Jan 9, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes (55) walks off the field following the game against the New York Jets at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Texans signing veteran DE Jerry Hughes

The Houston Texans are signing free agent defensive end Jerry Hughes, multiple outlets reported Tuesday.

The durable 33-year-old veteran has missed only one game since the 2011 season.

He played all 17 games (16 starts) with Buffalo in 2021 and posted 18 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles.

Hughes has 58 sacks, 82 tackles for loss, 129 quarterback hits, 16 forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries in 184 games (134 starts) with the Indianapolis Colts (2010-12) and Bills.

The Texas native was a first-round pick (31st overall) by Indianapolis in 2010 out of TCU.

–Field Level Media

Jan 2, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; Houston Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks (13) runs with the ball before the start of the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Report: WR Brandin Cooks returns to Texans on 2-year deal

After two seasons with the Houston Texans, wide receiver Brandin Cooks has committed to two more, agreeing to a deal with the team Thursday, NFL Network reported.

Terms of the deal were not reported.

Cooks, 28, had a career-best 90 receptions last season for 1,037 yards and six touchdowns as Houston was a disappointing 4-13. In two seasons with the Texans, he has 171 receptions for 2,187 yards and 12 TDs over 31 games.

In eight NFL seasons with the New Orleans Saints (2014-16), New England Patriots (2017), Los Angeles Rams (2018-19) and Texans, the Oregon State product has 573 career receptions for 7,917 yards and 46 touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Jan 12, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) reacts as he leaves the field following the game against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Round playoff football game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

No criminal charges for Texans QB Deshaun Watson

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson will not face criminal charges after a Texas grand jury did not indict him Friday following accusations of sexual misconduct by 22 women.

While the criminal aspect of the case is now complete, Watson still faces the prospect of discipline from the NFL, while also being the subject of civil lawsuits filed by his accusers.

The first civil lawsuit filed against Watson came nearly a year ago, with the quarterback not playing in 2021 after he had requested a trade last January.

The Harris County grand jury on Friday dismissed the nine criminal complaints it was ordered to address.

“Today we presented nine criminal complaints for consideration by the grand jury,” prosecutor Johna Stallings said, according to ESPN. “… The grand jury considered all of (the) evidence and returned nine no bills against Deshaun Watson involving these nine criminal complaints. We respect the grand jury’s decision and … conclude the criminal proceedings in Harris County.”

Stallings said evidence was presented for six hours. Witness also were available to testify. ESPN reported that eight of the women who filed suit against Watson did testify.

Commissioner Roger Goodell repeatedly has said only that the NFL is closely monitoring the events related to the Watson case while conducting its own investigation.

Watson passed for 4,823 yards with 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2020 following a landmark contract extension with the Texans worth $156 million over four years. That deal has yet to kick in as Watson had two years to go on his rookie contract, including a fifth-year option standard for first-round picks.

–Field Level Media

Oct 24, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Houston Texans defensive coordinator Lovie Smith against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Texans in talks with Lovie Smith for top job

Lovie Smith reportedly is close to landing another NFL head coaching job, nearly 15 years to the date that he guided the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl.

Smith, 63, is in talks with the Houston Texans to take over as head coach, ESPN reported Sunday night. Smith spent the 2021 season as the Texans’ associate head coach and defensive coordinator under first-year coach David Culley, who was fired after Houston went 4-13.

The Texans would be Smith’s third NFL head coaching job. He has an 89-87 regular-season record, including 81-63 with the Bears from 2004-12. He was also 8-24 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2014-15.

Smith returned to the college ranks after his departure from the Buccaneers. He was named head coach at the University of Illinois but failed to rejuvenate the long-struggling program and was 17-39 from 2016-20.

The Texans offered Smith an opportunity to return to the NFL as a coordinator in 2021. Houston finished No. 31 in total defense but showed signs of improvement late in the season, allowing an average of 24 points in the final four weeks after giving up an average of 27.4 points in its first 13 games.

