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Behind Enemy Lines: Texans’ defense appears more vulnerable than ever

The Bengals’ route to keeping their momentum going may be to run through a Texans defense that has held back a great Deshaun Watson season.

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Bengals and Texans haven’t met in quite some time. Most of the big names on both teams from 2017 won’t be on the field this week. With that kind of turnover in mind, we thought it would be a great idea to catch up with Jeremy Brener of Battle Red Blog to get his thoughts on this week’s matchup.

Patrick Judis: The Texans have taken quite the fall in 2020 after winning the division last year. What have been some of the biggest issues this year, and how has the team responded to Romeo Crennel taking over as the interim head coach?

Jeremy Brener: A lot of the team’s issues have been on defense. The team has not been able to stop the run all year and the secondary is not much better. Losing DJ Reader to Cincinnati really became far more of a loss than anyone could have expected and the team has been injured in the secondary all year long. I think Bill O’Brien and Jack Easterby set the tone and it makes for a very uncomfortable environment. That kind of stuff permeates throughout the organization and it shows on gameday. Romeo Crennel is a respected voice in the locker room, but he’s there to just keep the ship from totally sinking. Someone has to be the coach, so it’s him. Hopefully he can keep this thing running until he passes along this mess of a team to the guy who willingly wants to clean it up.

PJ: Deshaun Watson remains to be one of the more promising young quarterbacks in the NFL. How has he looked this season?

JB: He’s been the one bright spot on this team. The team’s record may not reflect it, but he’s had the best year of his career. Losing DeAndre Hopkins is obviously a loss, but it’s forced him to spread the offense. He had impeccable chemistry with Will Fuller before he was suspended and he’s even made young guys like Keke Coutee and Chad Hansen look like decent receivers at times. He gives the Texans a chance to win every Sunday and he’s given us a chance in games (Steelers, Titans and both Colts games) that the team never should have had a chance to win. Granted, they lost all four of the aforementioned games, but they were competitive because of Watson and lost because of the incompetence and lack of talent from the rest of the roster.

PJ: How have teams been attacking the Texans defense this season?

JB: Establishing the run has been the first step. The Texans allow 150 rushing yards per game. Only the Cowboys allow more. Giving Giovani Bernard, Samaje Perine and Trayveon Williams some carries is the Bengals’ best move to generate some success Sunday. Also, going to the ground allows you to kill time on the clock that Watson could utilize towards scoring on your team’s defense. It also allows you to create the play action, where the Texans aren’t much better in the secondary.

PJ: Houston doesn’t have many of the big names left on offense outside of Watson. Who are some players who stick out in the Texans’ supporting cast?

JB: JJ Watt is always so fun to watch, even if he isn’t the same player he was at the beginning of his career. David Johnson finally had a decent game for the Texans last week, notching over 100 yards from scrimmage. Coutee, despite his game-clinching fumble last week, has always been someone that Texans fans have wanted to see get more of a look. With all of these receivers out, he’s been given that opportunity and he could have a big game Sunday to bounce back from last week. You could say he’s fighting for his spot on next year’s team in these last two games, and those players tend to put in a little more umph at this point in a losing season.

PJ: What is your prediction for Sunday?

JB: The Bengals played extremely well on Monday Night Football, and they’ll likely ride that momentum towards beating the Texans Sunday. Bengals 27, Texans 24.

Thanks again to Jeremy Brener for taking the time out to answer our questions. If you’d like to find more of his work or Texans’ coverage ahead of Sunday’s matchup, you can head over to Battle Red Blog.