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5 Questions with Battle Red Blog: Was now the right time to fire Bill O’Brien?

Divisional Round - Houston Texans v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) travel to Texas this weekend to take on the Houston Texans (0-4) in an AFC South battle of bottom-dwellers. Both teams are struggling this season, and both are desperate to get a win.

The Texans are undergoing extreme changes, as head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien was fired, and Romeo Crennel takes over interim duties. To help us get a more clear picture on what exactly is going on with Houston I spoke with Jeremy Brener of Battle Red Blog — SB Nation’s website for all things Texans.

Here is how the conversation went:

1. Obviously the big news out of Houston this week is the firing of head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien after an 0-4 start to the 2020 season. This comes one year removed from an AFC South divisional championship. In your opinion, was this the right move to do a quarter of the way through the season, or do you think the Texans should have waited? What does the general fan consensus seem to be?

Jeremy: The Texans are pulling this move about six-and-a-half months too late. The DeAndre Hopkins trade was the final straw. He lost the locker room and the fanbase that he still had with the trade and I don’t think you’ll find many Texans fans disappointed by the move. As a coach, Bill O’Brien was decent. Four playoff appearances/division titles in six years is better than what most teams can say. However, when you give someone like O’Brien as much power as he had, he can go on a power trip. He used a personal vendetta against Hopkins as a GM and lost the team as the head coach with the trade.

2. Outside of the coaching/front office problems, what has been the issue for the Texans on the field and what does the team need to do to get its first win against the Jaguars?

Jeremy: Let Deshaun Watson ball out. Some of the play-calling has been rough, and that will obviously change this week with the play-calling likely being made by offensive coordinator Tim Kelly or interim head coach Romeo Crennel.

The main issue for the Texans though has been its front seven. They have surrendered at least 100 rushing yards in each of their first four games, including 150 rushing yards in the fourth quarter alone against the Ravens. If I’m Doug Marrone, I’m handing James Robinson the rock and not looking back.

3. What Texans players that are perhaps under-the-radar should Jaguars fans watch out for on Sunday?

Jeremy: For a team that hasn’t had much success this season, it’s a hard question to answer. One of the bright spots on the offense though has been tight end Jordan Akins, who has made an improvement in year three. However, a hit to the noggin from Harrison Smith has him concussed and he won’t play Sunday. Watson likes to utilize his tight ends, so expect Darren Fells to have a larger role Sunday. Fells found the end zone seven times last season and could find it again Sunday.

4. Houston has struggled to score points, ranking 29th in the NFL at just 20 points per game. How badly does Houston miss the presence of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and who needs to step up as a playmaker?

Jeremy: Hopkins is missed, no doubt. But I think the lack of points isn’t entirely pointed to the absence of Hopkins. Watson has very capable skill players. Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb and Kenny Stills have all had at least 900 receiving yards in a season before. David Johnson has also nearly cracked that number and Will Fuller probably would be in that club if he stays healthy, which he has so far this season.

Watson has playmakers around him. They aren’t as good as Hopkins, but he has an abundance of weapons. The issue on offense has to do with play-calling. Running David Johnson up the middle is less effective than the outside, which is what they’ve been doing in these first four games. They tried some speed options plays last week that worked for Johnson and I’m hoping we see more of that. Throw some deep balls to Fuller and Stills. Get Cobb, Duke Johnson and Cooks involved with some screen passes. Play to their strengths and the Texans will be fine.

5. The defense hasn’t been much better, giving up 31.5 points per game. The Jaguars have been miserable in that regard as well, giving up 29.25 points per game. Which struggling defense do you think will have the better game this weekend and why?

Jeremy: It may sound like a bit of a homer answer, but I’m going with the Texans. The firing of Bill O’Brien has given the team new energy. It’s taken pressure off of everyone’s shoulders and I think the team is closer now because of it. I’m expecting a big game from a lot of guys, especially J.J. Watt, who will rally the defense in a Hail Mary attempt to salvage something out of this season.

6. Score prediction?

Jeremy: This game is hot garbage and nobody outside of our two communities will likely place an eyeball or spend time viewing the game. It’s a battle between two of the worst teams in football. However, I’ll take the Jags, just because the Texans haven’t proven to me yet that they can win this year. I’ll believe it when I see it — Jags 27, Texans 21.

Thank you to Jeremy for providing answers and insights into Houston. You can catch him on Twitter, and to stay up-to-date on Texans news, follow Battle Red Blog as well.