Barry Jackson

Texans players dismissive of Dolphins’ Osweiler and Howard ahead of Thursday night matchup

A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Tuesday:

Two Texans players verbally dismissed Dolphins players on Tuesday as the teams prepare for Thursday’s matchup in Houston.

Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins, asked by Houston media about Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard’s claim that Hopkins “likes to push off a lot” to get separation from defenders, responded: “Who’s Xavien Howard?”

But Dolphins cornerback Cordrea Tankersley insists that Hopkins knows who Howard is and that they had a conversation about him a while back in which Hopkins said he was impressed by Howard.

And then there was this comment from Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney on former teammate and current Dolphins starting quarterback Brock Osweiler. “He’s not here anymore. So I don’t really care for him. We didn’t win a lot with him...Try to get after him this week upfront, make him rattled in the pocket.”

Osweiler was 8-6 in his one season as Houston’s starter in 2016, but had a 72.2 passer rating with 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

In between calling the World Series this week, Fox’s Joe Buck will work the Dolphins-Texans game on Thursday. That means he’s working a baseball game Wednesday in Boston, an NFL game Thursday in Houston and a baseball game Friday in Los Angeles.

So why is he even working the football game?

“This was the plan going in,” Buck said by phone this week. “If the travel day for the World Series was indeed Thursday, instead of spending the day getting rest, I would stop in [another city] and do the NFL game.

“It was important for Fox and me to establish Thursday night [NFL] is special and important to our network.”

This is the first season Fox has over-the-air rights to the Thursday package, which previously aired on CBS and NBC. NFL Network simulcasts 11 of the games and carries seven other games exclusively.

Buck said Fox charters a plane for him to travel between cities this month. He will fly from Boston to Houston late Wednesday night after Game 2 of the World Series. He said only three people will be on the plane: the pilot, Buck and his information man Steve Horn.

“If anyone wants to fly from Boston to the Thursday night NFL game, let us know,” Buck cracked.

Buck said he will study the Dolphins and Texans from his Boston hotel room before the World Series games but already has some familiarity with their rosters, even though Buck and Troy Aikman haven’t called a Dolphins game in many years.

“Multitasking is what I’m best at,” he said.

Buck said his preparation for this game will be as comprehensive as any game.

“I was always good cramming for a test in college,” he said. “Now I’m doing it in the NFL.”

Of the Dolphins, Buck said: “I can’t remember any team I’ve covered so hard hit by injuries this early in the season.”

Per Pro Football Focus, while Ryan Tannehill has been one of the league’s worst throwing when facing a pass rush under Adam Gase, Brock Osweiler has been one of the best, albeit in a smaller sample size. Tannehill’s passer rating under pressure was 49.1 in 2016 and 58.5 this season. Osweiler’s is 99.1 — second best behind the Chargers’ Philip Rivers; he’s 18 for 29 for 235 when rushers are applying pressure this season.

Gase had high praise for Osweiler in his conference call with Houston media: “He knows this offense as well as anybody. Next to myself, he probably has the most knowledge of the offense, knows all the ins and outs. This is what he grew up in, this is what he knows. He knows how to operate in it, work quickly, make the right decisions, get the ball out of his hand. It’s not something that he has to think a whole bunch about.”

After losing 22-7 to Cincinnati and 40-0 to Baltimore in their two previous Thursday night games under Adam Gase, the Dolphins are taking a different approach for this week’s games.

“I’m the wrong guy to ask on that considering that I think we’ve scored about seven points and given up about 60-something,” Gase said. “We’re trying something new this year. We’re going to head out earlier and just try to really piecemeal this thing together and just kind of get our guys to get out there and be able to just play as fast as they can. We need to just put ourselves in a position where when the fourth quarter comes around, it’s a ball game.”

Pro Football Focus said left tackle Laremy Tunsil “was once again a bright spot along the offensive line, allowing just one quarterback pressure [a sack] in 38 pass-blocking snaps for the [Detroit] game. Tunsil finished the game with a 87.1 pass-blocking grade, and his 72.3 overall grade for the season ranks 21st among all tackles in the league. Through six weeks, Tunsil has allowed just six quarterback pressures in 237 pass-blocking snaps.”

Though Cameron Wake didn’t have a single tackle against Detroit and has only one sack in five games, PFF graded him highly against the Lions. He had two quarterback hurries in 37 snaps.

PFF says “for the season, Wake has pressured the quarterback 16 times in 115 pass-rushing snaps, or one in every 7.2 snaps. In 2017, Wake racked up 62 quarterback pressures in 395 pass-rushing snaps, or one in every 6.4 snaps.”

But those pressures aren’t turning into sacks. After producing 10.5 sacks last season, he’s on pace for the fewest sacks of his Dolphins career — partly because he missed two games and partly because of low sack numbers in the five games he has played.

Incidentally, PFF said Wake’s “run-defense grade of 69.6 is the highest it’s been in any season since 2012.”

Thursday will be the first time Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson will meet in a game that won’t decide college football’s national championship.

Fitzpatrick’s Alabama team won the January 2016 championship game while Watson’s Clemson team won the January 2017 game.

“He made some amazing plays, amazing throws,” Fitzpatrick said. “You have to cover the whole time until he crosses the line. That’s the toughest thing about playing against him because I think the second time I played against him, there would be time where he’s just running right on the border.

“He’s just running back and forth and you want to jump up and bite and sometimes people do and that’s when he dunks the ball right over your head or makes a good throw. You just have to be real disciplined in coverage; but also at the same time, contain him in the pocket with the D-line and in the back end just cover your man as long as you have to.”

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