Houston Texans: Duane Brown

HOUSTON -- Houston Texans center Chris Myers was still at the Texans facility, when left tackle Duane Brown showed up.

Since the Texans released him, Myers hadn't had a chance yet to talk to Brown, the player he's closest with on the Texans' offensive line. They came to the Texans together in 2008, Myers in his fourth year arriving via trade and Brown a first-round draft pick. For the next seven years they played together, developing into strengths of the Texans' offensive line.

Having heard the Texans released Myers, a crestfallen Brown rushed to see his friend.

"Before I even left the stadium, Duane Brown came up there to see me," Myers said. "He came up and we had a nice little conversation. ... We went through the whole Houston transition together. Seeing him develop as a pro and as a person, it’s been awesome."

Brown posted this on Twitter:

And then another, more succinct thought: "This s--- sucks"

Myers has played long enough that he realized heading into this offseason his $8 million cap figure endangered his chance to play in Houston again. For Myers the emotions come from leaving his teammates and the prospect of leaving behind a city that embraced him and his family. They are emotions that are returned by his teammates and friends off the field.

As dependable as Chris Myers was on the field, he was more so off it.

It seemed like his first reaction to any situation was: "How can I help?"

When his teammate was diagnosed with cancer, he helped spearhead a plan to design and sell T-shirts honoring David Quessenberry, who is now in remission. The proceeds of the shirts would be donated to support lymphoma research. The way the organization, and others around the NFL mobilized with the DQ strong campaign was a source of strength for Quessenberry as he went through his chemotherapy treatments.

When a local prostate cancer survivor asked for help with his foundation, Myers was more than happy to do so.

With two grandfathers who fought in World War II, Myers loved helping military families and was a fixture in Impact a Hero 5k runs. He even befriended a young boy whose father, a war veteran, had killed himself after returning home.

When I asked if he'd be willing to share the story of his young son, born with a cleft lip and palate, he and his wife discussed it. They said yes because they thought raising awareness about the condition could help other families experiencing what they were, and opened their lives for this story. This week he held a fundraiser for Operation Smile, and has been active with that charity as well.

"The city in general completely changed me and my wife Jenny," Myers said. "Everyone was so welcoming and polite. We’ve met a lot of great people that we’ll have relationships with forever."

The same will be true in reverse. Despite his departure, his imprint will remain.
This week and next week, we'll review 10 plays that shaped the Texans' 2014 season.

The list is J.J. Watt-heavy, starting with this one.

J.J. Watt's first touchdown catch

Under the previous coaching staff, Watt lobbied. He practiced the one-handed catches with the Jugs machines. He even got in on a goal-line play that former Texans coach Gary Kubiak lightly called the Wisconsin package, with players who came from the University of Wisconsin: tight end Owen Daniels, tight end Garrett Graham and Watt. Kubiak would chuckle at the thought of using Watt in an actual game, though.

So when Kubiak was fired and Bill O'Brien was hired, Watt stopped lobbying. After all, it hadn't done him any good in the past. But this staff had reason to try a defensive player as a tight end. It worked when linebackers coach Mike Vrabel tried it as a player.

The play on Sept. 14 caught the Oakland Raiders completely off-guard. It came at the end of the game's opening drive on a second-and-goal from the 1-yard line.

Watt parked himself on the line of scrimmage outside left tackle Duane Brown. At the snap, he jogged past the Raiders outside linebacker with ease. Both the linebackers on Watt's side were more concerned with running back Arian Foster than they were with stopping some guy wearing the No. 99. Later, one of the Raiders conceded that he saw the high number and assumed the player wearing it wouldn't be catching a pass. When I relayed that to Watt the next week, Watt assured us he reported properly.

It was the start of something special. Watt caught two more touchdown passes -- plays O'Brien made sure to note were not gimmicks. They accounted for three of his five touchdowns this season. The other two came on defense. And while Watt's defensive feats were more important to the Texans overall this season, the offensive plays showed his versatility.

They were fun, too.
Sunday night we unveiled an extensive project addressing how close or far each NFL team's roster is from being that of a Super Bowl contender.

