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McClain: Browns defense could be ideal for Texans' run game to bounce back

610AM Sports Radio
610AM Sports Radio
 2022-11-30

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(SportsRadio 610) - The Texans take a six-game losing streak into Deshaun Watson’s homecoming at NRG Stadium.

It’s Watson’s first appearance since his last game with the Texans on Jan. 3, 2021. His 11-game suspension ended this week, and he’s replacing Jacoby Brissett as the starter.

Here are observations on Watson, the Texans and Browns as they prepare for Sunday’s game.

BROWNS DON’T KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT FROM WATSON

The Browns know they spent $230 million guaranteed for one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but they also know Deshaun Watson hasn’t played for almost two years. The truth is nobody knows what to expect from him in his first game back. He’s bound to be a little rusty, to say the least.

The Texans hope Watson doesn’t play like he did in his last appearance at NRG Stadium, a 41-38 loss to Tennessee in the last game of the 2020 season. He connected on 28-of-39 passes for 365 yards and three touchdowns. Watson threw one interception and finished with a 115.9 rating.

Watson’s last game was witnessed by only 12,504 fans because of the pandemic. It’ll be interesting to see how many Texans’ fans show up.

Will NRG Stadium be loaded up with Browns’ fans as it was for visiting teams at the Philadelphia and Washington games? No matter how many Texans’ fans attend the game, Watson is sure of getting booed.

WATSON WILL HAVE TO INTRODUCE HIMSELF TO TEXANS PLAYERS

Of the Texans who played in Deshaun Watson’s last game, only six are still on the roster. Receiver Brandin Cooks is the only starter remaining from that game against Tennessee who’ll start Sunday. Others who played against the Titans are tight end Jordan Akins, offensive tackle Charlie Heck, safety Jonathan Owens, snapper Jon Weeks and kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn.

Offensive tackles Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard didn’t play in that game. Defensive end Jonathan Greenard started that game against the Titans but won’t play against the Browns because he’s injured.

WATSON NO-SHOWS NEWS CONFERENCE

Deshaun Watson was expected to address the media on Wednesday afternoon but didn’t. He got his stuff out of his locker and disappeared. Coach Kevin Stefanski was asked about it and said, “That’s not my department.”

The NFL requires all players who are requested for interviews to show up or risk a substantial fine. Reporters hope to interview Watson on Thursday. If he stiffs them again, he runs the risk of alienating them even more. Not a wise decision for a player in Watson’s predicament.

TEXANS MUST GET OFF TO A BETTER START

The Browns are fast starters, and, as everyone knows, the Texans are not. Cleveland has outscored opponents 65-36 in the first quarter. The Texans have been outscored 60-17 in the first quarter. The Browns have been outscored in every other quarter.

The Texans are a league-worst minus-86 in point differential, and it doesn’t matter who plays quarterback – Davis Mills or Kyle Allen.

Allen makes his second start after the 30-15 loss at Miami. Naturally, he hopes to avoid another first-half performance like the Texans have put on in back-to-back losses to Washington and Miami.

In the first half of those last two defeats, the Texans have been outscored 50-0 and outgained 533-37. They had four first downs to 33. And they were 1-of-12 on third down.

The Browns have been a disappointment with a 4-7 record, but they’re coming off an overtime victory over the Bucs. Their defense is 18th (347.6 yards). End Myles Garrett, who leads Cleveland with 10 sacks, could make Allen’s afternoon even more miserable.

The Browns are hoping Watson’s return could ignite a winning streak and make them a contender for the last wild-card playoff berth.

IDEAL GAME FOR PIERCE TO BOUNCE BACK

In their last two losses to the Commanders and Dolphins, the Texans’ running game has been non-existent. Defenses know to load the box to stop Dameon Pierce before he ever gets started and then tee off on the quarterback.

The Texans ran 30 times for 57 yards against Washington and Miami. That’s an average of 1.9 yards a carry. Pierce carried 15 times for 16 yards, a 1.1 average. In the previous two losses to the Eagles and Giants, Pierce averaged 116.5 yards rushing.

So what’s happened besides defenses loading the box? The offensive line, particularly the guards and center, is doing a terrible job of run blocking, getting overpowered and buried by defensive linemen better than they are.

Cleveland would appear to be the ideal defense for Pierce and the run blockers to rebound. The Browns are 23rd in run defense, allowing 131.5 yards a game.

CHUBB COULD RUN WILD

Speaking of running games, Cleveland is fifth with 154.4 yards a game. The Browns have a terrific offensive line that specializes in run blocking, and Nick Chubb is a premier running back who has rushed for 1,039 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. He averages 5.2 yards a carry.

The Texans are coming off an outstanding performance against Miami’s running game. They limited the Dolphins to 66 yards on 26 carries, a 2.5 average. The Texans are still last in run defense, surrendering 168.6 yards – an improvement from the 181 they were allowing.

Because Deshaun Watson needs to throw the ball for the first time in almost two seasons, the Browns may not run as much as they usually would. No matter what strategy they deploy, they should earn a lopsided victory.

John McClain can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Monday and Thursday on Texans Radio. He write three times a week and does three Houtopia Podcasts for SportsRadio610.com . He also can be read four times a week on GallerySports.com .

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