Houston reportedly had been interested in hiring former quarterback Josh McCown as head coach, although the 17-year NFL veteran has never coached at the professional level. It’s possible that McCown could serve as an assistant in some role under Smith, who coached him in Chicago and Tampa Bay.

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Tennessee Titans running back D'Onta Foreman (7) rushes against the Houston Texans in the second quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Titans wrap up AFC’s top seed by turning back Texans

Ryan Tannehill tossed four touchdown passes and the Tennessee Titans held off the host Houston Texans 28-25 Sunday to lock up the No. 1 playoff seed in the AFC.

The Titans finished the regular season 12-5, tied with the Kansas City Chiefs atop the conference. Tennessee earned the top seed, which means a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs — by virtue of a head-to-head win over the Chiefs.

Julio Jones caught his first touchdown pass as a member of the Titans during the fourth quarter, giving them a 10-point lead, enough room to survive Houston’s budding comeback. The Titans squandered most of a 21-0 halftime lead.

The Texans fell to 4-13 to wrap up David Culley’s first year as head coach despite Davis Mills’ 301 passing yards and three touchdowns. Danny Amendola caught two scoring passes in the fourth quarter and finished with 113 yards on seven receptions.

Houston’s comeback was made possible by its defense forcing the Titans into three straight three-and-outs to start the second half. But that didn’t last forever, as Tannehill led a 75-yard drive ending in Jones’ 3-yard touchdown catch that grew their lead to 28-18.

Mills responded by hitting Amendola for a 26-yard touchdown with 4:04 to play. But the Titans managed to run out the clock from there.

Tannehill finished 23-for-32 for 287 yards, and four of his teammates finished with at least 50 yards receiving.

After a first quarter comprised of three punts and a missed Tennessee field goal, the Titans broke through with an 11-play, 94-yard scoring drive in the second. Tannehill hit tight end Anthony Firkser for a 5-yard touchdown on third and goal.

The Titans’ next drive covered 85 yards in just 2:46 and culminated in Tannehill’s 14-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Brown with 1:34 left in the half. Brown caught three passes for 52 yards on the drive.

Tennessee forced Houston to punt for the fifth straight drive and took one more crack at the end zone. The Texans incurred a 45-yard pass interference penalty to set up the Titans on the 4-yard line, and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine caught a touchdown on the next play for a 21-0 halftime lead.

The Texans gained just 67 yards in the first half, but they returned to the field with their bag of tricks. Mills pulled off a flea-flicker and hit Chris Moore for a 28-yard passing touchdown on their opening drive of the third quarter.

Houston tacked on a 31-yard Ka’imi Fairbairn field goal late in the third.

Mills hit Amendola for a 37-yard catch over the top to get the next drive going, and the rookie again found Amendola wide-open in the back of the end zone for a 7-yard score. Amendola caught a pass for the two-point conversion, as well, bringing it to 21-18 with 11:40 left in the game to set up a nerve-wracking finish.

The Titans exacted revenge for a 22-13 loss to the Texans in Week 11.

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA;  Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills (10) drops back to pass against the Los Angeles Chargers in the second quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

49ers go into matchup vs. Texans with uncertainty at QB

The San Francisco 49ers will go into a critical matchup against the Houston Texans with uncertainty at the quarterback position when the clubs meet Sunday afternoon in Santa Clara, Calif.

The 49ers (8-7) enter Week 17 tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for the sixth-best record in the NFC, with three other teams — the Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints — just a game behind. San Francisco finishes the regular season on the road against the Los Angeles Rams.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Texans (4-11) will take the field tied with the New York Jets and New York Giants for the third-worst record in the league. They will be looking to extend their season-best winning streak to three.

The 49ers used part of their preparation time this week determining whether starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo would be healthy enough to face the Texans.

Garoppolo sustained a Grade 3 sprain in his right thumb during on Dec. 23 during San Francisco’s 20-17 road loss to the Tennessee Titans. He threw one touchdown pass and two interceptions in the game, playing more than half the contest after getting hurt late in the second quarter.

No surgery was deemed necessary, and 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was prepared to examine Garoppolo’s passing accuracy on a day-to-day basis leading into possibly a game-time decision Sunday.

