eagles, who just spent $35 million over the next 2 years on 2 QBs. Head-scratching.

Instantly, you have 2 teams that are bowing out of the QB tussle in the FA, which leaves even fewer teams to negotiate and haggle with, when trying to dump a 2nd rate likely career back-up QB for any kind of return woth noting. That’s not to say that these trades shore up all the QB needs in the NFL, but it does lead to the notion that the little value that Hoyer may possess has diminished down to nothing. The money that was freed up in the salary cap is more valuable than a later draft pick in the next couple of years.

Now that he’s released, there may be some additional movement in unclogging that bottleneck of QB movement in the FA. He’s already visited with the Jets, and is set to visit with the Broncos. Whether either team is serious about the visit is debatable, but it could help both teams in their own negotiations with both Kaepernick and Fitzpatrick. All I can say is that I’m glad the cut’s been made ,so the Texans don’t have this hanging over their heads entering into the Draft. We should all be happy about that.

Another player waived by the Texans was BJ Daniels, the QB/WR picked up from the Seattle Seahawks practice squad last year when both Hoyer and Yates were out with injuries. Daniels would be an interesting prospect to try out at WR, as he was in transition to WR in the Seattle Seahawks practice squad camp. I’m surprised he wouldn’t at least make it through some work outs to see the potetial before being released. Certainly he wouldn’t be kept around as a back-up QB, but it would be worth it to test his wings at WR.

Since that’s out of the way, the Texans have the next 8 days to focus on the 2016 Draft. This means evaluating their needs, picks, and back up plans. This also means evaluating the trades that are happening with other teams, and lining up similar needs to make the optimal choices for the team in 2016. This means days of non-stop evaluations for every single player in the positions they are looking for, whether they have made visits or not. It also means evaluating draft day trading scenarios based on the trend of the draft.

The Texans have always placed the priority of talent available in each round rather than order of need. That has paid off in the first round, given the Texans are the only team in the NFL to still have every 1st round pick on the roster since 2008. The 3-4 round picks have been less-than-consistent, however, with more bombs than stars. Remarkably, however, the Texans have pulled off some decent later round and unsigned FA draft picks, which almost balances it out.

There’s no question that the surest talent resides in the top 2 and 1/2 rounds, however, and the Texans have 2 picks in this stretch. The Texans draft picks currently fall in the following order: 22nd, 52nd, 85th, 119th, 159th, 166th, and 195th. That’s one each in every round, and an additional pick in the 5th round. The downside of the Texans hesitancy to get into top pick trades means that the Texans will always have the minimum number of top picks in each draft.

That’s not really a bad thing, though. All in all, the draft is a gamble. If it pays, then you’re a genius. If it doesn’t, then you’re a moron. The Texans have always been rather conservative in the draft, with bold moves going toward amazing talent potential over need. I see this trend continuing, especially with the bold FA moves that have happened. I’d rather the bold moves happen in the FA, too, since those moves are based on proof. Some may argue that Osweiler’s deal isn’t, but there’s more proof he can make it than any of the QBs in the draft.

I’d still like to see a veteran DE picked up to plug the hole Crick left behind. I’d also like to see Owen Daniels come back to Houston one more year, as the team could definitely use an upgrade and shake-up in the TE corps. The talk of Andre Johnson retiring as a Texan is a nice pipe dream, but I don’t see a humbled Johnson agreeing to that for more than a ceremonial 1 day contract (if even that, considering his feels toward the team’s decsision on his playing time last year). I expect no more pre-Draft movement, though.

So, sit tight, y’all, because it’s a waiting game til the 28th.

 

Houston Astros: The Silver Boot

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There is nothing worse than a manufactured rivalry in a professional sport. I say that as an Astros fan that still may hold a little bitterness toward the great shift that landed the team in the American League West, who still holds the old-school rivalries against the Braves, Cardinals, and even the Cubs near and dear to my heart, and has never put too much clout into the so-called Lone Star series that pitted the Texas Rangers against the Houston Astros anytime there was a spring training or interleague match-up.

This was a rivalry that existed more on paper than in the hearts of any fan of either team, and the weakest link by far of any Lone Star state rivarly in pro sports. However, the teams (largely since 2001) traded a shiny sparkly boot trophy back and forth based on head-to-head wins and losses, and has become a tradition between the two clubs. Not until the Astros switch to the American League in 2013 did this so-called rivarly begin to gain some traction, albeit rather forced. It seemed that the MLB proper and sports authorities around the country were more excited about the rivalry than any fan would be.

That is, until we all got used to what the MLB was trying to force upon us and begrudgingly accepted our fates as the newest, hottest interstate rivalry.

It is surprising, though, that it took this long to achieve legit rivarly status. One should naturally exist, given the already present and accounted for bitter Houston/Dallas rivalry. Afteralll, the team branded themselves as THE MLB team in Texas, stealing the state’s name, even though they did arrive almost a decade after the birth of the MLB in the state of Texas (a touch of arrogance that isn’t unexpected from any Dallas area team). And let’s not forget they stole our pride and joy, Nolan Ryan, from our clubhouse and our hearts. Nolan Ryan, after 8 years in the Astros stripes, retired as a Ranger, which set his status in stone in the MLB Hall of Fame.

However, the rivalry that should have been simply never materialized. Fans, largely, doled out taunts and humblebrags to the likes of the Braves and Cardinals, and made that passive-aggressive love-hand bond with Cubs fans, because- well, we know the feeling, but we’re still division rivals. Were division rivals. Were. When the move came for the Astros to be unceremoniously plucked out of the NL and placed into the AL West, the Rangers/Astros rivarly still felt relatively weak and unconnected. Personally, I carried my Cardinals hate over to the Los Angels, with Pujols on the roster.

All of that changed last year. The rivalry, now 3 years in the urging, finally took flight with the Astros emergence as legitimate contenders – not only for the Division winner, but the National title some day not too far in the future. The wins and losses never counted more than they did last year. The Astros and Rangers battled, for the better part of the 2015 MLB season, for the top seed in the American League West, as well as a playoff spot for the shot at a MLB championship. Last year, in the final stretch, the Rangers took the division title, and the trophy. And then they took our pride.

Rangers.0.0

And thus, the rivalry began. Happy now, Selig? We’re finally on board.

This year, with that collective burn, Astros and fans alike have a score to settle. The Lone Star series and Silver Boot trophy now has significance (more so than hubris between ball club owners and managers, at least) that is almost as the division title, primarily because it likely signifies the Division title between the two clubs. And that bold, arrogant show of Astros ownership, pictured above, places the ball club within the confines of the attitude of the city that we all love to hate. Welcome aboard, Arlington Rangers. Houston now hates you too.

Tonight, game 1 of the 1st of 6 series against the Rangers begins. The Astros are kind of limping into this first series, after a shaky, unbalanced start in last place in the AL West(albeit not far behind the 2015 start), while the Rangers come striding in, sitting atop the AL West with 2 more wins. Tonight, the Astros start their divisional series play, while the Rangers begin their 4th series against division rivals. Tonight, the Astros have a chance to turn their season around with an impressive start to divisional series play, or continue their descent into mediocrity.

I have no real predictions, just hopes. The first divisional series is always hard to gauge, but this start may be a fair gauge as to how the season will progress. I have no doubts that the team will come together and play to the caliber of talent they possess on the roster, and there’s no better time than the present to do so. So, my hope is for a second series win, starting out with a big win tonight. The team needs this win, so the Rangers won’t get in their heads like they did in 2015, and so the Astros can start a formidable streak that lets them climb their way back up to the top.

And we want that Silver Boot this year. So let’s take it back.