Sep 19, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA;  Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) hands the ball off to running back Christian McCaffrey (22) in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers showing teeth as Texans turn to new QB

Two weeks into the 2021 season, the Carolina Panthers are showing some teeth.

Carolina gets a chance to make even more noise Thursday night when the Panthers visit the Houston Texans in the only scheduled primetime game of the season for either team.

“The energy is great in the locker room,” Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey said. “I also think we have a very mature team. … Just because you’re 2-0, you still got 15 more games left. Continue to get better, that’s really what it’s all about.”

The Texans are 1-1 and quarterback changes are afoot again due to Tyrod Taylor’s rib injury. Rookie Davis Mills gets the call with Carolina’s potent pass rush a peak concern.

The Panthers (2-0) have topped the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints. A dominant defense has set the tone for the Panthers, but quarterback Sam Darnold and McCaffrey have been critical to their fast start.

“We have a lot of things to do to improve,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said, noting that defensive packages will be adjusted in dealing with the Texans.

Carolina leads the NFL with 10 sacks and now runs into an inexperienced Houston quarterback.

Taylor became the starter as franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson determined he no longer wants to be a part of the team. Watson will be inactive for the third game in a row as Houston weighs trade offers and remains connected to an ongoing investigation into more than 20 legal claims against Watson for sexual assault or misconduct.

Mills was tagged in last Sunday at Cleveland when Taylor was injured. First-year head coach David Culley came away impressed.

“We know he’s always one of those guys that when a bad thing happens, he comes back, he makes a play,” Culley said.

Mills played most of the second half in Week 2. Jeff Driskel slides into the backup quarterback spot.

It will help any young quarterback to have a Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle leading protection, and Laremy Tunsil gives Houston a sound blocker against Carolina’s edge rushers.

Even with the quick turnaround on the schedule, Mills should have more practice opportunities in a first-string role for the Carolina game.

“I’m excited to see what he does as time goes on,” Houston running back Phillip Lindsay said.

Already what has been evident to Mills’ teammates is a degree of toughness that’s appreciated.

“One of the things you want to show is toughness,” Texans receiver Brandin Cooks said. “You know he took a couple to the face and bounced right back up. And when you see that from a rookie, you got a lot of respect for him.”

Houston hopes for another fast start, getting on the board early in each of the first two games. The Panthers haven’t allowed a point in the first half this season.

For Carolina’s offense, a real test could come with the durability of McCaffrey. He played in only three games last season because of injuries, yet he has been plenty busy this month.

McCaffrey, who had 30 touches in the first game and 29 more in Week 2, said he should be fine after leaving Sunday’s game for a stretch with what was described as cramping.

“I’ve just got to do a better job of taking care of it during the week,” McCaffrey said Monday.

Culley said he doesn’t want too much pressure on his team in this prime-time matchup.

“I think you are going to see the same football team that you have seen for the first two games,” he said. “Hopefully we just eliminate the two turnovers. And if we eliminate those turnovers, then it’s a completely different Texan football team.”

Texans defensive back Terrance Mitchell began the week in the concussion protocol. Carolina left guard Pat Elflein is likely out with a hamstring ailment.

Kicker Joey Slye, who was let go by the Panthers in the preseason following an inconsistent 2020, latched on with the Texans.

He’s 3-for-4 on field goals with his new team.

The Panthers lead the all-time series with Houston, 3-2.

–Field Level Media

Sep 19, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) kneels in the end zone following his touchdown run against the Cleveland Browns during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Tyrod Taylor (hamstring) out for Thursday night

Houston Texans starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor has been ruled out for Thursday night’s game with a hamstring injury, NFL Network reported Monday.

Rookie Davis Mills is expected to get his first professional start when the Texans (1-1) host the undefeated Carolina Panthers. He replaced Taylor in Sunday’s 31-21 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

Taylor, 32, is set to have an MRI on Monday. He was injured when he scrambled to score a 15-yard touchdown with 7:06 left in the second quarter that gave the Texans a 14-7 lead. He played the next series, then was replaced by Mills, a third-round draft pick from Stanford.

