Texans talk: John McClain, Houston Chronicle

Jacksonville Jaguars middle linebacker Myles Jack (44) celebrates after sacking Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Jacksonville Jaguars middle linebacker Myles Jack (44) celebrates after sacking Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

JACKSONVILLE – Jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2019 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars’ opponent.

Up this week:

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle on the Texans’ matchup with the Jaguars at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday at 1 p.m.

Question: The Texans entered the season as a playoff favorite, then lost in New Orleans Monday on a 58-yard field goal on the game’s final play after Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson led a last-minute comeback. Is it safe to assume the Texans still feel good about where they are early?

Answer: The fact is if you go into New Orleans and force the Saints to try beat you on a 58-yard field goal with two seconds remaining, you’ve got to feel pretty good about your chances – especially after they [the Texans] came back from an abysmal second half on defense. Yeah, they feel terrible, but when you think about Watson … with [Jaguars quarterback Nick] Foles out, with [retired Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew] Luck gone and [Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus] Mariota – he [Watson] is the best quarterback in the division by far. They’re loaded with talented on offense. They ran well against the Saints. To put themselves in the position they did in the Superdome [in New Orleans] against the Saints … you have to feel pretty good. [Hall of Fame quarterback] Brett Favre said there’s no such thing as a moral victory, but if there’s a good defeat the Texans had it because they have to feel so good about their offense.

Q: Overall, where are they offensively?

A: It’s the best they’ve ever had. Their best offense was in 2011 and 2012 with [quarterback] Matt Schaub, [running back] Arian Foster, [tight end] Owen Daniels, [wide receiver] Andre Johnson and [wide receiver] Kevin Walter. That team had a better offensive line, but Schaub wasn’t as good as Watson and Watson’s just going to keep getting better if he stays healthy. He’s as tough as can be. Their problem is not going to be scoring points or moving the ball. Their problem is going to be stopping people.

Q: What about their defense?

They’ve got one pass rusher, [perennial All-Pro defensive end J.J.] Watt; he didn’t show up on the stat sheet [against New Orleans] and I think that’s happened once in his career. Their run defense was great in the first half and collapsed in the second. It wasn’t a great defense down the stretch last year. They were 9-3, then all of a sudden they couldn’t stop anybody from throwing on them. They had a good pass rush, but their secondary was awful over the last four games and the playoff game. They’ve got a new starting corner in Bradley Roby, who played well against New Orleans. And they’ve got [former Jaguars safety] Tashaun Gipson back at safety with Justin Reid.

Q: The Texans made big news just before the start of the regular season, trading defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks for a third-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, pass rusher Barkevious Mingo and edge defender Jacob Martin – and acquiring offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills in a trade with Miami that included the Texans sending their ’20 and ’21 first-round selections to Miami along with a ’21 second-rounder. Your assessment of those moves…

A: We knew Clowney was going to be traded. When the July 15 [franchise tag] deadline came, he wasn’t going to sign his [franchise] tender unless it was somewhere he wanted to go. They [the Texans] tried to convince him to go to Miami. He didn’t want to play for a loser, and he didn’t want to play for [Miami Dolphins Head Coach] Brian Flores, a disciple of [Texans Head Coach] Bill O’Brien. He (Clowney) said, “Philadelphia or Seattle,” and at that point they [the Texans] weren’t going to get much. People here went ballistic, saying they didn’t get enough for Clowney and they gave up too much for Tunsil. Their thinking on Tunsil was this: They had targeted him two months before the trade. They needed a franchise left tackle and they thought they would be picking in the 20s [in the next two drafts], like they did last year. Odds on you’re not getting a franchise left tackle there, so they would have had to trade up. They wanted to win now. People say this wouldn’t have happened if they had a general manager, but Bill O’Brien is the general manager – like it or not. They want to win now. Watson loved it. He got Tunsil and Kenny Stills. That was the thinking. Win now. Players liked it. The media didn’t. The fans didn’t. And the Texans didn’t care.

Q: You’re as tied-in to this team as anyone. What’s your overall assessment of the Texans’ chances this season?

A: I’ve been asked if this team is a Super Bowl contender, and I’ve told everybody no. They can win the division and maybe they win a playoff game. What happened in New Orleans Monday has happened four times. When Watson was a rookie, he put them ahead at New England and [quarterback Tom] Brady went the distance for a winning touchdown at the end of the game. The same thing happened [in 2017] in Seattle with [quarterback] Russell Wilson [leading a game-winning drive] and the same thing happened last year in Philadelphia. It’s not Watson. It’s that the defense can’t stop a team when it really needs to. That happened again against New Orleans. It’s the coverage. They need to get better. They’ve brought in a bunch of defensive backs, but so far it’s not showing. If [Jaguars quarterback Gardner] Minshew [II] lights them up like he did the [Kansas City] Chiefs [this past Sunday], they have big problems.

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