The numbers were chosen by Pro Football Focus, which ranked every player who played at least 250 snaps in categories of elite, good, average or bad. They believe the Texans have one elite player (J.J. Watt), four good (guard Brandon Brooks, receiver DeAndre Hopkins, cornerback Kareem Jackson and left tackle Duane Brown), 19 average and seven bad. They also feel Houston is eight above-average players away from being a Super Bowl contender.

One point on which I'd disagree with this methodology is that it treats all positions as equals. If you add a good or elite quarterback to the Texans' current roster, that changes it dramatically. That would instantly make this a playoff team, and count for at least one playoff win.

The Texans had 10 games in which their team Total QBR was lower than 50, and that was the case in six of their seven losses.

Click through the link above for more of Pro Football Focus's rankings and my independent thoughts on various Texans players.
We've paused the RTCs for a bit until Houston Texans coverage picks up again. In the meantime, we'll be passing along worthwhile links in their own separate posts.

This weekend was a busy one, though, when it came to Texans-related news. Houston retained Brian Gaine, who had a second interview scheduled with the Philadelphia Eagles. Texans general manager Rick Smith promoted Gaine from director of pro personnel to a broader director of player personnel.

Left tackle Duane Brown, a first alternate for the Pro Bowl, was added to the Pro Bowl roster Sunday, making this his third straight trip to the league's all-star game. Brown replaced Eagles tackle Jason Peters.

But perhaps the most seismic activity in Texans-land came from, well, I'll let Klein Kubiak do the honors ...

Gary Kubiak, who was the second head coach in Texans franchise history until being fired last December, is the Denver Broncos' new head coach. While he was the Texans' coach, Kubiak often shared stories of his time in Denver. He was John Elway's roommate there (see the two sharing a laugh above) and backup quarterback. Then he coached Elway for a short time. Now Elway, the Broncos general manager and executive vice president of football operations, has given Kubiak a second chance at a head-coaching position.

Kubiak's hiatus from being a head coach didn't last long. He spent one season as the Baltimore Ravens' offensive coordinator, declined requests to interview for the Bears and Jets head-coaching jobs, and returned to his NFL roots instead.

Instability at quarterback, and Kubiak's handling of that instability, contributed to his dismissal from the Texans. His offense succeeded in Baltimore with Joe Flacco running it. Flacco threw for 3,986 yards and 27 touchdowns this season, both career highs. He only took 19 sacks after taking 48 in 2013.

Now, Kubiak enters a situation with a stable quarterback -- at least for now.
We'll continue the Houston Texans' snap-count analysis with the men in the trenches.

Offensive line

OT Derek Newton: 1,057 snaps, 99.5 percent

C Chris Myers: 1,051 snaps, 99 percent

OT Duane Brown: 1,049 snaps, 98.8 percent

OG Ben Jones: 1,002 snaps, 94.4 percent

OG Brandon Brooks: 938 snaps, 88.3 percent

OG Xavier Su'a-Filo: 122 snaps, 11.5 percent

OT Tyson Clabo: 96 snaps, 9 percent

OT Jeff Adams: 2 snaps, .2 percent

Going into the season, head coach Bill O'Brien said he felt consistency on the offensive line was important, and that played out during the season. That group saw much more consistency than the skill groupings. The Texans used the lineup of left tackle Duane Brown, left guard Ben Jones, center Chris Myers, right guard Brandon Brooks and right tackle Derek Newton for 863 of their 1,062 snaps. The second most used offensive line lineup was that of Brown, Jones and Myers at their regular spots, with Newton at right guard and Tyson Clabo at right tackle. That lineup played 69 snaps, all in one game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Reading the coverage of the Houston Texans...

Pro Bowl voting selected J.J. Watt and Arian Foster from the Houston Texans. Grantland.com's Bill Barnwell chooses Watt for his All-Pro also, but differs on which Texans' offensive player was the best. Instead of Foster, he picks Foster's good friend, left tackle Duane Brown. His tackles are Brown and Joe Thomas, and Barnwell chooses Brown over Jason Peters and Tyron Smith. Foster got an honorable mention among running backs. Here's part of his note on Watt:
Watt gets a second crack at the Jaguars this week in a game the Texans need to win to have any hope of making the playoffs. Jacksonville has allowed 66 sacks this year, 11 more than any other team in football. Watt sacked Blake Bortles three times the last time these teams faced off. Does anybody doubt he’s going to get to 20 and lead the league in just about every possible category a defensive lineman can? The only thing he hasn’t done this year is throw a touchdown pass, and I wouldn’t put it past him on Sunday.

