Aug 27, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA;  Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) gives a thumbs up to fans before the game between the Browns and the Chicago Bears at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Rusty or not, Deshaun Watson makes Browns debut vs. Texans

For all the hubbub over the return of Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, the individual with the least to say about the unusual circumstance is Watson himself.

Watson, reinstated on Monday after serving an 11-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, will make his Browns debut when Cleveland (4-7) visits the Houston Texans (1-9-1) on Sunday.

Watson sat out the 2021 campaign after a trade demand from Houston prior to that season and he hasn’t played this year due to the suspension he received after being accused of sexual misconduct by more than two dozen women.

On Sunday, Watson will get his first action since Jan. 3, 2021, when he passed for 365 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-38 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Houston.

Watson earned three Pro Bowl nods in his four seasons with the Texans and led the NFL in passing yards (4,823), yards per attempt (8.9) and yards per completion (12.6) during his final season in Houston.

He has practiced with the Browns since Nov. 16, and given his reputation, enthusiasm is cresting in Cleveland as Watson returns despite the long layoff between contests.

“We’re all excited. We’ve all waited for a long time for him to come back,” Browns running back Nick Chubb said of Watson, who has not spoken publicly since his suspension was announced.

“He’s special. He’s a playmaker. He puts the ball exactly where he needs it to go and guys like that. Guys are excited. We all are. We’re ready.”

In theory, Watson should be a boon for an offense that ranks fifth in total yards (4,146), bolstered by the Chubb-led rushing attack that also ranks fifth in the NFL with 1,698 yards. The Browns should benefit from having a quarterback renowned for accuracy — Watson completed 70.2 percent of his attempts in 2020 — and an ability to dismantle defenses with his scrambling ability.

Still, the concern over the time that has elapsed since Watson last played is a legitimate one. And while it is difficult to anticipate how rusty Watson will be, there is an expectation for rust.

“I don’t think I can predict that type of thing,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. “But I know this: he’s focusing on his work. Really, in any endeavor, you’ve got to focus on your preparation for Sunday. You can’t really worry about Sunday until you worry about Wednesday.”

The Texans, mired in a six-game losing skid, are in a position similar to that of the Browns, just from a different perspective. Houston has ample game footage of Watson to dissect and first-hand knowledge of his myriad skills. The struggle for the Texans is factoring in the layoff and how that shapes what version of Watson will be under center for the Browns.

Expecting the Pro Bowl iteration of Watson would seem to be folly. However, the Texans are preparing for precisely that.

“We’re telling our guys we’re going to see the best version of Deshaun,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said. “I think you go into every game that way. We have no idea. He hasn’t played for a long period of time, but we hope there is some rust and all those things. But no, that’s not what we’re telling them.

“We’re showing them the stats. One of the best offenses in the league statistically, adding a great player, so that should say that they’re going to be better. That’s how we’re going into the football game.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) celebrates his touchdown pass to tight end Durham Smythe (not pictured) during the first half against the Houston Texans at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa and Miami defense overwhelm Texans

Tua Tagovailoa passed for 299 yards and a score and the Miami Dolphins’ defense turned two turnovers into first-half touchdowns in a 30-15 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday in Miami Gardens, Fla.

The Dolphins (8-3) led 30-0 by halftime — their largest since building a 41-0 halftime lead against Houston on Oct. 25, 2015 — and won their fifth consecutive game.

Miami moved back into a first-place tie with the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East. The Dolphins hold the tiebreaker thanks to a win on Sept. 25 against the Bills. The teams will play again in Buffalo in Week 15.

The Texans (1-9-1) entered the game with the NFL’s worst record and hoped for a better outcome after switching from second-year starter Davis Mills to Kyle Allen at quarterback.

Allen completed 26 of 39 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown, but threw two interceptions and finished with a 67.8 passer rating in his first start for the Texans. He was sacked five times.

Dolphins linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel intercepted Allen with 12:38 left in the second quarter and returned it to the Texans’ 3-yard line. The giveaway set up a touchdown run on the next play by Jeff Wilson.

