Friday, May 27, 2022

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Behind Enemy Lines: Week 9 Dolphins vs Texans

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Welcome to the latest instalment of our 2021 series, Behind Enemy Lines: Houston Texans Edition.

I’ve been talking to fans from all the teams we’ve faced over this season, and this one is somewhat of a treat, the well known British, Houston Texans superfan, Graham Henderson has joined me as we discuss what was a really interesting conversation about two teams who have been linked together for a number of seasons now. Whether it be the Laramy Tunsil trade, the DeShaun Watson links or the fact that both teams won in week one and then lost 7 straight games since, there are undeniable parallels between the two franchises in recent times.

Those parallels collide this coming Sunday and one team will break their losing streak and both teams and their fans have reason to believe it will be them that will do that. So here I am, speaking with the enemy yet again, this time with Graham Henderson (@The_1_Hendo) to find out why they believe THEY will come out on top this week…

Graham, what a pleasure!! I first came across your fandom at an NFL Live event where they played a clip of your Texan themed man cave, admiring your superfan status from afar as you won British Superfan and were given that Superbowl week prize! So glad that you are this week’s ‘enemy’ for this edition. But for those who are less aware of you, could you introduce yourself? And for my sake, what was the whole Superbowl week experience like?

Hello folks, I’m Graham Henderson a.k.a The Kilted Texan. I have been a fan of the Texans since ’08 after a trip out to Houston to visit family and as part of the tourist itinerary a Texans game was on the agenda. We got so badly beaten in that game against the ravens, we may have been the only people left in the stands. Saying that the fans in and out of the stadium and at the tailgate were fantastic it left me wanting more so here we are 23 live Texan games later, the label of being a super fan and owner of one of the best NFL fancaves in the UK (if I do say so myself) The Bullpen.

It’s because of the Bullpen I was lucky enough to go to SB53 as NFLUK surprised me with those tickets, since you were in the crowd you will probably remember the absolute shock that was all over my face and I had no words they stitched me up brilliantly. The whole experience in Atlanta was excellent I met fans in a similar situation to me from all over the world. The game although defensive in nature was right up my street I love those kind of encounters and it seemed surreal watching the trophy being presented in person instead of watching on TV, one of my fondest memories was the NFL honours awards the night prior so much talent in the same room as me and after it we were lucky enough to get to chat to Whitney Mercilus as he made his way out. He had no issue in chatting away about how I was a fan and looking forward to the upcoming London game the following season. So all in all an amazing time was had by all.

Man, I admire your fandom, in awe of your fancave and jealous all at the same time. Richly deserved and was a pleasure to witness your genuine delight that night. Dont get me wrong, I hope youre disappointed on Sunday, but more generally, you are an incredible fan.

So I have talked a lot about how our seasons have been linked and have had parallels, both difficult to watch and filled with disappointment. Have your performances been as poor as someof those scorelines suggest or is there something bubbling underneath that no-one is talking about? Where are you heading as a franchise right now?

Yeah the season has been a hard pill to swallow for both our franchises at times. I knew it was going be a difficult one for us but it doesn’t make it any easier to sit and watch every second right to the final whistle. As for the performances, yeah some games we have been as bad if not worse than the score line suggests. Like last weeks game vs the rams we played there back ups for the whole 4th quarter which really helped to pad our score line.. Other games though like against the Browns I really believe if Tyrod hadn’t been injured we could have won that game and if you look at the Patriots game we left 8 points on the field from our special teams unit, there is definitely flashes but they are few and far between and also don’t shine so bright.

As for the direction of the franchise this is as much a full rebuild as I have seen big contract players being moved on, older players being moved on, decent value players being moved on all to try and stockpile as best we can those coveted draft picks and multiple numbers of them. I have always found that over the years no one really talks about the Texans either so in a year when we seem to be deciding on whether to tank or not the focus really has shifted even further away from us which I fully understand but in doing that people do not really understand everything that is either wrong or right with the franchise like the culture, certain members of staff and also off field issues which get pushed to the forefront. It really is a bit of a mess at times.

A bit of a mess at times’ are words we can absolutely identify with. My word our whole season has been this. From OLine issues, horrendous coaching, QB speculation, underperformance and regression, we have experience that mess and at times feels like no-one knows their way out of it.