Dale Robertson of the Houston Chronicle offers reasons for optimism and reasons for pessimism for each of the three things that need to happen for the Texans to make the playoffs. By now you know them: Texans beat the Jaguars, Browns beat the Ravens, Chiefs beat the Chargers.

Drew Dougherty of HoustonTexans.com did a fun project in which he created an all-time Pro Bowl team for the Texans. Given the team's short history, this wasn't as complicated as it might have been for a team with a longer history. Dougherty selects a player and year for each spot on his Pro Bowl roster, creating a team that includes 2008 Owen Daniels, 2009 Andre Johnson and 2010 Arian Foster. He also puts Chris Myers at center and right guard (different years) and J.J. Watt at right tackle "because why not?"
Reading the coverage of the Houston Texans...

On fourth-and-goal, Arian Foster showed how special he can be, writes Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle. Bill O'Brien on Foster: "He's one of those guys where you're not sure when you first see him. You [wonder], you know, 'How fast is this guy?' and, 'How quick is this guy?' But then he's real fast, and he's real quick. A lot of us are jealous of him because of how easy he makes it look sometimes."

Foster reached multiple milestones on Sunday, writes Deepi Sidhu of HoustonTexans.com. One of those was that he eclipsed 6,000 career rushing yards, becoming one of only two undrafted players to pass that mark.

With their best offensive player and best defensive player having monster games, the Texans beat the Jaguars and kept their playoff hopes alive, writes John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. At halftime, left tackle Duane Brown had this message for his teammates: "I just said we hadn't played close to our best football, and we were still down by only three," Brown said. "We were just feeling our way in the beginning, but we really turned it on in the second half."

J.J. Watt noted how difficult sacks are to acquire after, again, changing the game for the Texans, writes Chris Baldwin of Houston's Culture Map. With 14.5 sacks, Baldwin says Watt has given himself a chance to break his career-best 20.5-sack mark, set in 2012 when he won Defensive Player of the Year. That would require two sacks a game for the rest of the season, and I won't be the one to say Watt can't do it.
Reading the coverage of the Houston Texans...

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle says this of the Texans' playoff chances: "slip up and the jig is up." The Texans hopes are alive, but if they get upset by the Jaguars, they likely won't be anymore. He notes that though the Texans are 6-6, 11 AFC teams have better records than they do.

Texans safety Kendrick Lewis is having a career year, writes Patrick D. Starr of StateoftheTexans.com. Why? Said Lewis: "Health. Health and strength. Thank God for this season to give him more honor for it. Just being healthy. I feel like last two years in Kansas City, I wasn’t as healthy as I could be to perform at the level I wanted to."

Houston Mayor Annise Parker declared Dec. 2 Duane Brown day for the Texans' left tackle's contribution to the community, writes Kara Cook of HoustonTexans.com. Brown received a written proclamation at a ceremony on Tuesday. His involvement in the Texans All Community Team was a big part of why he was honored.

Here you can see J.J. Watt's most recent touchdown catch from various different angles, thanks to HoustonTexans.com.

SportsRadio610's Paul Gallant tried an experiment in which he communicated with women on the dating app Tinder using only tweets sent out by Texans running back Arian Foster. The results are predictably hilarious.
HOUSTON -- Looking back, Ryan Mallett's teammates can't help but be impressed.

There were certain plays on the Texans' final two drives when left tackle Duane Brown could see him grimace, a hint at the pain he felt as he played through a torn pectoral muscle in his second NFL start. Mallett finally had the chance for which he'd waited three-and-a-half years -- he gave everything he could.

"He’s tough, man," Brown said. "He’s tough. You can just tell that by his character. He’s tough. He wants to win. He wants to compete. Like I said, I could tell there was something there towards the end. He didn’t back down at all. He didn’t ease up at all. He showed his fight to even try to get a score on that last drive there. That is just the kind of player that he is and the kind of person that he is. We really respect that."