Two drives later, Dolphins safety Eric Rowe forced a fumble by Texans tight end Jordan Akins, allowing Xavien Howard to recover it and return it 16 yards for a touchdown to give the Dolphins a 27-0 lead with five minutes left in the second quarter.

Miami’s offense was effective until left tackle Terron Armstead was forced to leave the game in the second quarter with a pectoral injury. Tagovailoa was sacked four times and was removed after two drives in the second half with Miami ahead 30-6.

Houston’s defense, led by Maliek Collins (two sacks), recorded five sacks overall.

Allen connected with Akins on a 25-yard touchdown pass with 12:46 left in the fourth quarter to get within 30-12, but the two-point conversion pass failed.

Ka’imi Fairbairn completed the scoring for Houston with a 28-yard field goal with 9:00 remaining.

–Field Level Media

Aug 5, 2022; Houston, Texas, US;  Houston Texans quarterback Kyle Allen (3) throws a pass during training camp at the Texans practice facility.  Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Texans coach confirms QB Kyle Allen to start vs. Dolphins

Houston Texans quarterback Kyle Allen will start Sunday’s game against the host Miami Dolphins, coach Lovie Smith announced Friday.

Allen is receiving the nod in favor of Davis Mills, who has struggled for the Texans (1-8-1). Mills, in fact, threw two interceptions — including a pick-six on the opening drive — in Houston’s 23-10 loss to the Washington Commanders last Sunday.

“Kyle Allen will start this week,” Smith said. “Reasons why? It’s like that with all positions, there comes a time when you feel like you need to — you’re always looking for the best option, that gives you the best chance to win, and that’s where we are right now. We’ll need both guys, and as I said right after the game and all week, there’s a lot of other things that we have to do better. Protection has to be better no matter who our quarterback is. Hopefully that will be the case which will give us a better chance to win football games.”

Smith, however, was not ready to commit to Allen as the team’s starter for the remainder of the season.

“We take it day-by-day with everybody,” Smith said.

Allen, 26, has yet to debut for the Texans this season since signing a one-year contract in March. He has completed 63.1 percent of his pass attempts for 4,318 yards with 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 21 games (17 starts) with the Carolina Panthers (2018-19) and Washington franchise (2020-21).

Mills, 24, has completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 2,144 yards with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 10 games this season.

–Field Level Media

Oct 2, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA;  Houston Texans quarterback Kyle Allen (3) warms up before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Texans QB Kyle Allen to start vs. Dolphins

The Houston Texans will turn to quarterback Kyle Allen to start this weekend’s game against the host Miami Dolphins, multiple media outlets reported on Wednesday.

Davis Mills has struggled this season for the Texans (1-8-1). He threw two interceptions — including a pick-six on the opening drive — in Houston’s 23-10 loss to the Washington Commanders last Sunday.

Texans coach Lovie Smith declined to name his starting quarterback during Wednesday’s press conference, telling reporters that he didn’t want to “give the opponent an advantage.”

Allen, 26, has yet to debut for the Texans this season since signing a one-year contract in March. He has completed 63.1 percent of his pass attempts for 4,318 yards with 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 21 games (17 starts) with the Carolina Panthers (2018-19) and Washington franchise (2020-21).

Mills, 24, has completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 2,144 yards with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 10 games this season.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills (10) is sacked by Washington Commanders defensive end Montez Sweat (90) in the second quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders win as stifling defense holds Texans to 148 yards

Taylor Heinicke passed for 191 yards, Jonathan Allen and Montez Sweat combined for four sacks and the visiting Washington Commanders won for the fifth time in six games by smothering the Houston Texans 23-10 on Sunday.

The Commanders (6-5) limited Houston (1-8-1) to 148 total yards and 2.7 yards per play. Behind Allen and Sweat, who produced two sacks apiece, Washington sacked Texans quarterback Davis Mills five times while also recording a pair of interceptions.

Mills did not eclipse 100 passing yards until the fourth quarter and the Texans did not record a touchdown until Mills scrambled for a 4-yard score with 3:19 left to play to cap an 11-play, 55-yard drive. Prior to that last-ditch march, the Commanders were in complete control.

