We’re now three-quarters of the way through the preseason, and Week 3 proved most detrimental to the Houston Texans and the Indianapolis Colts. I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Andrew Luck decided to hang up the cleats in a courageous decision. This understandably sent shock throughout the NFL and alters the entire landscape of the 2020 season and beyond. In what was anticipated to be the Colts’ year, Luck’s retirement leaves the AFC South wide open.
Overshadowed by the stunning Luck news, Lamar Miller left Saturday’s game with a torn ACL and will be missed for the season. This is obviously a devastating blow to the Texans, who bypassed running back in the 2019 NFL Draft. Although, they did recently trade for Duke Johnson which helps soften the blow a bit. Miller’s absence this season will be missed in a major way. He’s the only back on the roster who knows the scheme. Plus, he’s one of the league’s best pass-blocking backs.
As if the Miller injury wasn’t bad enough, Zach Fulton was also carted off the field. It was later reported he’s dealing with turf toe and it’s not a long-term injury. Fulton was expected to claim one of the starting guard jobs. His versatility on the interior made him one of the team’s most coveted linemen. Hopefully, he’s out there Week 1, but it’s sounding like he could miss a few games.
To put salt in the wound, the Texans were absolutely demolished by a score of 34-0 at the hands of the Cowboys. The offense never clicked for Houston. On the defensive side, it was blown coverage after blown coverage and overall poor tackling. In a week full of negatives, I’m going to change the pace. Instead of regurgitating the poor showing in Week 3, I’m going to take a look at the most impressive players.
TE Jordan Thomas
Primed for a breakout in his sophomore campaign for the Texans, Jordan Thomas has put together a strong preseason. While he only has four catches on the ledger, he’s made an impact each time he’s been involved. His route running looks much improved from last season. He had a nice corner route against Dallas, although a bad pass forced it incomplete. Even last week he had a touchdown inside the red zone which was called back due to penalty. Thomas is taking full advantage of his athletic profile and he seems comfortable using his imposing frame.
Tracy Sprinkle (@TSprinkle93) executes a club/rip to one side of the blocker, then counter spins to the other side just as the QB thought about taking off.
— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) August 25, 2019
DL Tracy Sprinkle
Since being picked up on waivers two weeks ago, Tracy Sprinkle has made the most of his start in Houston. He had a huge game last week highlighted by a blowup against the run for a tackle for loss. This week he showed off his pass-rushing prowess. In a blowout loss where most of the team looked defeated, Sprinkle kept his foot on the gas and put the coaches on notice with his effort and motor. Perhaps the play of the game for Houston was a late Sprinkle sack. He’s done enough to warrant a depth spot on the defensive line for the Texans.
EDGE Jesse Aniebonam
With the Jadeveon Clowney trade rumors heating up, the Texans are in desperation for a pass rusher to step up. Undrafted out of Maryland, the unknown Aniebonam put up some good reps on Saturday rushing the passer. He showcased as much twitch off the edge of any reserve we’ve seen this preseason. With feisty, quick hands and his quickness off the snap, Aniebonam has turned heads and at the very least may find a spot on the practice squad.
EDGE Jamal Davis
Another undrafted edge defender who impressed on Saturday was Jamal Davis. He started to generate some buzz in last week’s win over Detroit. The pass-rushing flashes haven’t been there. However, Davis has made an impression with his run-stopping. He’s shown the ability to disengage blocks and corral the ball carrier. There could be an underlying battle between Davis and Aniebonam. In which case, the Texans have seemed to be more infatuated with Davis’ combo of athleticism and size.
All four man-coverage Lonnie Johnson targets, plus another nice play in zone. Allowed one catch, mostly against former Jets injury washout Devin Smith. pic.twitter.com/Ft4FQB0xsn
— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) August 25, 2019
CB Lonnie Johnson
We finally got a glimpse at the first of two Texans 2019 second-round picks. Lonnie Johnson had been used sparingly prior to Saturday’s contest. He played the majority of the game and was tested a few times. He allowed one catch but otherwise impressed with his physicality. Not known for his mirroring skills, Johnson counters with elite length at the position. He used his long wingspan to break up a couple of passes on Saturday as he flashed playing the ball in the air. Johnson will open the season as a reserve corner but his role will steadily grow over the course of the year.
Jonathan Valencia is an AFC South writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter @JonValenciaPFN.