It was clear throughout the Texans 22-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals that Mallett's accuracy was off. He just wasn't playing like the quarterback who led the Texans to a win in his first start, showing the necessary quarterback leadership skills beyond what the Texans had with any of the other three full-time starters in the franchise's history.

This time, though, Mallett only completed 21 of his 45 passes for 189 yards. He threw an interception and narrowly missed several more.

"The guy, he wanted to win," receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. "You could see it in his eyes. He never showed that he was hurt. He really never let us down on the sideline."
Observed and heard in the locker room after the Texans' 22-13 loss to Cincinnati at NRG Stadium:

Clowney limited: Jadeveon Clowney walked gingerly in the locker room after the game, his gait not that of someone fully healthy yet. Clowney had knee surgery in September to repair a torn meniscus and has been playing on a limited basis since then. "Some things are holding me back still, but I'm just out here trying to do what I can do and have fun," he said. Having not been through a serious injury before, the return is an adjustment. "You never know if you're going to have an injury or not coming into the league," he said. "So when that happened to me, it was a setback."

Joseph has moment: Cornerback Johnathan Joseph's emotions overtook him after he returned an interception 59 yards for a touchdown. "I had an anxiety attack or something," Joseph said. "It was a great play. It picked us up from a team standpoint. ... Just one of those things. It's part of the moment. I'd like to be out there with my teammates and all, but that play right there, it just took over my body and controlled my body. I had no control."

Dalton stays clean: The Texans hit Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton only twice and never sacked him. Part of that was a function of how quickly Dalton got rid of the ball. "There's not a whole lot the defensive line can do when he is doing that," defensive end Jared Crick said.

Shift nets safety: Cincinnati's defensive front shifted to the left in anticipation of the Texans' play out of their own end zone. The result was a safety when running back Alfred Blue was tackled in the end zone. Blue never really had a chance. "They just overloaded that side," left tackle Duane Brown said. "We had nothing there. We had nothing over there, basically."
HOUSTON -- When the Texans' offense was really hitting its stride on Monday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, it was able to do so on the back of a potent running game led by Arian Foster. With Foster, the Texans sliced through Pittsburgh's defense, scoring on their first drive for only their third first-quarter touchdown of the season and second first-drive touchdown.

After the first quarter, though, the running game struggled. When the running game struggled, so did the rest of the Texans' offense. It illustrated how important it is for the Texans to run the ball well, especially given that they have an elite running back but don't have an elite quarterback.

Consider these stats from ESPN Stats and Info: In the first quarter Foster rushed seven times for 73 yards, all between the tackles. That's an average of 10.4 yards per rush with 6.3 yards after contact per rush. In the next three, Foster had 11 rushes between the tackles and dropped to 2.7 yards per carry and 1.7 yards after contact per carry.

It happened because of Pittsburgh's adjustments after getting so thoroughly dominated on the ground to start the game.

"Linebackers were flowing very fast to try to stop our run and try to get in their lanes," Texans left tackle Duane Brown said. They also started to blitz us more to try to throw off our zone scheme some. I think that was, and they brought Troy Polamalu in the box more so those few things I think were their adjustments to what we were doing."

It's not something they'd seen much of on Steelers film.

"Not as much; not as much," Brown said. "I didn’t see anyone have as much success early on as we did to start a game off."

Adjustments will happen in games. The Texans' coaches and players' ability to react to those adjustments dictated that the Texans' fast start didn't translate to a win.
Reading the coverage of the Houston Texans...

I rather enjoyed this excerpt from John McClain's story on J.J. Watt in the Houston Chronicle.
On Sunday, Watt needs to loom over Dallas like Big Tex at the State Fair of Texas.

Coach Bill O'Brien said the Texans' kickoff and punt returners haven't been settled. Perhaps Watt should throw his helmet into the ring.

Arian Foster is nursing his hamstring injury and continues to be a game-time decision after rushing for 6 yards on eight carries against the Bills but leading the team with seven receptions. Maybe O'Brien should use Watt in the backfield.

