Texans offer weird explanation for parting ways with WR Anthony Miller

When first-year Texans general manager Nick Caserio acquired wide receiver Anthony Miller in a trade with the Bears in July, it appeared the franchise was investing in young talent who was productive in the slot machine. when he was in good health.

But Miller, 26, dislocated his shoulder in the August 14 preseason opener, and Caserio subsequently signed 13-year-old veteran Danny Amendola to a contract with a year and $ 2.5 million to replace Miller when it was clear he wouldn’t recover in time for the Sept. 12 regular-season opener against Jacksonville.

Amendola was a quick fit in the slot. He caught four passes for 30 yards and a touchdown in a 37-21 win over the Jaguars. The performance kept Miller on the sidelines on September 10 against the Browns despite training all week.

It wasn’t until Amendola suffered a hamstring injury in the first half against the Browns that Miller returned to the field for two games. But the Texans couldn’t get him to play in Cleveland in the second half because he was made inactive, a move that cleared room on the roster to roll out race-focused offensive packages with four running backs. and three tight ends.

It’s the rigidity of the roster that Texans coach David Culley said he forced the franchise to take Miller out on Wednesday. Otherwise, the Texans would have faced a weekly decision to activate Miller or Amendola.

“It’s the same position,” Culley said. “With the way we are and the way we’re structured offensively, there’s only room for one of these guys in that position. We believe this is the best thing to move forward.

The explanation was curious, especially when, later in the day, the Texans signed free receiver Davion Davis to their active roster. Davis (5-11, 195 pounds) fits the same height profile as Miller (5-11, 199) and Amendola (5-11, 185).

Davis, 24, was to press for playing time with the Browns before being suspended for the first two games of the 2021 season for violating NFL drug addiction policy. He was a dynamic playmaker for Sam Houston State, where, as a junior in 2017, he was named FCS All-American and Southland Conference First Team Player of the Year. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Vikings in 2019, played in two games, and was then retired before the 2020 season.

There is no indication that Davis will have any significant playing time against the Patriots on Sunday or even be activated for the game, which is not particular for players who have just joined a new team. But his addition points out that the Texans had the space to keep Miller, the only player to score a touchdown in Houston’s last two games and who seemed to be fulfilling his role when he caught four passes for 20 yards and that TD. in Houston. 24-9 loss to the Panthers.

Culley said the Texans were more effective in third down situations with Amendola in the game, although Amendola and Miller each had a third down which won a first down. Miller failed to register a capture in a 40-0 loss to the Bills despite three goals, but penalties, interceptions and ineffective running play all contributed to one of the worst offensive performances in Houston in franchise history.

The putrid running game is at the heart of Houston’s offensive woes. Culley was adamant in his quest for a race-oriented attack, despite the team’s repeated failures to establish the race.

Mark Ingram, David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay and Rex Burkhead have combined 46 carries for 148 yards in the last three games, an average of 3.2 that hasn’t improved even when offensive coordinator Tim Kelly deploys heavy packs of staff with multiple tight ends or additional linemen.

Failures in the running game, especially on the first downs, contributed to long third down situations in which the opposing defense was prepared for the pass. Rookie quarterback Davis Mills threw four interceptions against the Bills while posting the third worst quarterback rating in franchise history.

Effective running play by the Texans forces defenses to play closer to the line, Mills said, and reduce safety in anticipation of the race, which requires more human coverage that allows receivers to win games in. face-to-face.

“I think if you have complementary football in both the running game and the passing game it kind of balances the balance where you can do both effectively,” said Mills.

Texan-led play just hasn’t been productive enough for his offense to work, but Culley is not yet willing to change the philosophy using more dispersed groups of staff, large, heavy packages that would require depth to position and would find use in players like Miller.

Culley still believes the offense can work if she stays on the sidelines. He noted four penalties on the first down against the Bills which contributed to nine third downs that required an average of 11.3 yards to gain.

“We’re not the kind of football team that can get over that stuff,” Culley said.

This is the kind of football team the Texans are committed to fielding. The franchise severed ties with former slots catcher Keke Coutee at training camp due to the same staff restrictions. Miller’s departure comes with an added cost, a fifth-round pick in 2022 that was traded for a seventh round that same year for the Bears.

Miller is the fourth player the Texans cut after Caserio initially used late-round draft picks to acquire him, joining tight end Ryan Izzo, quarterback Ryan Finley and cornerback Ka ‘ dar Hollman.

The Texans still have a four-draft pick surplus when all of Caserio’s 11 trades are summed up, but the first-year general manager has candidly said he wouldn’t hesitate to use end-of-round picks to try his luck. on the players.

“I think sometimes people get too caught up in their heads, ‘Oh, they gave up on a draft pick,’” Caserio said at the end of training camp on September 1. “Okay, that’s fair. Everyone has an opinion on this, but if that’s what it costs to have a player in the building, and if you feel, after a risk analysis, that it makes sense, I mean, we let’s not be afraid to do things. “

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