The Texans amassed only five yards on 21 plays in the first half. Mills passed for 22 yards but was sacked three times for 23 yards for minus-1 net passing yards at the intermission. Rookie running back Dameon Pierce had six carries for two yards. Houston recorded one first down.

Mills tossed a pick-6 on the Texans’ second play from scrimmage, with Commanders cornerback Kendall Fuller returning a pass intended for Brandin Cooks 37 yards for a score and a 7-0 Washington lead at the 13:16 mark of the first quarter. The Texans totaled minus-4 yards on their next drive.

With the defense dominating, Heinicke needed only to serve as a caretaker on offense. Washington strung together three consecutive scoring drives to close the first half, riding the ground game led by Antonio Gibson, Brian Robinson and Curtis Samuel to a nine-play, 85-yard touchdown drive capped by a 10-yard Samuel run for a 14-0 lead with 11:44 left in the half.

Gibson finished with 72 yards on 18 carries to lead the Commanders.

Joey Slye added field goals of 25 and 24 yards later in the second quarter, the last coming with seven seconds left for a 20-0 lead. The Texans opened the second half with a march into the red zone that included a fourth-down conversion at the Washington 15. But Sweat sacked Mills for a 7-yard loss on third-and-goal, forcing Houston to settle for a 29-yard Ka’imi Fairbairn field goal.

The Texans incurred their fifth consecutive loss and remain winless at home this season.

–Field Level Media

Nov 14, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Confident Commanders head to Houston behind Taylor Heinicke

In the aftermath of a Monday night win over the Eagles, the Washington Commanders had two pressing roster issues to address in Week 11.

The Commanders (5-5) travel to face the Houston Texans (1-7-1) on Sunday at NRG Stadium most likely without quarterback Carson Wentz (finger), who was cleared to start throwing but not designated to return to the active roster. Taylor Heinicke will make his fifth start of the season.

Washington has won three of the four games started by Heinicke, including the 32-21 victory that blemished the Eagles’ ledger. Replacing Heinicke with Wentz, who labored in his six starts, might have been an issue in a locker room that seems to have rallied around the former.

“We have time. That’s the really good thing that is on our side,” Commanders coach Ron Rivera said. “He’s done some good things and we’ll see how it happens this week. To me, it’s part of having to make a decision. You’ve got to be realistic, you’ve got to watch and you’ve got to see and that’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve been paying attention to it, not just an individual but as much as it affects a unit and a team.

“It’s a good problem to have.”

That answers the first question for Washington.

The other: discussion of Commanders defensive end Chase Young, the second overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, playing against the Texans multiplied in recent days. Young, who last played on Nov. 14, 2021, prior to undergoing knee surgery, is nearing a return but the decision on when is still pending.

“I think we still have a little over a week to make that decision, but he is trending in the right direction,” Rivera said. “We’ll have to see how things unfold this week as well. But it is coming.”

The Commanders are 4-1 in their last five games with Washington’s only loss a 20-17 setback against the Vikings. All five were one-possession games in the fourth quarter.

Houston hasn’t had made close calls in 2022 but its past three losses in a current four-game losing streak were all decided by one possession — no more than eight points.

In an attempt to bolster an offense that ranks 28th in scoring and 29th in yards, the Texans executed two waiver claims this week, adding running back Eno Benjamin from the Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday and receiver Amari Rodgers from the Green Bay Packers on Wednesday.

Rodgers, a third-round selection (85th overall) out of Clemson in 2021, scuffled on special teams and logged only 201 offensive snaps over two seasons while amassing eight receptions for 95 yards. Rodgers had five fumbles this season, the most by any non-quarterback in the NFL, including one in Week 10 against the Dallas Cowboys that facilitated his release.

Benjamin, taken in the seventh round out of Arizona State in 2020, produced 70 carries for 299 yards and two touchdowns this season. The Texans are desirous to build depth behind rookie running back Dameon Pierce, who has 898 yards and four touchdowns from scrimmage, but there is uncertainty as to whether Benjamin will be available to play against the Commanders.