Actually, Watt might be more effective as a run blocker considering the pathetic performance against the Bills. The Texans generated only 37 yards rushing, and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was the leading rusher with 14. Watt couldn't block any worse, right?

Speaking of Fitzpatrick, maybe Watt could -- well, uh, never mind.

Dave Zangaro of CSNHouston.com says the Texans' defense can't be one dimensional. Too much focus on stopping the run can lead to the Cowboys beating the Texans on play action. On the other hand, they do have to stop the run. “Typically, (stacking the box) is what you do when you got a great team that can run the ball,” safety Danieal Manning said. “You gotta put guys in that can match the run. After that, you know the offense is going to try to combat that with play-action passes and throw the ball deep. And they’ve been really good at that. I think they’re like fourth in the league with those types of plays. So we have our job cut out for us and they’re going to stick with their gameplan and we’re definitely going to stick with ours.”

Greg Gabriel of the National Football Post assesses each division at the quarter pole. He still believes the Colts are the class of the AFC South. He doesn't believe the Texans have played a "power team" yet, though he finds their 3-1 record impressive.

The Texans already have more wins than they had all of last season, but are searching for more, writes Kristie Rieken of the Associated Press. "We have yet to play even close to our best football, especially as an offense," left tackle Duane Brown said. "We feel like our defense has really played its tail off and we have to match that, and I think once we're firing on all cylinders we'll be a great team and we'll be hard to stop."
HOUSTON -- This version of the Houston Texans suffered its first loss of the season Sunday. Their most important questions going forward will be about how they respond and if they'll cure what ailed them against the New York Giants.

We'll go a little bit more in depth about what they need to fix later this week. For now, let's take a look at the attitudes of the head coach and some key players as the Texans work to recover.

Head coach Bill O'Brien: "They never quit. Right down to the last play, those guys were playing hard. It was a very physical game. Like I said after the game, give the Giants a lot of credit. They obviously coached and played better than we did. This group of guys, really, they’re very focused and they have really good work ethics and they care about each other. They hate to lose. They hate it. Just like we do as coaches. We all do. They come in here today and certainly they don’t feel great about how the game went yesterday. But they know they can play better and we know as a coaching staff we can coach better."

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick: "It’s definitely about being steady and not letting what’s going on outside or not letting last week’s performance kind of affect the work you put in this week. And that’s kind of the big thing. Not allowing anything that happened in the past affect the way that you go about your business for the next week."

Left tackle Duane Brown: "We just have to keep it in perspective. It’s one game. Obviously, you want to win every time you go out there. We have a lot to learn from this game and that’s just what we’re going to do: We’re going to learn from it, we’re going to correct our mistakes. We have a long season ahead of us. I don’t think anyone in here is sulking or walking with their heads down. We’re all still motivated and optimistic about the rest of the year and about this week. All we can do is move on and be professional about it."

Inside linebacker Brian Cushing: "That’s the mindset after a win, too. It’s just one game. You’re only as good as your last game but at the same time, you have to put it behind you. It’s 16 one-game seasons really if you look at it and that’s how you have to treat it."

Cornerback Johnathan Joseph: "Of course, you go into every game thinking you’re going to win it but you come out sometimes as the loser and you just have to learn from it. And never forget the feeling and just go into the next game with the same mentality."

O'Brien: "Most of the guys that I’ve been around are guys that are mentally tough, the successful guys. The guys who are able to say, I’m going to play the next play. Even though this play was a bad one, I’m not going to dwell on this play. I’m going to try to play the next play and make up for it. We’ve got a bunch of guys like that on the team. They realized that was not a good game for them. Give the Giants credit, they played better than us, coached better than us. Our guys are resolute in the fact that they’re going to get the mistakes corrected and try to go out there and play better."

RTC: The offensive line edition

September, 18, 2014
Reading the coverage of the Houston Texans...

They don't like to be talked about much, especially not as individuals. But the Texans' offensive line deserves attention right now for all the right reasons. The group made up of left tackle Duane Brown, left guard Ben Jones, center Chris Myers, right guard Brandon Brooks and right tackle Derek Newton came together in the team's Week 2 win over the Oakland Raiders.