Garoppolo missed one other game this season with a strained calf. Rookie Trey Lance got the start in a 17-10 home loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 5, throwing for 192 yards with one interception while rushing for a team-high 89 yards.

Shanahan insisted during the week that he is confident in Lance and in his team in general if the club must turn to the rookie again.

“I think we can handle anybody being hurt, but you still have to go out and play good football to get a win,” he said. “And it’s not just the quarterback, it’s everybody.”

The 49ers are hopeful of getting leading rusher Elijah Mitchell back from a knee injury in time to face the Texans. In the rookie’s third straight absence, San Francisco was held to 83 rushing yards in the Tennessee loss.

Houston’s back-to-back wins have come after a 2-11 start that included losses to each of the NFC West’s other three teams — 31-5 to the Cardinals, 38-22 to the Rams and 33-13 to the Seahawks.

The Texans put up a season-best point total in a stunning 41-29 home win over the playoff-hopeful Los Angeles Chargers last week. Davis Mills threw for 254 yards and two TDs while Rex Burkhead rushed for 149 yards and two scores in the win.

The trip to the San Francisco Bay Area represents a homecoming for Mills, who played his college ball at Stanford.

If the game turns into a duel between rookie quarterbacks, Texans coach David Culley likes the chances of his experienced guy (nine starts after having been the No. 67 overall selection of the draft) over a one-start rival who was selected 64 picks earlier.

“He never gets rattled,” Culley said of Mills. “He has that calm demeanor about him. He’s always thinking about things and he’s always learning.”

The interconference rivals will be meeting for just the fifth time, with the 49ers having prevailed in three of the first four, including 26-16 in the most recent meeting, at Houston in December 2017.

–Field Level Media

Dec 16, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) throws a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers continue playoff push against Texans

Only the Indianapolis Colts will have more players going to the Pro Bowl than the Los Angeles Chargers. And no team will have more players scheduled to start the game than their five.

But Los Angeles still needs wins to qualify for the AFC playoffs, its pursuit continuing with Sunday’s visit to the Houston Texans.

At 8-6, the Chargers are realistically fighting for one of the three wild-card spots after last week’s tough 34-28 overtime home loss to Kansas City. Had Los Angeles won, it could have tied the Chiefs for first in the West at 9-5 and held the tiebreaker by virtue of a season sweep.

Instead, the Chargers will have to do this the hard way.

“I felt like they left everything out on that field against a team that is a champion,” said first-year coach Brandon Staley. “I felt like our team competed at a championship level. I felt like that was a championship environment.”

The good news is the final three games appear to be manageable. Los Angeles is a 10-point favorite against Houston before hosting Denver and traveling to Las Vegas. And it has a rising star at quarterback.

There has been no sophomore slump for Justin Herbert. He’s gone from Offensive Rookie of the Year to leading the AFC with 32 touchdown passes in his second year. It’s not unrealistic to project that after having a quarterback start every game for 14 consecutive years in Philip Rivers, the Chargers may enjoy the same luxury with Herbert.

“He’s balling,” said wide receiver Keenan Allen. “He’s going crazy. He’s leading us in his second year. He’s just making outstanding play after outstanding play. Savage, he’s throwing touchdowns to everybody on the field. He’s just ridiculous.”

Herbert may have to approach those superlatives again this week, even against the 3-11 Texans. Los Angeles will be without three defensive starters, including elite pass-rusher Joey Bosa, and its defense is tied for 27th in points allowed per game.

Then again, the Texans haven’t exactly put the fright in opponents’ hearts, except for Jacksonville. Their 14.8 ppg mark ranks 31st in the league, and if it weren’t for the Jaguars, they would be averaging just under 12 ppg.

But they did get Davis Mills’ first NFL win last week in Jacksonville as he threw for 209 yards and two scores in a 30-16 victory. Brandin Cooks riddled the Jaguars for 102 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions, putting him in range of a 100-catch year. He needs 20 over the last three games.

Houston might also be able to make headway on the ground, even with the league’s worst running game. The Chargers haven’t been able to get good run fits this year, meaning that the likes of Rex Burkhead and David Johnson could enjoy good games.