“No, he’ll be out there (Thursday),” Texans coach Lovie Smith said. “As far as improving our roster, whenever we have a chance, we’re constantly looking to improve our roster. When players become available that we think that can help us, and that’s the case with Eno.

“I’ll put it like this. We have to keep moving on like he’s not going to play. Since we’re bringing a new player into the mix, we played a lot of games when he wasn’t a part of the team, so we’re moving on like he is not and will not (play). We’re going to give him a little bit of time, at least get in the building and then we’ll see.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA;  Green Bay Packers wide receiver Amari Rodgers (8) looks for a pass interference call after he had a pass broken up by Detroit Lions safety C.J. Moore (38) (not pictured) late in the fourth  quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Texans claim Amari Rodgers off waivers

The Houston Texans claimed return specialist Amari Rodgers off waivers Wednesday, one day after he was released by the Green Bay Packers, multiple outlets reported.

It’s the second consecutive day the Texans have claimed another team’s castoff. The Texans claimed running back Eno Benjamin off waivers Tuesday from the Arizona Cardinals.

Rodgers was a third-round pick (85th overall) in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Rodgers fumbled four times on special teams this season, including one that set up a Dallas Cowboys touchdown on Sunday.

He played in 26 games over two seasons, catching eight passes for 95 yards. He returned 40 punts for 305 yards and 17 kickoffs for 321 yards.

–Field Level Media

Oct 20, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, United States; Arizona Cardinals running back Eno Benjamin (26) jukes past the New Orleans Saints safety Justin Evans (30) at State Farm Stadium.

Nfl Cardinals Saints Photos New Orleans Saints At Arizona Cardinals

Texans claim RB Eno Benjamin off waivers

The Houston Texans claimed running back Eno Benjamin off waivers Tuesday, one day after his surprise release by the Arizona Cardinals.

Benjamin, 23, started three games for the Cardinals earlier this season when James Conner was injured. However, he played just one offensive snap last week against the Los Angeles Rams.

Benjamin rushed for 299 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games this season, adding 24 receptions for 184 yards. He was a seventh-round draft pick by the Cards in the 2020 draft.

The Arizona Republic reported Benjamin was angry over only playing one snap and confronted an assistant coach after the game.

He has 417 rushing yards and three TDs in 19 career games (three starts) for the Cardinals.

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills (10) throws an incomplete pass under pressure from New York Giants linebacker Jaylon Smith (54) during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Saquon Barkley rushes Giants past Texans

Saquon Barkley rushed for 152 yards and a touchdown as the New York Giants turned a third-quarter eruption into a 24-16 win over the visiting Houston Texas on Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J.

Barkley capped a 12-play, 74-yard march with a 2-yard touchdown run that answered a Houston scoring drive that cut the deficit to 14-10 midway through the third quarter. After totaling 182 yards in the first half, the Giants (7-2) recorded 149 yards on two third-quarter scoring drives.

The Giants’ first touchdown mark of the third quarter wasn’t as prolonged as the second.

Quarterback Daniel Jones adeptly avoided the rush just long enough to find Darius Slayton in the flat, and the wideout followed by avoiding the tackle of Texans rookie safety Jalen Pitre before darting up the sideline 54 yards for a touchdown. The score extended the Giants’ lead to 14-3 at the 12:33 mark.

Davis Mills and the Texans (1-7-1) managed a hasty response, covering 75 yards in seven plays with the quarterback completing all four of his pass attempts for 64 yards — including a 12-yard touchdown toss to Nico Collins.

But after Barkley gave the Giants a 21-10 lead, the Texans were slowed by a pair of turnovers.

Texans rookie running back Dameon Pierce fumbled at the Giants’ 10 on the drive following the Barkley score, with Giants linebacker Jaylon Smith recovering the fumble.

In the fourth quarter, Mills had his scoring pass to Brandin Cooks wiped away by a holding call on rookie guard Kenyon Green. On the next snap, Giants safety Dane Belton picked off Mills in the end zone.

