Lovie: “It’ll be a challenge without Derek”

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Mark Black/UPI/Shutterstock (13419638p) Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith on the sidelines during a game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago on Sunday, September 25, 2022. NFL Texans Bears, Chicago, Illinois, United States – 25 Sep 2022

Lovie: “It’ll be a challenge without Derek”

Smith’s comments sounded like he expects Derek Stingley Jr. to miss his third straight game.

Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith spoke with the media Wednesday and discussed several topics, including the run game, run defense, rotations, and injuries.

As part of his opening statement, Smith acknowledged why this week’s game is a little different and made it a point to state that his starting quarterback got the lion’s share of the reps in practice:

I realize there’s a little bit more tension placed on this game. We need to get a win, so it doesn’t really matter who our opponent is, but a challenging team coming in. I know they’re adding Deshaun (Watson) to the mix offensively, but without him, their offense has really put up yardage. They have an excellent running back. One of the top running backs in our game. They have at least one number-one receiver. A good tight end. A good offensive line, so that will be a challenge. To stop the run – we have played the run the last couple of weeks better, which is a good thing. It seems like we are trending in the right direction. We’ll need to play our best game this week. On the other side of the ball, two first-round draft picks at the defensive end position. Myles Garrett is as good as there is in the league, I think, so it’ll be a tough challenge for us. Our football team, Wednesday, Kyle (Allen) – any time you practice, you’re going to get better. It was good for him to get a Wednesday practice. He got pretty much most of the reps.

In regards to the team’s morale and keeping them from fracturing apart in blowout losses, Lovie presented this opinion:

“I’m going to say we got back into that last one. We were getting close to being in striking range with it. We’re going to try and build on some of the good things we did in that second half. I think the guys, as an NFL player, you’ve got to, good or bad, put that to rest and move on. That’s why we’re excited by this opportunity. When we haven’t played our best ball, we have another opportunity to make a lot of improvements in just about all areas. I think that’s what the guys are doing. I know that’s how they practice. They come to work each day.”

As far as what is preventing the team from being successful in the running game, Smith explained:

“I wish we knew exactly the reason why we haven’t been able to run the football. I’m going to say that more than the decline of Dameon Pierce. I think part of why Dameon had success early on is because of what we were doing up from. So, we have to talk about what we’re doing up front right now. Also, early on in some of those plays, a lot of the yards he’s gotten have been yards after contact. It’s hard to maintain a certain level throughout an NFL season. We have time to get it right. Hopefully, we’ll see that. We’re talking about Cleveland’s offensive rushing output. We need to be able to match it and meet it as much as we can. Hopefully, we’ll get that going this week.”

The Texans’ head coach stated that teams have been stacking the box on them all season long and that facing an extra defender in the box is not a new development:

“I’m going to say that’s been the case since game one. Defensively, you can always get an extra guy in the box every snap. For running football teams, that’s life in the NFL. Yes, there’s been great interior defensive lineman we played most of the year. We’re going to play very good ones this week also. Again, we’ve been dealing with that. We have to find a way to still run the football under those circumstances.”

Smith would like to have a better run/pass mix and admitted being behind so quickly impacted their offensive game plan:

“In an ideal world, I think we’ve seen how we would like to mix it up, run-pass. We want to have balance. When you get behind like that, it’s hard to have balance. No fault in how we did it. We had to complete more passes. That wasn’t a day to worry about how many carries a running back is going to get. We’re just trying to get some production some kind of way. You get into a game, you have a game plan coming in, but that game plan can change at any time. I had no problem with what we’re trying to do that last game.”

Smith discussed how the team has played better against the run defensively the past two weeks but will face a major challenge with the Browns’ powerful rush attack. When asked what the team did to improve the run defense, the coach explained:

“We hope we continue to get better. What have we done? We’ve continued to go to practice. It takes time, is what I’m going to say. It’s a process. You want it to be perfect right away. We played a lot of young players, and they’re getting better. We’re getting it. I think you just continue to practice. Eventually, you let the same guys stay out there and keep working together; they’ll correct some of the things. As far as run defense, a lot of what we’re doing is we’ve had guys in the box. It’s not like we’ve been calling defenses where they have an extra guy, and we don’t have enough guys to stop the run. You’ve got to be able to finish some plays, be able to tackle, and not let them get explosive plays. All those things is what we’ve been doing a little bit better these last couple of weeks.”

The head coach expressed optimism that LB Christian Harris would be able to overcome his shoulder injury and be available Sunday:

“He’s getting better. Whenever you can’t finish a game, there’s concern. We’re hoping he’ll be OK. It’s nothing season-ending. His growth, he needs to continue to play. He’s missed a lot of time. Right when he’s taking steps up, you start missing time; of course, that doesn’t help the case. Hopefully, he’ll be ready to go.”

Lovie sounded like he is expecting Derek Stingley Jr. to miss his third straight game when asked about covering Browns WR Amari Cooper:

“ (Amari Cooper) is a one receiver. He was a great college player. There’s a reason why when you look at his bank account; he’s getting paid the way he is. It’ll be a challenge without Derek (Stingley). That was the case last week. That’s life in the NFL too. Our guys Des (Desmond King), Steve Nelson, and the rest of the guys have to step up.”

As for why TE Brevin Jordan has been a healthy scratch for the last several weeks, Smith said:

“What’s going into is that we feel we have four tight ends that can play, and we can only dress three. It’s kind of as simple as that. Nothing Brevin (Jordan) has done wrong. We’ve mixed it up. We’ve given all the guys an opportunity. He’s been patient, and that’s kind of the case. We have other players. We have a wide receiver, (Amari) Rodgers, that is a good player. We have a running back (Eno Benjamin) that hasn’t been able to (play). We had a good linebacker last week that didn’t play. I’m going to say in the NFL too, when you’re as healthy as we are, normally you have injuries where it kind of works itself out, but everybody that deserves to play normally gets an opportunity to.”

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