Before leaving, Taylor was effective, completing 10 of 11 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. On the season, he has completed 70.5 percent of his passes for 416 yards and three TDs. He has not thrown an interception.

Mills was 8-of-18 passing for 102 yards, one touchdown and an interception.

Houston wide receivers Danny Amendola (hamstring) and Nico Collins (shoulder) also were injured on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

Cleveland Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki (44) celebrates after recovering a fumbled punt during the first half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Cleveland, Ohio. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

Browns 4

Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb fuel Browns past Texans

Baker Mayfield threw for a touchdown and rushed for another to lead the host Cleveland Browns to a 31-21 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday.

Mayfield completed 19 of 21 passes for 213 yards and Nick Chubb added 95 rushing yards and a touchdown for the Browns (1-1), who bounced back from a season-opening loss at Kansas City.

Tyrod Taylor completed 10 of 11 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown for the Texans (1-1). He also rushed for a score before leaving the game in the second quarter with a hamstring injury.

The Browns took a 7-0 lead with 9:56 remaining in the first quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by Andy Janovich, but Houston responded by scoring 14 straight points.

The Texans tied the game with 5:18 left in the first on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Taylor to Phillip Lindsay. Houston grabbed a 14-7 lead with 8:32 remaining in the second quarter on a 15-yard touchdown run by Taylor.

Cleveland took over from there, first tying the game with 1:18 left until halftime on a 5-yard touchdown run by Mayfield.

With 7:59 left in the third quarter, Mayfield hit Demetric Felton for a 33-yard touchdown pass that gave the Browns a 21-14 lead.

Cleveland then took a 24-14 lead on a 30-yard field goal by Chase McLaughlin with 4:43 remaining.

Houston fought back, cutting Cleveland’s lead to 24-21 with 11:32 remaining on a 2-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Davis Mills to Brandin Cooks.

Cleveland answered, going up 31-21 with 5:52 on a 26-yard touchdown run by Chubb.

Houston drove down to the Cleveland 23-yard line in the final minutes, but Joey Slye missed a 41-yard field goal before the two-minute warning to end any chance of a comeback for Houston.

Cleveland wide receiver Jarvis Landry sustained a knee injury on the opening drive and didn’t return.

–Field Level Media

Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) is held by Houston Texans offensive tackle Geron Christian (72) as he rushes Houston Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Cleveland, Ohio. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

Browns 6

Texans QB Tyrod Taylor (hamstring) out rest of game vs. Browns

Houston Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor will miss the rest of Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns with a hamstring injury.

The injury occurred as Taylor scrambled to score a 15-yard touchdown with 7:06 left in the second quarter that gave the Texans a 14-7 lead.

He played the next series, then was replaced by rookie Davis Mills, a third-round draft pick from Stanford.

Before leaving, Taylor was effective, completing 10 of 11 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown.

Houston wide receivers Danny Amendola (hamstring) and Nico Collins (shoulder) also were ruled out for the remainder of the game.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) warms up before a game against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Deshaun Watson inactive for Week 2

The Houston Texans, for the second consecutive week to begin the 2021 NFL season, have listed quarterback Deshaun Watson as inactive (not injury related), ruling him out for action in Week 2.

The move doesn’t come as a surprise, given the complicated circumstances surrounding Watson and his relationship with the team.

Watson demanded a trade at the conclusion of the 2020 season. He is under investigation by Houston police and facing lawsuits over allegations of sexual assault and misconduct from more than 20 women.

On Sunday, ESPN reported that Houston’s asking price for a Watson trade would include a minimum of six combined players and picks, a very steep request.

Teams interested in trading for Watson are requesting contingencies on compensation for protection because of his legal trouble, per that same report.

Watson, 26, is a three-time Pro Bowler.