Quarterbacks have been the subject of conversation for both teams, and in ways that are intrinsically linked, but what about the guy who has played the last few? Davis Mills has had some nice highlight reel moments this season, is there more to him than those big arm plays? Or are we already seeing his ceiling?

Davis Mills is quite intriguing he never really played a lot in college and we selected him quite high in the draft as our opening pick, although that was in the 3rd round. I would agree he has had some nice plays so far in the league but to be honest he has had a lot more bad. I think he is still adjusting to the speed and reads of these NFL defenses which is understandable but it’s the plays in which you think, “what did he see that I didn’t” on some of his INT’s. Some of which are thrown directly at the opposing D with no receiver in sight, it is frustrating as it gives the opposition all the emphasis and derails your own momentum.

I’m not sure if all the blame can land with Money Mills though as his OC Tim Kelly seems to be holding him back with some of the atrocious play calling and with us unable to establish the run game a lot of the time it leaves Mills out on a plank. I like the connection he seems to have made with Brandin Cooks as his favourite target and Cooks seems willing to stay in Houston to help with this development and the turn around. As I say this though it seems that Tyrod will start Sunday so is that the Mills era over for the season? Guess we will need to watch this space.

Dont know if I have room in my life for more watch this space” where Quarterbacks are concerned! We have that exact situation going on with Tua, watch this space and see if he can finally silence the doubters. Again though, like your guy, unbelievably hampered by horrendous play calling with some disappointing INTs at crucial times. What have I been saying man, parallels!

So what is the Houston perspective of Miami football right now? Obviously there is recent history with the Tunsil trade and the Watson speculation, so Im interested to know what the Texan view of us is at the moment?

To be honest I don’t really have that much of a view on the Dolphins, and that’s no slight don’t get me wrong, I’m like that with a lot of teams. We do have some recent history with Tunsil and I still wonder if we were fleeced a little in that deal but that doesn’t surprise me with Bill O’Brian hardly the best at getting good trade value. Tunsil is no doubt a top class LT but in that first season, his false start pens were killing us and also with our QB situation now up in the air, again was it necessary to spend so big on that premier LT for it not to really impact our offence performance.

I do see the Dolphins as a stalwart team that’s always been around who celebrate every time an Undefeated team get defeated. Haha. Saying that I have thought they have been struggling to find an identity with which direction they want to go as a franchise for the past couple of seasons and I get the feeling that they might not be 100% in on Tua. There are some decent players on the roster but maybe seen like ours as better trade value than to move forward and build your team round. Like I said though I don’t really focus to much on what other teams are doing I have enough of a circus to watch sometimes.

Well I think there will be plenty of clowns from both our circuses on show this Sunday. Could be a high scoring game if our defenses are anything to go by. I know what you mean about Tua, we have had that discussion all year, how in’ are they on Tua, and who is it within the franchise that is pulling for him and who is pulling against him.

In terms of identity, this season has been WEIRD. We drafted Waddle, kept Albert Wilson and initially Jakeem Grant and signed Will Fuller in free agency. That is some SPEED right there. Yet we didnt seem to make the most of it at all. Checkdowns and short yardage plays time after time. Its as if the coaches dont know how to get the best out of their premier players this year.

What bout our season and record? Did you expect this of us? Or have our struggles surprised us?

I didn’t really expect you to be trailing the J-E-T-S Jets Jets… that’s enough of that, yeah I didn’t expect you to be trailing them in your division as they are woeful so I am probably surprised that you share the same record as us at this point in the season. I didn’t really have any expectations of you making the play offs but I really am sorry to all the phins fans when I say that the team doesn’t really hit my radar the only reason I have probably looked at them this season is because it was on our fixture list and that it may have been a cool place to go as a Travelling Texan.

Haha! So we are on your radar then? Just for the weather? Well at least with such little expectations, there is little chance to be let down at least! Haha. We dont need to talk about trailing the Jets. That stings enough as it is, luckily we have to play them twice in the coming weeks so we have opportunities to right that wrong.

Just returning to this match up though, who is on your roster that we should be worried about? Obviously you have some well known names, but are there any players going unnoticed who could cause us issues?

