On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns are on the road as they face the Houston Texans. To help preview a few topics from the Texans’ perspective, we reached out to Brett Kollmann from Battle Red Blog and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: “Unlike DeShone Kizer, Deshaun Watson has seen some early success with the Texans, including 9 touchdowns to just 1 interception in the past two weeks. It's probably safe to say that he's exceeded expectations already, but if you can cut through the statistical excitement, what would you describe as Watson's biggest strength and biggest weakness up to this point?”
Brett: “Watson's poise under pressure is truly spectacular. He was famously unflappable in college against the like of Ohio State and Alabama, sure, but even when being chased around by All-Pros in the NFL the kid still has ice in his veins. It's really remarkable. He still has some throws here and there that are off the mark, and he'll have at least one ‘what the hell?’ decision every game, but there is no denying that Watson's composure is elevating this entire offense to new heights. You can see more of what makes Deshaun such a dangerous threat in my full length video breakdown on the right.”
Chris: “The Texans suffered two huge defensive blows this past Sunday, losing DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus for the season. Obviously, there's expected to be a dropoff in talent for whoever fills in, but can you tell us a little about whoever is expected to take their place?”
Brett: “The Texans just signed Lamarr Houston and Kendall Langford to replenish their depth in the defensive front, but most of the burden will have to be carried by Jadeveon Clowney, Christian Covington, and Brennan Scarlett. Clowney is an All-Pro caliber player no matter where he lines up, but I would not expect much out of the other two. The run defense should still be okay, but the difference in the Texans' ability to rush the passer will be massive. Kevin Hogan might have an eternity to throw out there on Sunday.”
Chris: “Injuries have played a role in this, but it's hard to believe that Jadeveon Clowney is already in his fourth season. How do Texans fans view him with respect to living up to the expectations of a former No. 1 overall pick?”
Brett: “Clowney is a monster when healthy. He's an elite run defender at every position from defensive tackle, to 5-technique defensive end, to outside linebacker, and his pass rushing skills have improved every single year. It is easy to go back in time and say that Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, or Aaron Donald should have been the first overall pick, but I think Texans fans are now in a place where we are happy with what we've got. Clowney is a damn good player and one of the cornerstones of this defense - you could do a lot worse than that for a first overall pick.”
Chris: “Texans quarterbacks were sacked 10 times in Week 1. Pro Football Focus ranks Houston as having one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. Yet over the past three weeks, Houston is only allowing an average of 3 sacks per game. Has it gotten better? Who is the Texans' most stable lineman, and who is the least stable?”
Brett: “Pass protection has gotten slightly better now that Chris Clark is playing left tackle instead of Kendall Lamm, but the true difference has been Deshaun Watson's ability to Houdini himself out of sacks multiple times a game. It's not like Jeff Allen is suddenly a good football player - he's not - but Watson's mobility gives him a way to compensate for Allen's terribleness in ways that Tom Savage could never even dream of. I don't want to throw around a comparison to Michael Vick arbitrarily, but Watson is doing things in and out of the pocket that previously I have only seen Michael Vick do. He's that good.”
Chris: “Tell us about someone on the Texans, who you haven't already talked about and isn't a high-profile player, who has been having a good/surprising season through 5 games.”
Brett: “Will Fuller looks like a brand new man in his sophomore season. He missed the first three games while recovering from a broken collarbone, but since coming back has scored four touchdowns in two games and given Deshaun Watson a true deep threat to rely on. His route running is as good as ever, his hands have improved, and he seems to have great chemistry with his quarterback despite only working with him for just a few weeks.
Houston's defense may be imploding in on itself right now due to injuries and suspensions, but as long as Fuller, DeAndre Hopkins, Bruce Ellington, and Ryan Griffin continue having good seasons, Watson has a legitimate chance to break all sorts of rookie passing records.”
Thanks again to Brett for taking the time to answer my questions.