5 things you have to know about Texans: J.J. Watt leads Houston into Foxboro for battle of unbeatens

September 20, 2016 - 5:48 am
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[caption id="attachment_111583" align="alignright" width="350"]J.J. Watt will lead the Texans in Foxboro Thursday. No word if they're bringing their letterman jackets. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports) J.J. Watt will lead the Texans into Foxboro on Thursday. No word if they're bringing their letterman jackets this time. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)[/caption] Five things you have to know about the Texans, who will face the Patriots on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. 1. They love to go deep Through the first two games, few teams have taken as many deep shots as the Texans. Rookie wide receiver Will Fuller has become one of Brock Osweiler's favorite targets. According to Pro football Focus, 10 of Fuller's 18 targets have been 20-plus yards downfield, the highest total in the NFL. In addition, the average depth of target has been 23.5 yards, the fourth highest in the NFL and the highest of anyone with 10-plus targets. Fuller (9 catches, 234 yards, 23.4 yards per catch, 1 TD) and DeAndre Hopkins (12 catches, 167 yards, 13.9 yards per catch, 2 TDs) form the foundation of the Houston passing attack. In his first season with the Texans, Osweiler has enjoyed some success through the first two games, completing passes at a 60 percent rate (41-for-68) for 499 yards, with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Look for Osweiler to try to stretch the field against the New England passing game. Of course, putting up big numbers in the passing game isn't always a recipe for success against the Patriots, but it'll be interesting to see him try. 2. Their running game does have some similarities to the Patriots Lamar Miller signed with the Texans in the offseason, and through two games he's rushed for 189 yards on 53 carries (3.6 yards per carry). Not overwhelming numbers, but certainly comparable to what LeGarrette Blount has done in New England in that he's been able to loosen up some opposing defenses, get some big yards at important times and chew up some clock. (Blount has 51 carries for 193 yards -- fourth best in the AFC -- and an average of 3.8 yards per carry. Miller is fifth best in the AFC at 53 carries, 189 yards and 3.6 yards per carry.) After three mostly fruitless quarters against the Kansas City defense, Miller's hard work paid off in the fourth quarter when he had 45 yards on 12 carries and finish with 25 carries for 83 yards on the afternoon. Ultimately, it's not a surprise that both Miller and Blount are in the same statistical neighborhood to start the year, as both have been utilized in similar fashion through the first two games. 3. Through the first two weeks, they've been hit-or-miss against the run With the Patriots likely to lean heavily on Blount until either Jimmy Garoppolo or Tom Brady returns, New England's ground game will test Houston. The Texans have been up and down over the first two weeks of the regular season. They held Chicago to 73 rushing yards in a Week 1 win, but the Chiefs gashed them for 112 yards on just 19 carries (5.9 yards per attempt) this past Sunday. The numbers through two games are really, really interesting, as the Texans are 12th in the league against the run, having allowed an average of 96 yards per game. At the same time, they also allow a whopping 4.9 yards per carry, 29th in the league. Only four teams have run less against the Texans (opponents have 39 rushing attempts through two games), but the numbers suggest that when they do, there are yards to be had. 4. J.J. Watt still is doing J.J. Watt kinds of things He may tend to overexpose himself at times on social media. (Nobody works harder at anything than Watt does at football. Just ask him!) But he's still a dominant presence along Houston's defensive front. He had 1.5 sacks in Sunday's win against the Chiefs and became the second-fastest player in NFL history to get to 75 career sacks. (Only Reggie White did it quicker.) The three-time Defensive Player of the Year, who underwent offseason back surgery, has powered a Houston defense that has gone six straight quarters without allowing a touchdown. Overall, the Texans defense is first in the NFL in sacks (nine), third in third-down percentage (26) and yards per game (274.5) and fourth in opponents' time of possession (24:51). In truth, Watt's presence also has freed up things for teammates like old friend Vince Wilfork, fellow defensive end Jadaveon Clowney and linebacker Whitney Mercilus to make plays. Bill Belichick doesn't go to the Lawrence Taylor comparison too often, but he did earlier in the week when talking about Watt and his impact. "They both play pretty hard, yeah," Belichick said during a conference call with Houston reporters. "I think J.J. is a relentless, a relentless player. Very instinctive, and I'd say a lot like Taylor, when at the most critical times in the most important plays, that's where those guys showed the most. And that's what great players do." 5. Kicker Nick Novak is one of the best in the league Novak hit four field goals in Sunday's 19-12 win over the Chiefs, providing the bulk of the Houston scoring. He's already connected on 7-of-8 field goal attempts this season. That after a year that saw him go 18-for-21 on field goal attempts, with his only misses coming outside the 50. The rest of the special teams grouping is petty good. Punter Shane Lechler is in the top half of the league with his 49.2 average and 38.9 net, while rookie Tyler Ervin has handled the kick and punt return duties for the first two games. The first-year speedster out of San Jose State has averaged 22.4 yards per kick return (five chances) and 5.9 yards per punt return (seven chances).

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