–Field Level Media

Sep 12, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) is sacked by Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones (95) during the second half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Browns battle injuries ahead of Texans’ visit

Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski wasted little time Wednesday announcing standout receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (knee) would be unavailable for the Browns’ home opener on Sunday.

While Beckham, a three-time Pro Bowler who played seven games in 2020 before undergoing season-ending surgery, earns the headlines even when he is unable to play, the Browns (0-1) have greater issues as they prepare to host the Houston Texans (1-0) at FirstEnergy Stadium.

The Browns were without three offensive tackles as they began preparations for the Texans: starters Jedrick Wills Jr. (ankle) and Jack Conklin (knee), and swing tackle Chris Hubbard (triceps). While all three are listed as day-to-day, none of them practiced Wednesday and Stefanski was a bit vague in addressing how the Browns would move forward this week.

“We’ve got some plans,” Stefanski said. “We’ll make it work. But that’s certainly something we’re up on the whiteboard figuring out, who’s going to be where. We’ll be just fine for practice.

“With all those guys, with each one, we’re just trying to be smart. Part of it is they’re veterans and we want to make sure we have them for the long haul.”

Meanwhile, the Browns managed to move the ball without Beckham in their season-opening 33-29 loss to the defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs. They amassed 457 total yards, including 304 through the air.

Still, Beckham is as unique as any offensive weapon in the league, and by most indications, he appears close to returning to the lineup and bolstering the Browns’ aerial attack.

But similar to the linemen, Stefanski is opting to err on the side of caution at this early stage.

“I just felt like that was the right thing to do,” Stefanski said of keeping Beckham on the inactive list. “Last week, I thought we had a good plan. He was close, working very hard on the side, but just felt like it made more sense to have clarity early in the week from a game-planning, practice standpoint.”

The Texans seem primed to welcome back two potentially key contributors on offense who missed their rousing 37-21 home victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday.

Right tackle Charlie Heck and slot receiver Anthony Miller were full participants on Wednesday, and Texans coach David Culley announced that Heck is expected to play against the Browns. Culley is taking a more judicious approach with Miller, who is trending in the right direction.

Like the Browns, the Texans excelled in the passing game despite being short-handed. Tyrod Taylor passed for 291 yards and two touchdowns in the win and held up behind an offensive line still coming together as a cohesive unit.

Some of the critiques Culley had of his offense were derived from that still-developing relationship between the quarterback and his protection.

“I thought the pass protection was good,” Culley said. “I thought the couple of times that Tyrod came out of the pocket when he didn’t really need to come out of the pocket, it looked like he had pressure when he didn’t really have pressure. He should have just stepped up in the pocket and made a couple of throws where he came out and ended up getting some positive yardage for that. But I think overall the pass protection was good for the most part in that game.”

–Field Level Media

Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has impressed teammates with his return from knee surgery.

Brownscamp31 17

Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. won’t play against Texans

Odell Beckham Jr. won’t play Sunday when the Cleveland Browns host the Houston Texans, coach Kevin Stefanski said.

Beckham, 28, is still trying to return from the torn left ACL he suffered last October. The wide receiver had surgery the second week of November.

“I’m going to hold Odell out this week,” Stefanski told reporters Wednesday. “Just felt like that was the right thing to do. Last week, I thought we had a good plan, he was close, working very hard on the side.”

Beckham was a gametime decision before Sunday’s Week 1 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and wound up inactive. Stefanski said the decision was made early this week to help with planning for practices and the Texans.

“I just felt like, for this week, the prudent thing to do was let’s let those other guys get all those reps, although they got a bunch last week, let’s gameplan accordingly and then we’ll update you guys as we get into next week.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 12, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) attempts a pass during the first quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Tyrod Taylor, Texans outdo Jaguars in Trevor Lawrence’s debut

Tyrod Taylor passed for 291 yards, 229 in the first half, while the Houston Texans matched their defensive interceptions total from all of last season in their 37-21 victory over the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium on Sunday.