Burkhead helped the Texans salt away last week’s victory in Jacksonville.

“He’s able to do what’s best for the team,” Mills said of Burkhead. “When we were having to drive the ball in that four-minute mode trying to eat the clock, he was running hard.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 12, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA;  Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) after throwing his 4th interception of the game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

With Urban Meyer out, Jaguars start new era vs. Texans

With the Urban Meyer era in Jacksonville over after just 13 games, the Jaguars must turn their attention away from the coaching drama and focus on their Sunday home game against the Houston Texans.

Late Wednesday night, the Jaguars announced they were parting ways with Meyer, hours after a report in the Tampa Bay Times indicated that the first-year coach allegedly kicked Josh Lambo while the then-Jacksonville kicker was stretching before a practice during the final week of preseason.

In the past week, Meyer also had denied reports of strife within his coaching staff and the locker room.

Prior to Meyer’s ouster, Jacksonville rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence said Wednesday, “You’re always going to have some form of drama. I’ve learned that the NFL is just more drama in general than college, no matter where you’re at. But … there’s been a lot. … I do think that has to change and that’s something that we need to work on for sure.

“So you can’t always be in the headlines. You just got to go play football and that’s where we’re trying to get and I have no doubt we’ll get there.”

Even with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell taking over an interim basis as head coach, the problems plaguing the Jaguars (2-11) don’t appear near a solution.

The Jaguars have been particularly woeful on offense, ranking 31st in scoring with 13.8 points per game and 30th in total offense with 303.1 yards per game. Blanked by the Tennessee Titans last Sunday, the Jaguars have scored in single digits in four of seven games since their bye week.

Jacksonville, which rushed for 8 yards against Tennessee, is averaging 88.6 rushing yards during its current five-game losing streak. Ineffectiveness in the run game has heaped additional pressure on Lawrence, who tossed four interceptions against the Titans.

The Texans are struggling on offense, too. Houston hasn’t surpassed 100 yards rushing since Week 6 and ranks dead last in the league in rushing yards (1,008), rushing touchdowns (six) and yards per rushing attempt (3.3).

Houston (2-11) played with two running backs last week in a 33-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks after David Johnson was sidelined by COVID-19. The Texans lost one of those backs, Rex Burkhead, to a hip/quad injury and will be limited to two backs again vs. the Jaguars.

“Well, injuries happen and unfortunately for us, David having the COVID was a big setback simply because it wasn’t an injury more so than it was the situation with the COVID,” Texans coach David Culley said. “Playing those two and having three available is good enough for what we wanted to do moving forward after the break. Unfortunately, we’re losing Rex in that particular ballgame, and not having David was a tough deal for us.”

Rookie quarterback Davis Mills attempted 49 passes in the loss to Seattle, a direct result of the Texans’ inability to run the football. Culley named Mills the starter for the rest of the season, removing one obstacle in a series of them.

“I think the week of preparation (is) the same,” Mills said. “Obviously, the starter gets more reps in practice, so that helps with preparation a little bit, but the mentality is just going out there and playing my best.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 24, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Houston Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham (41) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Texans releasing LB Zach Cunningham

The Houston Texans are parting ways with linebacker Zach Cunningham, multiple outlets reported Wednesday.

The 2020 NFL tackles leader, who signed a four-year, $58 million extension in August 2020, will be placed on waivers.

The fifth-year starter has been disciplined at least twice this season for violating team rules, including a suspension for last Sunday’s 31-0 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. According to the Houston Chronicle, the punishment was for missing a COVID-19 test.

First-year head coach David Culley also benched Cunningham for the first quarter in Week 2, reportedly due to tardiness.

Cunningham, 27, has 67 tackles and one forced fumble in 10 games (seven starts) this season.

A second-round pick by the Texans in 2017, Cunningham has 570 tackles, 6.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and one interception in 72 career games (66 starts). He led the league with 164 tackles in 2020.

The Texans (2-10) host the Seattle Seahawks (4-8) on Sunday.

–Field Level Media