JON GREENARD!!!!!!!!!!!!! Absolute beast on that defensive front. Coming into the game with 8 sacks and a forced fumble on the year he is going to be a stud if he keeps up this kind of work rate., what a steal of a third rounder in 2020. He has been so impressive that it allowed us to be comfortable enough to trade away another good rusher in Omenihu this past week. Other players on the defense worth a mention is Martin and Blacklock both having solid starts and also Malik Collins has been very good the last couple of weeks and seems to be heating up in the middle of the defensive front.

I have been impressed with a lot of our defense considering the high turnaround in the offseason, with our turn over rate far more impressive than last season already, look out for a Lonnie Johnson pick after he has been burned on at least 4 big plays. On offense id say look for the rookies Nico Collins and if he gets another start this week TE Brevin Jordan who scored a Touchdown last week in his first game for the Texans so who knows he might bag himself another.

Our punt game has been strong this year also bar one bad punt and allows us to really pin teams back there. Genuinely there is a lot of talent on this team who are on the cusp of making the jump and when it happens it will be exciting, it’s just we have to trawl through the bad years to watch it mature.

Wow, more names than I expected considering your record. Nico Collins is a good one, I had a sneaky eye on him in the draft so Im happy to see his name crop up in this section. Im glad hes making progress. However I am less pleased to head your pass rush unit is growing strong, as Offensive Line has been an absolute nightmare for us this season, so bringing strong pass rush to us is less than ideal.

Im starting to worry! Haha. What about the opposite? Give me some hope, what areas of the Texans play can we look to exploit and have some joy against?

In all honesty I wouldn’t like to be the Dolphins this week, as our perception is that you have most likely been prepping for Mills and now it looks like Tyrod may start, it must be a bit of an issue as the two have very different playing styles to one and other. If though, and I say IF, the Dolphins win I think they will need to limit the receptions that Cooks gets on offense and make sure you can stop our run game completely as we do still have a decent RB room, do that and force us to the air more than we like and that can cause issues.

Against our D, we have been playing a Tampa 2 I think with the safeties playing deep a little too deep for the most part if you can exploit the area in between then I reckon the Dolphins will find some success as Lonnie Johnson’s pursuit angles have left a lot to be desired in the last couple of games. Kirksey was also playing with a club on his left hand last week which limited his tackling ability against the run in the Rams game, so if the club is still on it may hinder his performance again.

Ok, this I can be happier with. Its an interesting point about which QB they would have been preparing for. Although with our bonehead coaches, they have probably been preparing for Watson anyway! But what about OUR roster? Are there any players who you think could cause you issues this weekend.

You, like us have some pretty decent talent in places and you will need to lean on them to get the result you need. I think the WR core is good enough to cause us issues with Waddle being one to watch out for but if he is fit and starting Will Fuller is always a massive deep threat, that is a guy if he is ticking can cause no end of trouble with his effortless break away speed and it may be seen as a bit of a revenge game for him. So I’m worried if he starts and Tua can find him there will be some big time plays getting dropped on us. Gesicki is, from what I believe, a pretty solid TE and if he can work those soft areas I mentioned earlier then that to will be a point of concern.

If Gaskin can knock of the rust from his previous game and Kirksey has the club on again another area to exploit. So there is hope for the Dolphins on offense most definitely. As for the defense I do not really know of much apart from Howard who I would imagine will have the duty of trying to lock down Cooks which will make for an exciting battle and one I look forward to Cooks winning. I’m sure as well that Ray Finkle will bang a couple FG’s but probably miss when you need it most.

Well I dont think you have to worry about Fuller, he is almost certainly OUT yet again. We know the talent but we havent seen any of it from him as he has just been injury after injury. On a one year, $10m dollar deal, he seems to be stealing a living from us. FGs have been an issue too, Jason Sanders has had that regression in this year, so even those we cant rely on at this moment.

But OK, I have left it long enough now mate, I have to ask, what the HELL went on with DeShaun Watson and the Miami links? How did it all look from within the Texan fanbase? What as your perspective?