Taylor, making his first start for the Texans (1-0) in place of inactive three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson, excelled with his blend of elusiveness and daring. He finished 21 of 33 and tossed a pair of touchdowns to pace a Texans offense that amassed 449 yards.

Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence made his NFL debut and finished with 332 yards and three touchdowns in addition to three picks.

Taylor had touchdown passes of seven yards to David Johnson and eight yards to Danny Amendola, with the second scoring strike providing the Texans a 27-7 lead with eight seconds remaining in the first half.

Taylor routinely avoided the oncoming rush while delivering accurate passes downfield, with two deep connections to Brandin Cooks proving especially beneficial. Cooks snagged a 40-yard jump ball at the Jaguars’ 2-yard line midway through the first quarter that later yielded a 1-yard touchdown from Mark Ingram. His 52-yard grab following a scramble and heave from Taylor led to the Amendola score that capped a 69-yard, 29-second drive.

Cooks finished with five catches for 132 yards. Texans tight end Pharaoh Brown also excelled in the passing attack and posted four catches for 67 yards.

The Texans were a picture of efficiency in the first half, converting 7 of 11 third downs. The Jaguars (0-1), meanwhile, were disorganized and self-destructive prior to the intermission.

Jacksonville committed seven penalties, six offensively, prior to the break while dropping four passes. Lawrence, the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, tossed a pair of first-half interceptions. Texans cornerback Vernon Hargraves III picked off Lawrence at the Jaguars 25 and returned the interception 18 yards to set up the second of three Joey Slye field goals.

Lawrence tossed a third interception in the second half and finished 28 for 51 with touchdown passes to Chris Manhertz, DJ Chark Jr. and Marvin Jones Jr. The first two scoring passes followed roughing the passer penalties on Texans defensive tackle Maliek Collins.

–Field Level Media

Dec 27, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) rolls out of the pocket against the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Texans demand six players or picks for QB

Trade suitors for quarterback Deshaun Watson might be left with sticker shock based on the reported asking price from the Houston Texans.

ESPN reported Sunday morning that Houston’s price tag includes a combination of six picks or players to move Watson.

A passive participant at training camp, Watson is unlikely to play for the Texans this season.

Watson is inactive for Week 1 when the Texans kick off the regular season against the Jacksonville Jaguars under first-year coach David Culley. Watson demanded a trade in the offseason and is under investigation for allegations of sexual assault and misconduct from more than 20 women.

Because of the off-field matters, teams interested in trading for Watson are requesting contingencies on compensation, per the report Sunday.

ESPN said sources around the league confirmed general manager Nick Caserio will not trade the three-time Pro Bowler for anything less than the six combined players and picks.

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Houston Texans cornerback Bradley Roby (21) walks onto the field before the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Texans get two draft picks for Bradley Roby

The New Orleans Saints are sending two draft picks to the Houston Texans in exchange for cornerback Bradley Roby, including a third-rounder in 2022, ESPN reported Thursday.

The Texans also get a conditional pick in 2023, per the report.

Reports of the trade surfaced Wednesday, though the teams have continued to work on the framework of the deal, including Roby’s contract.

ESPN reported earlier Thursday that the Texans converted $7.6 million of Roby’s 2021 base salary into a signing bonus they paid so that the Saints could fit the former first-round pick under their cap. The Saints are on the hook for $1.86 million in 2021.

Roby, 29, signed a three-year, $31.5 million contract with the Texans in 2020 but was suspended for six games for using a banned substance. The suspension took effect in November 2020 and ends after Week 1.

Roby is set to earn $9.5 million in 2022 but it’s not guaranteed, effectively making next year a team option.

The Saints are likely to pair Roby with Marshon Lattimore, giving the team a strong starting tandem.

Roby has 10 career interceptions in 99 games (49 starts) with the Texans and Denver Broncos, who selected him No. 31 overall in the 2014 draft.

–Field Level Media