JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2022 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
John McClain – longtime Houston Chronicle NFL writer now with GallerySports.com/SportsRadio610.com – about the Houston Texans' matchup with the Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.
Question: The Texans at 0-3-1 are the only NFL team without a victory in 2022. What's their mindset entering Sunday?
Answer: They take the glass-half-full approach. They've had a chance to win in the fourth quarter of every game. They had a 20-3 lead on the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 and blew it. They were up on Denver, tied with Chicago and they pulled to within three points Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. After scoring three consecutive times against the Chargers, they needed to stop them and they couldn't – and the Chargers went the distance and scored a touchdown to put it away. They're getting blasted [by observers]. The fact is they're not very good, no one expected them to be very good yet everybody's mad at them because they're not winning more. The more they lose the better it is because they get high [draft] picks. The Texans have only three first-round selections and one second-round selection on the roster that they drafted. They have some good, young talent but they have a bunch of backups around the roster.
Q: Quarterback Davis Mills, a third-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, was impressive as a rookie last season. He has five touchdown passes and four interceptions through four games this season. Assess his start to 2022.
A: Mills has started 14 games. He has won one at home and one on the road – and the one on the road was against the Jaguars last season. He just doesn't look like the same quarterback that we saw at the end of last season when he played really well the last five games. Over those last five games, he was clearly the best rookie quarterback in the league, but there's no resemblance to him now and then for whatever reason. They drop passes and they don't get open, but he overthrows and underthrows receivers.
Q: What about the rest of the Texans' offense?
A: They hit a home run with their rookie running back, Dameon Pierce, a fourth-round pick. He was good from the start of OTAs and they kept bringing him along slowly. Somebody the Jaguars will have to watch is their second-year receiver, Nico Collins. [Former Jaguars and current Texans offensive line coach George] Warhop has done a good job with the offensive line, but the offensive line will give up a sack at the worst possible time – or commit a penalty at the worst possible time. It's weird how it always happens at the worst possible time. The offense is still built around Mills. They're not a ground-and-pound team. Their passing game is inconsistent. They have too many dropped passes and their offensive line makes mistakes at the worst time.
Q: And the defense?
A: The defense is coming off its worst game, but it played [Chargers quarterback] Justin Herbert [Sunday]. They went into the game tied for fifth in the NFL in sacks and they didn't even come close to Herbert. They had one sack; he slid behind the line and they touched him, so they didn't have a legitimate sack. Derek Stingley is really good at corner and Jalen Pitre is really good at safety. They do have some players playing well. [Pass rusher] Jerry Hughes has four sacks in the first four games. The Jaguars, the way they like to run, if they want to ground and pound, they should be able to do it because the Texans can't stop a clock. They've been terrible against the run. They like to get pressure with a four-man front, but they will blitz every once in a while. But when you're bad, you make mistakes to lose and not plays to win – and that's where they are.
Q: If the Texans have a formula for success, what is it?
A: They need Pierce to keep running the way he's running and they need Mills to be more accurate. They're slow starters. They haven't gotten a first down on their first series yet. They're playing from behind. They want to have balance. Their running game is better this season, so you would think that would take heat off Mills but they made crucial mistakes and they're just kind of a mistake waiting to happen. They're like the Jaguars were two years ago: They still need a lot of talent.
Q: What's a successful season for the Texans this season?
A: The over-under win total for the season was four and a half. I thought, 'Wow, if they won four with David Culley as the head coach last season, they've got to be able to win five.' I picked them 6-11. Right now, I don't know who they're going to beat. They've beaten the Jaguars eight times in a row. We used to say, 'Well, there's Jacksonville; they'll sweep them.' You can't say that now. But the light at the end of the tunnel could be [Ohio State quarterback] CJ Stroud or [Alabama quarterback] Bryce Young.