OMG do not get me started on this saga!!! At the start of the year, I was fully behind Watson’s grievances with the team, although was miffed with a guy signing a huge contract to months later saying he wanted out. But I was supportive to a point with him as I had enjoyed watching him play. Then of course the lawsuits and the fact that he point blank said he did not want to play for us anymore, at that point I decided I was ready to move on from him and it is what it is.

The one factor that is hard is that all recent reports are about the trade or potential trades every minute of every day. It gets a little tedious and when I thought one was in place with the Dolphins and they were ready to give us what we wanted … Deshaun would not settle the lawsuits so it fell through from the dolphins end for now. I have a problem that the guy doesn’t want to play for usand he is filling a roster spot just now we are working with a 52 man roster in an already difficult year. The whole situation has stunk since January and I’m kinda tired and bored with it.

You signed the papers now turn up and work or your name means nothing on paper, saying that would I now be happy to have a guy with all these alleged cases against women playing on my team well probably not. Its just a horrible situation and my talking points probably never made sense on here but that’s what happens sometimes when you rant especially about a team you still care about. I follow the Texans over a single player and I’m not turning my back on them even though many have.

You and me both in terms of getting bored of it all. Its everywhere and all leaks and reports are coming from unnamed sources and beat writers which casts doubts over how much of it is actually true. Its just unnecessary noise for both parties I think.

Im hoping it will completely go away within the next 9 games. Tua now has a chance to show exactly what and who he is over the next 9 games. I am so hoping he turns himself into the guy’ after all this. Id love him to become our franchise quarterback after I emotionally invested in his college journey and draft pick.

So what is the Texans perspective of our current QB1? There were rumours you guys didnt want him in any trade deal, no idea how much truth is in that, or in any of it, so tell us yourself.

I’m just getting asked questions to upset the Phin-base aren’t I? I don’t really rate Tua that highly, I preferred when you guys were running with Fitz the other season there. I personally don’t see that much of a ceiling for him and think he’s probably going to make a team a good back up sometime. That said I haven’t watched a lot of him and he will probably make me eat my words come end of game on Sunday. I expect that those 9 games this season will see him muddle away and have some flashes that will make you think you have the guy, but if you are even considering trading for Deshaun it tells me all I need to know that he is going to be on the move from Miami at some point in the near future.

Haha, so not a fan then no? Dont worry about it, no-one seems to be outside of Miami. And even within our franchise, there are definitely some people who are non-believers. We just dont know who. But for now at least, Coach Flores’ catchphrase remains true, Tua is our Quarterback’ and I am one of the fans that wont give Tua a free pass, but I am hoping beyond hope that I wont need to anyway and this season will be the adversity needed him to drive him to better things.

So how do you see the game playing out? Whats your prediction?

Prediction for this one, oh lets see, Texans get the dub on the road 27-21. With the return of Tyrod all order will be restored to Houston and yet, with picking up the win, it will mean absolutely nothing to our season bar hurting our draft position. It will be an exciting game though I think with both teams hitting some big downfield plays.

Not so sure about the downfield plays, that doesnt seem to be our style this year. I think this is the game we get our win, especially if our OLine can buy Tua some time to make his throws. A few throws aside, Tua is accurate as hell so I am confident he can get some joy with quick release passes.

Gesicki, Waddle and Parker could do really well … if utilised well … and that is the biggest question of them all ahead of Sunday for us.

Im going to go 20 -14 to Miami for this one.

Thank you so much for sitting down with me and talking through all this, it has been a real pleasure and I hope there is a worthwhile match up this weekend to back all our chat up. Stay happy sir, and happy fancaving!

Well there you go, another Behind Enemy Lines wrapped up, and on a week where there is cause for more optimism. Hopefully it won’t be too short lived and they give us things to stay optimistic about.

With the trade deadline in the rear view mirror, and with Tua confirmed as our QB1 for the remainder of the season at least, maybe now we can see him play with the freedom to make bigger and match winning plays. And who better to do it against, than the very team our Front Office has reportedly been in talks with this entire time. This could well be Tua’s revenge game, as bizarre as that sounds, and I am here and alive for it.

So let’s stay optimistic while we can, I’m buying into another 300 yard game for QB1, a couple of touchdowns and a win in front of the home fans.

Fins Up!

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