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Scouting the enemy: Houston Texans

After a shocking week one let’s see how the Broncos can rebound in week two against the Houston Texans.

NFL: DEC 08 Broncos at Texans Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Houston Texans will hit the road for the Broncos' home opener; it will be the ninth time these two teams have met.

The last time these teams met was back in 2019 when the Denver Broncos came out with a 38-24 win. In the last game between the Broncos and Texans, Drew Lock had a career game, just absolutely torching the Texans for 309 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. Noah Fant also had an amazing game with four catches for 113 yards.

In the 2019 season, the tale of the two teams was very different than the tale of the teams this year. Texans were looking ahead to the playoffs with Carlos Hyde having a career-best season and the passing game was dominated by DeAndre Hopkins.

Looking back on the 2021 Texans

Last year the Texans were obviously competing for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft as they had begun the year 1-6 with their only win being over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Texans did not get much better as the year went on; their second win of the year came in !eek 11 against the Tennessee Titans, and then they finished the year 3-14 with one more win over the Jaguars.

One of the most surprising things to come out of the Texans last year was their fourth-round draft pick, quarterback Davis Mills. In 13 games for the Texans, he had 2,664 yards, 16 touchdowns, and a completion percentage of 67%. After Tyrod Taylor went down with an injury early in the year, it paved the way for Mills and he did not look back.

Their rush game was not pretty as their leading rusher Rex Burkhead produced just 427 yards, so they had to rely on their passing game and that they did. Star wide receiver Brandin Cooks had a really good year with 90 catches for 1,037 yards and six touchdowns.

List of the Texans' offseason moves:

Key additions: CB Derek Stingley Jr, RB Dameon Pierce, OG A.J. Cann, TE O.J. Howard, WR John Metchie III

Key losses: QB Deshaun Watson, SS Justin Reid, QB Tyrod Taylor

2022 Draft Class: Round one: (3) CB Derek Stingley Jr, (15) OG Kenyon Green, Round two, (37) S Jalen Pitre, (44) WR John Metchie III, Round 3, (75) LB Christian Harris, Round four, (107) RB Dameon Pierce, Round five, (150) DT Thomas Booker, (170) TE Teagan Quitoriano, Round six, (205) OT Austin Deculus

Summary: The Texans in free agency were not very busy as they were focusing on re-signing Cooks, trading Watson, and looking for players in the draft. One of their notable picks, Metchie, will most likely miss most or maybe all of his rookie year due to his cancer treatment.

2022 NFL season so far

In the first week of the season, the Texans faced divisional rival, the Indianapolis Colts.

Fans hoped Mills would play well and they got their wishes answered. He finished with 62% completion, 240 yards, and two touchdowns. The rushing attack was still not pretty but Cooks was the leading receiver with 7 catches for 82 yards. In his Texans debut, O.J. Howard also was a really nice addition as a red zone threat, catching both touchdown passes and adding 38 yards.

The Texans jumped out to a 17-point lead entering the fourth quarter and the Colts came storming back to force overtime. The Colts had a chance to win with a field goal but missed, and theTexans just played for the tie.

On the defense the Texans were really impressive, Kamu Grugier-Hill had 18 tackles, one TFL, and one pass break up, and the rookies Stingley and Pitre were also really good with both having 18 tackles and one pass defensed.

After drawing with the Colts, who most people picked as a playoff team, the 2022 Texans might be a sneaky team to watch out for.

Texans’ cause for concern - the run game

The Texans' run game is not very good; they had a combined 1,422 yards on the ground last year, which was dead last in the NFL for 2021. They also had eight rushing touchdowns, which tied for last in the NFL, and they were 28th in runs over 20 yards.

Already this year, the Texans had a total of 77 yards on the ground against the Colts, with their leading rusher Burkhead adding only 40 yards in the game (32nd). The preseason hype train was all over rookie Dameon Pierce, but we did not see him much at all. He had only 11 carries for 33 yards, and had only one target out of the backfield.

Tanner’s three keys to winning

  1. Hackett has to manage the game better

In the shocking loss to the Seahawks the Broncos were doing very good in the second half they were moving the ball very well with 433 yards to Seattle’s 253, and the defense in the second half held the Seahawks offense to 34 total yards, but in the two-minute drill, everything went wrong. Hackett then decided to waste around a full minute during the Broncos’ last drive, even though he had all his timeouts, then the now infamous decision to kick a 62-yard field goal rather than go for it on the 4th and 5. In the red zone the Broncos lined up in shotgun twice on the Seahawks' one-yard line, and both times the Broncos fumbled the ball and those turnovers lost us the game.

2. Convert redzone chances

The Broncos made it into the Seahawks' redzone four times during the game, two of them were fumbles and recovered by the Seattle defense. If the Broncos want to win this game against the Texans the Denver offense cannot go 0-4 in the redzone, that is unacceptable even in high school football.

3. Penalties

During the Seahawks game, the Broncos had 12 penalties for 106 yards, which is absolutely ridiculous at any level of football. Penalties killed multiple drives for the Broncos - several that easily could have gotten scores and given Denver the W. The Seahawks had a total of 19 first downs gained in the game, seven of which were from penalties, which was four more first downs than they got from rushing, and two less than they got from passing. If the Broncos want to win, they cannot make the mistakes they made against the Seahawks.

Tanner’s prediction

As I predicted last week it would be a slow start for the Broncos and things would pick up defensively. This game I think it will be a full Broncos game, but I will not count out the Texans.

Last year there were 11 teams that started 0-2 and not a single one made the playoffs, so this game could be a make-or-break game for the Broncos. If the Broncos put Surtain on Cooks, I think we can stop the Texans offense as Cooks is their No. 1 guy. With this game being in Denver I think the Broncos can pull it off and get the win.

Denver 38, Houston 24.