Front Seven Changes
Christian Covington started against Cleveland to replace J.J. Watt. Covington did not move around like Watt, but instead lined up consistently outside the guard or inside the tackle. He was strong against the run allowing others to make plays. The Rice product needs to pressure the quarterback more often if he wants to be a three-down player.
Brennan Scarlett filled in for the injured Whitney Mercilus. He most commonly lined up in standup end position and was used less in coverage than Mercilus. The second-year player was effective against the run with a tackle and three assists. Like Covington he struggled getting after the passer, but he was facing Browns left tackle Joe Thomas most of the game. Most opposing players will struggle in that matchup.
The Texans had four sacks against a strong Browns offensive line. In re-watching the game this was more of result of the Cleveland quarterback Kevin Hogan holding the ball too long rather than a strong pass rush. Most pressure was generated through blitzes on third down. The four sacks look good on paper, but they will need a more effective pass rush against better teams. It will be interesting to see what changes Mike Vrabel and Romeo Crennel make after the bye week.
Will Fuller continued to make a big impact. In three games Fuller has only eight catches, but five of those are touchdowns. He is tied for fourth in the NFL in receiving touchdowns.
Fuller was targeted more often than DeAndre Hopkins against the Browns. Fuller is taking advantage of favorable matchups playing opposite Hopkins. Defenses generally shade their coverage towards Hopkins or double cover him. Fuller speed allows him to beat the man coverage or zones with a single high safety that he has faced so far.
Fuller caught a screen pass on third and fourteen and he used his athleticism to get the first down. The Texans may begin to better utilize him with more screens and crossing routes. This would allow him to use his speed after the catch. It would not be a surprise to see him become an even bigger part of the offense moving forward.
Jonathan Joseph Has A Game
Joseph had a game to remember against the hapless Browns. Kevin Hogan could not have been more accurate when he hit Joseph right between the numbers for his first interception. He high-stepped his way to the end zone giving Houston a 16-3 lead and they never looked back.
His two interceptions gave him the most in Texans history with fourteen. He defended three passes and impressively broke up a well-designed screen. Joseph provided much needed production on a defense missing many of its best. Joseph made it look easy and got some help from Hogan too. His energy seemed to drive the defense forward on Sunday.
Watson Finds His Tight Ends
The rookie quarterback completed 17 of his 29 passes for 225 yards against Cleveland. As expected Hopkins and Fuller caught two of his three touchdowns passes, but for the first time Watson used his tight ends more effectively to start the game.
Starting tight end Ryan Griffin was the most targeted receiver on Sunday with eight. Last season Griffin finished third on the team with 50 receptions. With fellow tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz on injured reserve Watson will need to rely on Griffin to be his second or third option. He should continue to find space if Hopkins and Fuller can maintain their production. It was a good sign to see the rookie quarterback taking the available throws early in the game and not forcing the ball to his wide receivers.