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Scouting Report: Texans, Week 16

Posted Dec 23, 2017

Houston struggling without quarterback Watson.

A look at what the Steelers will be up against on Monday afternoon at the Houston Texans:

DOWNWARD SPIRAL: The Texans were 3-3 after beating the Browns, 33-17, on Oct. 15. But coming out of their bye they lost quarterback Deshaun Watson for the season (knee) in a 41-38 loss on Oct. 29 at Seattle, a setback that commenced a stretch that has seen Houston lose seven of its last eight games, including four in a row. The Texas lost to five teams with winning records through 15 weeks in that span (8-6 Seattle, 10-4 Los Angeles Rams, 8-6 Baltimore, 8-6 Tennessee and 10-4 Jacksonville), as well as the Colts (3-11) and the 49ers (4-10).

REVOLVING DOOR: T.J. Yates became the third quarterback to start a game for the Texans when he got the nod for last Sunday’s 45-7 loss at Jacksonville. Tom Savage, who started the regular-season opener before being replaced by Watson, has a team-high seven starts. Watson has started six times. Houston is 3-3 with Watson, 1-6 under Savage and 0-1 with Yates.

Head coach Bill O’Brien has used nine different starting quarterbacks in his four seasons in Houston.

REVOLVING DOOR II: The Texans have used five different starting left offensive tackles and six different starting offensive line combinations in 14 games. The group listed at No. 1 on the depth chart for the Steelers game _ left tackle Julien Davenport, left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo, center Nick Martin, right guard Jeff Allen and right tackle Breno Giacomini _ hasn’t started together since Nov. 5 against Indianapolis.

GROUND TO A HALT: Houston hasn’t had a running back rush for 100 yards in 17 consecutive games. Running back Lamar Miller’s 3.6 average per carry is the lowest of his six-year career.

WHATEVER IT TAKES: The Texans dabbled with the Wildcat formation against Jacksonville (running back Alfred Blue took direct snaps for gains of 4 and 7 yards). Houston also relied consistently on formations with six or seven offensive linemen (as opposed to five offensive linemen and one or two tight ends). Houston had seven offensive linemen play at least 47 percent of the offensive snaps against Jacksonville.

The Texans only have two tight ends on the roster and only had one active (Stephen Anderson) at Jacksonville.

DOESN’T CLOWNEY AROUND: Outside linebacker/defensive end Jadevon Clowney had six tackles (all solo), two sacks, three quarterback hits, four tackles for a loss and a fumble recovery and return for a touchdown on Sept. 24 at New England (a 36-33 Patriots victory). Only one other player has had five-or-more tackles, two-or-more sacks, three-or-more quarterback hits and a fumble return for a TD in the same game since all of those stats became official. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt had such a game in 2014 (seven tackles, two sacks, four quarterback hits, three tackles for a loss and a fumble recovery and return for a TD against Indianapolis).

Clowney has 50 tackles, nine sacks, 20 tackles for a loss, 20 quarterback hits, two passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries on the season.

MISSING IN ACTION: Watt and linebacker Whitney Mercilus are among the 15 Texans on the reserve/injured list, along with Watson.

CATCHING ON: Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins leads the NFL in receiving touchdowns (12) and has caught at least one pass for a score in an NFL-high nine games this season. Hopkins is No. 2 in the NFL in receiving yards (1,313), behind Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (1,533). Hopkins is also No. 2 with 66 receiving first downs (Brown, 71) and with 426 fourth quarter receiving yards (Brown, 550). Hopkins and Brown are tied for the league lead with 16 receptions of 25-plus yards.

Hopkins and Texans wide receiver Will Fuller V (seven TD catches) have combined for 19 scoring receptions, the most by a pair of teammates in the NFL this season.

STAT THAT MATTERS: The Texans have surrendered 27 passing touchdowns this season. Only the New York Football Giants have allowed more (30). The Jets and Browns have also allowed 27.

SPECIAL EDITION: Houston has allowed one punt return for a touchdown this season. Punter Shane Lechler is one game shy of sole possession of 15th place on the NFL’s all-time games played list (285) and has appeared in 252 consecutive regular-season games, the longest active streak in the NFL and the fifth-longest in NFL history. Lechler is No. 8 in the NFL in net punting average (41.9 yards per) this season. Kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn is 18-for-23 on field goal attempts and has missed once from 20-29 yards and twice from 30-39 yards. He’s 5-for-6 on attempts from 40-49 yards and 2-for-3 from 50-plus.  

HE SAID IT: “It’s a two-part thing there. Obviously, we’ve, throughout our whole lives, had a lot of conversations, and especially throughout college and then in the transition into the NFL, have talked about what it takes to be successful, and then specifically pass rushing or how to handle life in the NFL and things like that. But then the second part of that is, he deserves all the credit. He’s the one who put in the work. He’s the one who put in the time. He’s the one who is always eager and asking questions and wanting and willing to learn. And he’s the one with the talent and athletic ability, so I don’t want to take anything away from him. He deserves all the credit and if I could help him in any way along the way I’ve always tried to.” _ J.J. Watt on his brother, Steelers rookie linebacker and No. 1 pick T.J. Watt.