We'll start with right tackle in this RTC. Kristie Rieken of the Associated Press delves into Derek Newton's improvement. While some talked about replacing him last season, the Texans' new coaching staff believed in him and helped him get better. His teammate, left tackle Duane Brown, also helped his development.

Houston's offensive line has paved the way for its 2-0 start, writes John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. He writes: "If the linemen hadn't been protecting Fitzpatrick like the president, he wouldn't rank second in the NFL to Peyton Manning with a 118.4 rating entering Sunday's game against the New York Giants. Running back Arian Foster wouldn't rank second with 241 yards rushing without a line that's provided him with the kind of convoy that's usually reserved for heads of state."

Patrick D. Starr of StateoftheTexans.com gathers a series of Vines from Sunday's All-22 film. There's a lot of left guard Ben Jones (number 60) doing his job really well.

One non-offensive line story for you before we wrap up here. Dave Zangaro of CSNHouston.com takes a look at just how important the Texans' turnovers have been. "They’re just the 12th team in the last 44 years to outscore opponents by at least 25 points and be out-gained by 40 yards in the first two weeks of the season."

Texans honor David Quessenberry

August, 2, 2014
A few days ago, as he recovered from cancer treatment at his family home in southern California, Texans offensive tackle David Quessenberry called the team's video manager with a technical question.

He needed to make sure his tablet was working properly. He wanted to watch film of the practices he was missing.

The Texans are still very much on his mind. And just as much as they are, he's on their minds, too. That was never more clear than Saturday morning when every Texans employee not in uniform, starting with head coach Bill O'Brien, wore a T-shirt with a logo that said "Texans for DQ."

[+] EnlargeDavid Quessenberry
AP Photo/Pat SullivanTexans offensive lineman David Quessenberry was diagnosed with cancer in June.
What seemed like a simple gesture actually meant so much more. With that concerted effort, the team launched a fundraising project. They'll sell the T-shirts through their official store with a portion of the proceeds going to the Lymphoma Research Foundation in a donation in Quessenberry's name.

"To be able to ... see it all come to fruition with the shirts, it just means the world to DQ," Texans center Chris Myers said. "I was talking to him last night. He's obviously ecstatic he's got tremendous support from the organization.

"I think it just speaks volumes about what he means to us. The impression that he made on us before everything happened with the diagnosis. He's a great guy. Great character guy. Works his butt off out here. Throughout all last year coming back from the (foot) injury and trying to get into the lineup this year. Then obviously he got that news. Right when it happened he's had the utmost support from everybody."

Quessenberry was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins T lymphoblastic lymphoma on June 3. Some shortness of breath during a practice led to further testing, which revealed the sometimes fatal illness. The news devastated his teammates, especially those closest to him such as left tackle Duane Brown. It wasn't easy for Quessenberry, either, but he rarely let that impact his attitude.

"His spirits are already high," Brown said. "He's already been very optimistic, got his mind made up that he's going to fight this thing."

Almost immediately, Myers began devising a plan to raise money and awareness for Quessenberry's illness. He's worked with a local company called Running Game Clothing on fundraising efforts in the past, once to raise money for Operation Smile, a charity that helps provide surgeries for children born with cleft lips and palates. It was a natural partnership.

Myers wanted Quessenberry involved, too. Quessenberry helped pick the final designs for the shirts.

The team unveiled the shirts during Saturday morning's open practice. The Texans are asking fans who buy them to wear them to the team's final open practice of training camp on Aug. 14.

"It's great to see all the coaching support, everyone around the organization," Brown said. "Hopefully we can get some people to buy them, to wear them in the stands. It does a lot for me, it does a lot for the team, for the organization and it would mean the world to him."

Two months ago, Myers and Quessenberry were roommates when they attended guard Ben Jones' wedding. Neither of them knew about the disease that had already started invade Quessenberry's body. That diagnosis came the following week.

As he recalled that weekend after practice today, Myers smiled.

"It makes you realize how important life is," Myers said. "We're out there practicing on this field. I'm sitting here staring at this NRG stadium. It's pretty cool you get to play in the NFL. And he's out there battling cancer. So as much as we can do for him, we're going to do."