Tyrod Taylor delivered an uncharacteristically sloppy performance in his return from a hamstring injury against the Miami Dolphins, failing to care of the football while under heavy duress.
It was an ugly outing for the Texans’ veteran quarterback that included three interceptions and being sacked five times, but the setback didn’t cost the former Pro Bowl selection his starting job.
As Taylor and the 1-8 Texans try to rebound from a 17-9 loss to the Miami Dolphins and halt an eight-game losing streak, teammates expressed confidence that he’ll upgrade his play starting Sunday on the road against the 8-2 Tennessee Titans.
“I expect him to do just that, I expect him to bounce back,” wide receiver Chris Conley said. “He’s always been a hard worker. Regardless of what anyone has said about his performance, or anything like that, I know that he’s critiqued it harder. He’s looked at it many more times than anyone else.
“And he’s also worked at the things that have happened and the things that he has to get better at, anything that he considers a deficiency. Really, it’s just trying to get him to recover and rest, too, because that’s part of it. I know he’s going to be prepared. I know he’s itching to get back on the field, so luckily, we get to do that in a few days.”
Taylor connected on just 24 of 43 passes for 240 yards against the Dolphins, struggling to deal with their aggressive Zero blitz package that also confused Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in an upset victory the following week.
Despite the shortcomings of Taylor that followed an encouraging start to the season that included a victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars and no interceptions in six quarters before getting hurt while running for a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns, Texans coach David Culley reiterated that having the former Baltimore Ravens sixth-round draft pick from Virginia Tech remain the starter is the best thing for the team instead of going back to rookie Davis Mills.
And Culley emphasized that Taylor was dealing with some rust after missing six games while Mills went 0-6 as the starter.
“Again, he’s our starting quarterback,” Culley said. “He was our starting quarterback before he got hurt. He’s our starting quarterback now. We made some bad decisions. Obviously, he was a little rusty and he wasn’t sharp, but there were calls that we had that could have gone down the field to different guys. They didn’t because of some bad decisions.”
Taylor, 32, was adamant that his issues against the Dolphins weren’t attributable to the time he’s missed. Taylor, who has passed for 656 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions for an 83.3 passer rating below his career 89.9 mark, reinforced to teammates in the locker room that he was at fault for what happened.
“No, he doesn’t use any excuse,” Conley said. “There’s no excuse in his game. He knows that the team relies on him, and that we need him to play at a high level. He was the first person to tell us that, ‘Hey, I ask you guys to do your job and execute every day. I didn’t do my job today, and that’s why we’re in this position.’”
Playing under a one-year contract, Taylor is auditioning for the future with the Texans or another NFL team. The Texans hope he’ll play better now that he’s shed the rust accumulated during his recovery from a Grade 2 hamstring injury suffered against the Cleveland Browns in the second game of the season.
Taylor failed to provide a spark against the Dolphins, and now the Texans are in the middle of their longest losing streak since 2013 when they closed the year with 14 consecutive losses.
“I can’t look at the big picture,” Taylor said after the offense went 0 for 4 in the red zone against the Dolphins. “Each time you get out on the field you want to perform at a high level and give your team an opportunity to win. That’s what it really boils down to: take it one game at a time and continue to keep battling.”
Conley gave a detailed explanation for the issues surrounding the NFL’s lowest-scoring offense. Beyond the penalties and turnovers that have impacted the Texans during a rebuilding season, it’s been a matter of inconsistencies, in Conley’s opinion.
“Being efficient, I think being efficient is something that we’ve really looked at in self-scout over this week that we’ve been off,” Conley said. “We’ve looked at our inefficiencies on ‘give me’ plays. Say a team is playing zone coverage, we have a ‘give me’ where someone’s sitting right in the zone, exactly where they need to be at five or six yards, and it’s a ‘give me’ play where the quarterback can get the ball out of his hands quickly, we get five, seven yards a pop. There’s been a lot of inconsistency on those routes run.
“Sometimes the route, if it’s supposed to be in between the hashes, sometimes it’s hugging the hash, sometimes it’s in between the hashes, sometimes it’s offset to the left. Right now, there’s a little bit of hesitation, not only from Tyrod (Taylor), but there was hesitation from Davis, too, about throwing that ball maybe a hitch extra when it should be a timing throw. Really, that’s on us on as receivers, backs, tight ends, to be more consistent. It’s not about just running the right route in an option. It’s about being at the right spot at the right time.”
Conley hasn’t been involved much in the Texans’ passing game even though he’s averaging 19.6 yards per reception. He has 10 catches for 196 yards and one touchdown on just 17 targets, not that he’s complaining about his workload given the Texans' bleak circumsances.
“At the end of the day, my job is just to make the plays when the ball comes my way,” Conley said. “Would I like to be involved? Yeah, every receiver would like to be involved. But right now, as an offense, we have problems that are bigger than my issues, so it’s about the team.
“ I’ve been working on what I do with the ball in my hands, so when it’s there, I’m going to make as many plays as I can, as many yards as I can. But as an offense, we need to get better.”