The relationship between the Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans has been fruitful over the last few years. One-sided, yes, but illustrious nonetheless. The Cardinals have been successful scavengers as the Texans franchise continues to implode. Since the loose-change trade for star wideout DeAndre Hopkins, the Cardinals have been waiting outside Houston with a big ol’ net. This off-season, even the captain jumped off the sinking ship. J.J. Watt, a career Texan, requested his release from the team and signed with the Cardinals. Watt has quietly been a key contributor in Arizona’s undefeated start to the season. This Sunday, Watt, and Hopkins will return to the wreckage of the Texans for the first time, the Cardinals expecting the Texans to continue their generosity with points, as they have with All-Pro players.
Houston Texans Continue Generosity to Arizona Cardinals in Week 7
Houston’s Season is La Flame, and not in a Good Way
Watt has been the backbone of Houston for the past decade, both on and off the field. He was DPOY three times, and his support in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey was well-documented. Yet his departure was still only the second biggest story to rattle the franchise this summer, as the controversy surrounding quarterback Deshaun Watson superseded the loss of Watt. An official transfer request preceded what was a tumultuous summer for Watson. Ongoing legal troubles dominating national media, Watson isn’t playing right now and won’t play all season.
So, where does that leave the Texans? Veteran gap-filler Tyrod Taylor came in as the starter. He made it to Week 2 and went down with an injury. In comes rookie Davis Mills, a third-round pick. He’s been average. He’s certainly been better than some quarterbacks picked way ahead of him. Yet, with an underwhelming group, the Texans are understandably 1-5. Their only win? A gimme against the similarly stricken Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Texans look like they might get Taylor back. Head coach David Culley said that whenever Taylor is healthy, he’ll start. Whether he’s game-ready, though, returning from a hamstring injury, remains to be seen. With franchise left tackle Laremy Tunsil also on the shelf, the state of Houston’s team currently reflects the state of the entire organization.
Texans to Continue Their Generosity on Defense
The Texans have a bunch of issues on and off the field. On the field, facing up against one of the NFL’s best offenses in the Cardinals, defensively, they are in trouble. Houston ranks 24th in passing defense against an Arizona squad averaging over 270 yards per game in the air. Hopkins lit up Houston for years and projects to do so again on Sunday, albeit in Cardinal red, as he looks to continue an excellent run of form. Even if the Texans commit to ruining Hopkins’ return game, they have neither the depth nor quality to contend with Arizona’s reinforcements at wide receiver.
The departure of Watt, one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the league, coincided with a complete schematic shift for Houston, with defensive coordinator Lovie Smith implementing a 4-3 system to try and improve a 30th ranked run defense from 2020. Here in 2021, they’re ranked dead last against the run. Giving up one of the NFL’s best run-defenders in Watt has seen the Texans regress even further; go figure.
Given the multi-faceted approach by Arizona in the run game, utilizing the fire and ice of Chase Edmonds and James Conner, as well as working in Rondale Moore, the Cardinals could cause the Texans real problems on the ground this week. Murray is going to be the first and most obvious threat to the Texans but, whereas the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns saw some success in getting after Murray, Houston simply doesn’t have the quality up front that those squads do. This Texans defense has given up the joint-fourth most points in 2021. Murray has performed against better opposition; he can thrive on Sunday.
It’s one of the league’s best versus one of the worst. It sets up a classic storyline, and it’s one that the Cardinals have to be wary of. Particularly this Cardinals squad, many of whom will remember all too well the result of their somewhat lackadaisical approach in 2020. Cardinals looked good early last year too, but didn’t bring it against either the Carolina Panthers or the New England Patriots and lost two very winnable games.
The Texans may be bad, but they’ve got a couple of decent players. The key when playing comparatively lesser teams is to suffocate and control; don’t allow the big play. The Cardinals are familiar with the big play potential of Texans receiver Brandin Cooks from his time with the Los Angeles Rams. In an offense ranking 29th in passing and 26th in rushing, the downfield ball might be all the Texans have.
The Cardinals just have to keep on top of the Texans on Sunday. It’s a well-placed fixture, a ramp-up ahead of a big clash with the Green Bay Packers next week, but Arizona still has to win it. There might be some room for some fun, more snaps for Zaven Collins, and an introduction for Zach Ertz, but Arizona should focus on systematically dismantling the Texans first. Expecting the Texans to continue their generosity on Sunday, the Cardinals should roll out of Houston with a relatively easy win.
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