HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – Do you know what’s most impressive about the Texans 5-3 start this year?
The amount of takeaways they’ve had. Specifically . . . the lack of them.
Houston has a -7 turnover differential, tying them with the Giants for the 29th ranked mark in the NFL. They’ve intercepted just 3 passes in 2016, which puts them last in the league, tied with the Colts and Jaguars. And they’ve only recovered 3 fumbles, putting them in 20th place along with 7 other teams.
If they get a takeaway against the Jaguars Sunday, it’ll be their first since cornerback Robert Nelson intercepted an Andrew Luck pass October 16th. If they don’t? They’ll be in the midst of a 1 month takeaway free drought.
“We have to make sure that we try to flip the turnover–takeaway ratio,” said Texans head coach Bill O’Brien. “In the past couple years that we’ve been here, we’ve been able to turn that around. We need to try to turn that around because that stat right there points right towards the won-loss record. Those are things that we need to get better at.”
I asked O’Brien what the Texans can do to fix that statistic.
“I think some of it is kind of the luck of the draw if that’s the right phrase to use,” continued O’Brien. “Sometimes turnovers come and takeaways come in bunches. You just get hot like we did two years ago. I think we were almost the best in the league. I think we were up in the top three. Last year we turned it around the second half of the season. I do think you can practice it. I think that you can talk about whether it’s, like you just said, strip sacks or fumbles or obviously interceptions, batted balls, things like that. At the end of the day, it’s got to happen on Sundays and sometimes there’s a little bit of luck involved.”
I also asked linebacker Whitney Mercilus about the Texans’ inability to pilfer the pigskin. He said all you can really do is “practice it” and “make it a habit.”
“You don’t have much control [over takeaways],” said Mercilus. “But you can do the actions to make that happen. That’s it.”
Cornerback A.J. Bouye is confident that the takeaways will come eventually.
“I feel they’re going to come,” said Bouye. “We haven’t been getting as many as we wanted. But we just have to keep pounding, and eventually they’re going to come.”
The Texans have also been plagued by an inability to score touchdowns when in the red zone. Per teamrankings.com, they’ve gotten into the end zone on just 38.1% of their red zone possessions. That’s dead last in the NFL, and is down from 56.52% last year.
“We were tied for first in the league (before the bye week) with 18 field goals,” said Bill O’Brien. “That’s a good stat for Nick (Novak), but that’s not a great stat for your offense. You got to score touchdowns down there and what’s happened to us, we’ve been in too many 3rd-and-longs. We’ve had tackles for loss, sacks, penalties. We’ve been in these 3rd-and-12 from the 12, 3rd-and-10 from the 10 and that’s not where you want to be in this league.”
O’Brien hopes that the 2 weeks between games for his offense will help that number improve.
“When you put guys together that haven’t played together a whole lot in the past, that takes a while to gel and right now it’s taking a little bit too long,” continued O’Brien. “We need to make sure that that’s what this week is about. Today, we had a couple of 7-on-7s and worked on a bunch of things out there. As quickly as we can get these guys to continue to gel because when it’s looked good it’s been pretty good, but obviously that hasn’t been enough.”
Paul Gallant hosts “Gallant at Night” – Tuesdays 9-11 PM, Wednesdays 8-11 PM, and Fridays 8-11 PM on SportsRadio 610. He also hosts SportsZone Unfiltered – Fridays at 10 PM – on The Kube: Channel 57. Get in touch with Paul via email or his facebook page.