After losing back-to-back games against Kansas City and Carolina, the Houston Texans have to be desperate to pick up a victory in Week 3. That is certainly possible as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming in to town, and the Houston pass rush will be looking to rattle rookie quarterback Jameis Winston.
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Winston, 2015’s first overall draft pick, has certainly showed us that he sometimes has trouble holding on to the football. He threw 28 interceptions through two seasons at Florida State, including an 18-interception senior season in 2014.
There are plenty of things that caused this high turnover rate, but one factor was that when Winston was under pressure he often tended to force the ball downfield. If Houston wants to create big plays on defense, their best bet may be putting a lot of pressure on the rookie quarterback in only his second career road start.
Houston’s secondary is not a place of strength. They gave up 195 yards and two touchdowns to Cam Newton last week, and a terrible 243 yards and 3 touchdowns to Alex Smith the week before. Their defensive backs will not be able to match up with the likes of Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson down the field, but maybe they’ll be able to hold their own if Jameis Winston is hurried into throws by a heavy pass rush.
That pressure then lays on Houston’s star player J.J. Watt, and his teammates on the defensive line. The Texans have one of the most frightening defensive fronts in football, with reigning defensive player of the year Watt at defensive end, 5-time Pro-Bowler Vince Wilfork at defensive tackle, and 2014’s first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney at outside linebacker.
The team has 4 sacks so far already this season, but 3 of those have come from J.J. Watt. Outside of Watt, the team has had a hard time getting much pressure on the quarterback. That will need to change in Week 3 against Tampa Bay.
Last week against New Orleans, Jameis Winston was sacked only once and hit only 4 times, and this helped him to complete 67% of his passes for 207 yards and 1 touchdown. The week before, however, he was sacked 6 times by the Tennessee defense, and this lead to him completing less than 50% of his passes, throwing 2 interceptions, and fumbling twice. If Houston can get to him as much as the Titans were able to, they will be in good shape.
Luckily for Houston, Jadeveon Clowney should still be improving quite a bit (via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle):
"“I think the more he plays, the better he’ll get, I really do,” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said of Clowney “I think that his play count will go up each week. The more that he’s in there, the more that it helps our team and the better he’ll get. Because basically you’re looking at a guy that’s still in his rookie year, from a playing standpoint.”"
If that is truly the case, that could mean big things for Houston’s pass rush, and their defense as a whole. Clowney has yet to record a sack, but has accumulated 5 tackles through the first two games of 2015, and knocked down two passes last week. That production should steadily increase as he continues to get more real NFL game experience.
There’s no question that J.J. Watt is one of the best defenders in the league and one of the best pass rushers in league history. He needs help though, and that is most likely to come from Jadeveon Clowney at the outside linebacker position. If Clowney can make some improvements this week against Tampa Bay, look for Houston to get solid pressure on Jameis Winston, and in turn create some turnovers and opportunities for their offense to win the game for them.