NFL Wire News

Texans not clowning around; now looking for QB

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HOUSTON — When the Houston Texans ponder the rush this offseason, it will be the hurry to get a quarterback, not a guy to harass opposing passers.

After spending the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft on outside linebacker and pass rush specialist Jadeveon Clowney, who was injured virtually all season, the Texans set their No. 1 priority this offseason as finding a difference-maker at quarterback.

Because of injuries, the Texans played four quarterbacks and started three. It was the third time in four years they played musical chairs at quarterback because of injuries and ineffectiveness.

Coach Bill O’Brien knows the qualities he wants in a quarterback.

“Hard worker, leadership, intelligence, being able to throw the ball accurately in critical situations (and) having his best moments when the game’s on the line,” he said.

The Texans have the 16th pick in the first round.

Looking at this year’s playoff teams, it is interesting to see how they acquired their starting quarterback.

For instance, Joe Flacco was selected with the 18th overall pick and Aaron Rodgers with the 24th.

Andy Dalton (second round), Russell Wilson (third) and Tom Brady (sixth) were not drafted in the first round. Tony Romo wasn’t drafted at all.

Among the Texans’ incumbent quarterbacks, Ryan Fitzpatrick (fractured tibia), Ryan Mallett (torn pectoral muscle) and Tom Savage (hyperextended knee) are recovering from season-ending injuries.

Case Keenum, who led the Houston to victories in the last two games against the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars, and Thad Lewis aren’t expected to return. The Texans need to re-sign Mallett. If they use a high pick on a quarterback, Mallett could start until the young player is ready.

Fitzpatrick could be traded. Savage will continue to be developed.

The Texans are in good shape on offense. Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins will return at receiver. Of the five starting offensive linemen, only right tackle Derek Newton is scheduled to become a free agent, and the team hopes to re-sign him.

Houston must find a slot receiver with a lot of speed.

Under Romeo Crennel, the defense was outstanding after the open date, helping the Texans go 5-2. For the season, the defense set a team record with 34 takeaways and provided five touchdowns on returns, including two by defensive end J.J. Watt.

The biggest need on defense is finding another pass rusher to help Watt, even though he didn’t need too much help. Watt finished with 20.5 sacks, and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus was second on the team with five.

It would help if Clowney makes a successful recovery from microfracture surgery, but the Texans are months from having any indication if that will be possible by the start of the season.

No Black Monday here: Before and after Houston’s victory over Jacksonville on Sunday, there were national media reports saying the Texans were looking to hire a new general manager. Rick Smith, in charge of the personnel side of the organization since June 2006, isn’t going anywhere.

Cal McNair, owner Bob McNair’s son and right-hand man as the team’s CEO and vice chairman, quickly shot down reports that there would be a new general manager. Smith is under contract until June 2017.

Coach Bill O’Brien, who worked closely with Smith during the last offseason and during the season, said of Smith, “We have a great relationship. We talk every day, multiple times a day. His office is basically right next to mine. His door’s always open. My door’s always open.

“We feel good about basically where we are right now and building something here, but we know that there’s a lot more out there, and we’ve got to work hard together to put together a better team. We understand that.”

NOTES: Wide receiver Andre Johnson elevated his NFL record for games with at least 10 catches and 100 yards to 21 when he had 10 for 134 vs. Jacksonville. … Defensive end J.J. Watt finished the season with a league-high 50 hits on the quarterback to go with his 20.5 sacks, the third consecutive season in which Watt led the NFL in quarterback hits.

REPORT CARD VS. JAGUARS

–PASSING OFFENSE: B — In his second start, Case Keenum completed 25 of 35 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns. He threw a pick-six and lost a fumble that set up a short field for Jacksonville’s other touchdown. WR Andre Johnson played his best game of the season (10 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown). Keenum engineered touchdown drives of 83, 74 and 80 yards and finished with a 98.5 passer rating. He helped the offense convert 56 percent of its third-down chances. The decisive points came on his 8-yard slant to Johnson.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus — After running for 23 yards in the first quarter, RB Arian Foster left with a hamstring injury. The Texans ran 34 more times for 100 yards, with Alfred Blue (17 for 39) and Jonathan Grimes (11 for 45) sharing the load. They averaged only 3.2 yards a carry. The Jaguars often played with eight defenders in the box.

–PASS DEFENSE: A-minus — QB Blake Bortles threw for only 117 yards. He was sacked five times, including three times by J.J. Watt, whose last sack produced a safety. Bortles finished with 14-for-33 and had a 52.2 passer rating. His long gain was a 24-yard completion to WR Ace Sanders. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel had the Texans blitz Bortles from the start. Despite generating only 233 yards on offense and going 0-for-11 on third down, the Jaguars reached the Texans’ 5-yard line at the end of the game before Houston stopped them on downs.

–RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus — Thanks to two 34-yard runs by Bortles and RB Jordan Todman, the Jaguars totaled 121 yards rushing and averaged 8.6 yards a carry. Even though the game was close, Jacksonville seemed more intent on throwing than trying to run and control the clock. The Jaguars ran only 14 times, three by Bortles.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus — P Shane Lechler did the best job on special teams. He had a gross average of 46.3 yards and a 40.3-yard net. He put four punts inside Jacksonville’s 20-yard line. PK Randy Bullock didn’t attempt a field goal, but his kickoffs were deep. As usual, the return game was terrible. The coverage was mediocre.

–COACHING: B — Bill O’Brien and quarterbacks coach George Godsey did a good job of preparing Keenum for his second start. O’Brien called a solid game. If not for a Keenum pick-six and a fumble at the Texans’ 23 that set up a 23-yard touchdown pass from WR Cecil Shorts to Todman, the Jaguars wouldn’t have scored. Still, this game was closer than it should have been considering the Texans were at home and needed to win for an outside shot at the playoffs.


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