The Houston Texans (0-4) are looking for signs of life against their first AFC South opponent of the season, the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3).
Week 5 Preview: Houston Texans Versus Jacksonville Jaguars
How do Houston Texans look without Bill O’Brien?
That’s the biggest question everyone is wondering as the Houston Texans are going without Bill O’Brien since he coached his first regular-season game on September 7, 2014, against Washington.
The Texans had been under O’Brien’s control for six seasons and a quarter (100 games). That’s a long time for any head coach, and the Texans will look to adjust without one of their longest-tenured head coaches.
Gary Kubiak is the only coach with more games coached with 125. The Texans had an unfortunate finish to their season after Kubiak was fired; Wade Phillips became the interim head coach for the remaining three games and finished with an 0-3 record in 2013.
Firing a head coach midseason is never constructive towards winning for a team trying to contend, but Houston ownership bit the bullet in hopes of turning things around.
As insane as it may sound, the Texans season isn’t over yet. Houston still has an avenue to make the playoffs, but they have to win their games against their AFC South opponents if they hope to stay alive for this season. This team has no real reason to tank since they owe the Miami Dolphins their 2021 first and second-rounder after acquiring Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil in 2019.
Houston’s hopes for overcoming an 0-4 start are hinging on Romeo Crennel to reel this team back in and make them buy in after O’Brien lost the players' support.
Before talking X’s and O’s moving forward, the players need to buy what Crennel is selling if they hope to string a few wins together and begin to think about possibly entering the race for the playoffs once again. Interestingly, it’s Crennel that could bring this all together.
Outside of becoming the oldest head coach in NFL history to coach a game, he is a trailblazer in his own right as he has been looked up by many black and brown coaches in the league. Crennel considered retiring in the offseason before returning to the Texans as the associate head coach after being the defensive coordinator for five seasons in Houston.
Crennel is no stranger to being an interim head coach after he undertook that role with the Kansas City Chiefs for the remaining three games of the 2011 season. The sample size is small, but he finished with a 2-1 record in that capacity.
Texans have a minimal margin for error after dropping four straight games, but they can’t afford to lose their AFC South opponents if they hope to make the playoffs this season. It is imperative they play with purpose this Sunday at NRG Stadium.
Will the Houston Texans offense please stand up?
The Houston Texans have plenty of issues to worry about on the offensive side of the football. There isn’t one game that the offense has put up a good performance for all four quarters. That’s a problem.
There's very little reason to believe that Houston will play a different style of football than what they have attempted to establish in the first four games, but they will try to be more consistent with it.
Deshaun Watson and the Texans' passing game hasn't been poor despite their inability to put points on the board. He is still on pace to reach the 4,000-yard milestone and be in the mid-twenties when it comes to touchdown passes for the third consecutive season.
The offense remains comprised of talented players, but it will be up to Tim Kelly and the rest of the coaches to sell the players on their vision despite the rough start.
Having Bill O'Brien no longer forming part of the equation should smooth some of the tensions and allow the players to loosen up, but the playcalling will have to be consistent for improvement in the following weeks.
This season remains salvageable, but it depends on how the players and coaches react to the changes with four games already in the books. One challenge Tim Kelly and coaching staff will be challenged to resolve is the stagnant run game.
The David Johnson gamble has looked really rough for the first quarter of the season, and having no depth has played a part in the early struggles. Duke Johnson made his return in Week 4 after injuring his ankle in the season opener, but they will have to get him more involved to see some success on the ground.
Duke had five carries for 24 yards against the Minnesota Vikings. He's going to need more carries than that to help David in the run game. The Texans have to go back to the drawing board regarding their rushing attack and include some easy read-option plays for Watson to pressure opposing defenses.
Another aspect that needs to improve is the number of sacks that the offensive line and Deshaun Watson are allowing. Houston has allowed 16 sacks, an average of 4 sacks per game through the season's first four games.
That will need to change against the Jaguars, and Houston faces the 31st ranked defense when it comes to that particular category. The Jaguars have only four sacks through their four games, which is a big part of why they have a 1-3 record.
The Jaguars pass defense ranks 24th as they allow 261 yards per game, so the Texans should have some success through the air. Houston's run game could look to gain some confidence as the Jaguars' run defense is 26th in the NFL as they are allowing 138.5 yards on the ground.
The offense really remains a collective effort for it to be successful. Coaching and play calling needs to improve, but the players' level of effort could certainly be better. Hopefully, Crennel taking over can revitalize a lifeless locker room.
Defense needs to regain pride and confidence
The Houston Texans defense is a much more inferior team when it comes to talent than prior seasons. The defense had Tyrann Mathieu, D.J. Reader, Jadeveon Clowney, and Kareem Jackson to depend on when they started the season 0-3 in 2018.
This defense doesn't have those players, and the front office didn't do enough to cover the talent gap in the seasons to follow. None of this is unexpected; however, the defense still has talent like J.J. Watt, Justin Reid, and Zach Cunningham that can elevate the play around them.
The Texans still have to one of the better inside linebacker duos in the league, but their effectiveness is limited with Houston's edge rushers' poor ability to set the edge against the run.
Houston has the worst run defense through their first four games, and it remains to be seen if that's a bad start or a foreshadowing of what is yet come. The Jaguars rushing attack is ranked 21st in the league with an average of 104.3 yards per game, but Houston allows a league worse 181.8 yards per game.
This defense should hover around the average mark when it pertains to their level of production with the talent they have, but pride plays a big part in their ability to reach their ceiling.
Jaguars' wide receiver, D.J. Chark, remains their most dangerous weapon on offense, and the player that the Texans defense will have to key on. Chark has 204 yards on 15 receptions, 3 touchdown receptions, and averaging 68 yards per game.
The Jaguars' passing attack is their forte as they are currently ranked 10th in the league with 262.8 yards per game. However, they have struggled to convert that into points as they're currently averaging 23.8 points per game (23rd in the NFL).
The good news for the Houston Texans is that Gardner Minshew has thrown 4 interceptions in the last three weeks, so the defense could get their first turnover of the season in Week 5. The Texans defense should really look to send pressure towards Minshew as he is the fifth most sacked quarterback with 13 takedowns.
Houston's inability to force turnovers has been one of the main reasons for their struggles early on, and they will need to create momentum-changing plays to regain their confidence moving forward.
Final takeaways from Bill O'Brien's firing
This team needed to turn the page, and there was no way that would happen with Bill O'Brien remaining the head coach and general manager of the Houston Texans.
Houston is in a better place now because of the change, but the entire locker room will have to regain its level of competitiveness to make the best of this season. It is easier said than done, but this team will remain in the thick of things with Deshaun Watson.
The Houston Texans may be in for a rough season if they remain winless against the Jacksonville Jaguars, so they must win this game to build on some momentum for the remaining three-quarters of the 2020 season.