Mills completed 22 of 37 passes for 319 yards.

The first half was an offensive slog for both teams.

The Texans failed to muster a first down in the first quarter, amassing minus-3 yards on nine plays across three possessions. The Giants, meanwhile, showed early promise but failed to maintain their momentum.

Keyed by a 36-yard Jones-to-Slayton pass play, the Giants grabbed a 7-0 lead at the 7:51 mark of the first on Jones’ 9-yard scoring pass to tight end Lawrence Cager. The Giants totaled 113 yards in the period and possessed the ball for 10:07 but mistakes in the second proved costly.

Guard Jack Anderson was whistled for a false start on 4th-and-1 in Houston territory, a miscue that forced the Giants to punt. Later in the second, Maliek Collins and Christian Kirksey combined for a third-down sack of Jones that pushed the Giants out of range for a field goal.

Aside from a seven-play, 61-yard drive that resulted in a 38-yard Ka’imi Fairbairn field goal — Pierce broke off a 44-yard scamper on that possession — the Texans accumulated 25 yards in the half and trailed 7-3 at the break after recording more punts (five) than first downs (four).

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) passes against the Seattle Seahawks during the fourth quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Giants looking past injuries with Texans next

Beyond the surprisingly positive results, the first half of the season was relatively pristine for the New York Giants. That was before the bye week brought with it an unfortunate injury revelation.

The Giants (6-2), set to face visiting the Houston Texans (1-6-1) on Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J., placed safety Xavier McKinney on the reserve/non-football injury list after McKinney suffered a hand injury in an ATV accident while on vacation. One of five Giants to start all eight games on defense, McKinney ranks fourth on the team with 38 tackles and has four passes defended and a forced fumble.

The loss of McKinney for several weeks not only impacts the Giants statistically, but it also alters roles on their defense. Safety Julian Love will assume the responsibility of relaying the plays on the field while Dane Belton and Jason Pinnock step into the void with McKinney sidelined.

Giants coach Brian Daboll sidestepped any revelation of whether McKinney was disciplined for his actions, and was curt in assessing how the Giants would move forward in his absence.

“I feel bad for Xavier. Disappointed that he got injured,” Daboll said. “And he’ll do everything he can do to get back and be ready to go.

“I feel bad for him, I feel bad for us. I know he’s disappointed. But can’t do anything about that now. We’ll get ready to play Houston.”

Even without McKinney, the Giants are well-positioned to keep pace in a competitive NFC East.

The Giants were without tight end Daniel Bellinger (eye) and tackle Evan Neal (knee) at practice on Wednesday. However, Daboll said the Giants were “moving in the right direction” with the likes of cornerback Cor’Dale Flott (calf), receiver Kenny Golladay (knee) and linebacker Oshane Ximines (quad), all of whom should provide a boost against a scuffling opponent in Houston.

The Giants have won four consecutive meetings against the Texans.

Quarterback Daniel Jones has posted a 90-plus passer rating in three of his past four starts while amassing five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) in four home games this season. Saquon Barkley ranks second among all running backs, averaging 121 scrimmage yards, including seven games with 85-plus scrimmage yards.

The Texans remain without receiver Brandin Cooks while rookie running back Dameon Pierce, their lone bright spot offensively with 678 yards and three rushing touchdowns, was a limited participant on Wednesday with a chest/shoulder injury.

Defensive lineman Maliek Collins (chest) and receiver Nico Collins (groin) appear to be on the mend, but the Texans are 0-3 since emerging from their bye with an average margin of defeat of 12.3 points.

“To get them back, of course, is big, two guys that we depend on,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said. “Maliek Collins, it all kind of starts with, most defenses, interior guys, the closest ones to the quarterback. To be able to get Maliek back is big for us. We missed him an awful lot. We’re starting that process. He was limited (Wednesday), but he’s getting closer to playing.

“Nico Collins, one of our best players too, big, good target, that has to help. Eventually, getting both of those guys back in the mix will help our team a lot, absolutely.”

–Field Level Media