The Carolina Panthers are taking on the Houston Texans tonight in primetime on Thursday Night Football. The Texans are going to have a stressed offensive line, courtesy of Phil Snow, and a brand new face at quarterback, courtesy of Tyrod Taylor’s hamstring. Here to help us get familiar with the fan’s eye view of the Houston Texans is Jeremy Brener, of Battle Red Blog.
1. Based off the extremely large sample size of 18 pass attempts in one half of football, what should we reasonably expect to see from Davis Mills this week?
Davis Mills is going to look like a rookie making his first NFL start. The team is really high on him but understands that this is a rebuilding year and a season to make mistakes. Mills is going to learn a lot this season, and it will start with this big game against the Panthers.
2. What is the strength of Houston’s offensive line (guards, tackles, run blocking, pass protection, prayer, etc) and how do you see them matching up to the speed of the Panthers front seven?
Laremy Tunsil is the former All-Pro, and even though he struggled in Week 1, he held his own against Myles Garrett in Week 2, proving that he is the best lineman on the roster. He’s going to have to play even better protecting Davis Mills, who may make ill-advised decisions in his first NFL start.
3. Tyrod Taylor to injured reserve is obviously the big news. How will the rest of the Texans injury report affect their game plan?
Danny Amendola and Nico Collins suffered injuries against the Browns, which will really hurt Mills’ receiving options. Collins was sent to IR, while Amendola has not practiced this week. On the defensive side of the ball, safety Justin Reid (knee), linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill (knee) and cornerback Terrance Mitchell (concussion) have all missed practice and it is up in the air as to whether they will play Thursday. If they’re out, it’s going to make the Panthers’ lives even easier.
4. Who are the names to know on Houston’s defense now that JJ Watt has left for the Arizona Cardinals?
Christian Kirksey played in every defensive snap this past weekend, so keep an eye on him at middle linebacker. Zach Cunningham and Justin Reid have emerged as veteran leaders as well as the team looks to pick up the pieces from their horrendous offseason. The defense already has more interceptions this season (4) than it did last season (3), so this team is better than advertised, but not good enough to be much better than their perceived position.
5. Are they really trying to tank this season?
It depends on your definition of tanking. If tanking means losing games on purpose, that answer is no. The first two games have shown an extremely competitive team and the players on each side of the ball are committed to winning. They are laying it all out on the line and it’s nice to see. I appreciate that the team isn’t rolling over and dying when they have so many reasons to do just that. However, they aren’t doing themselves any favors by signing a bunch of veterans that are castoffs from other organizations. It’s not a Super Bowl recipe, but those veterans all play with a chip on their shoulder, so they are preventing a tank from happening.