Watt stars for Texans, but stagnant offense has Houston searching for answers during bye

J.J. Watt has played well through the first nine games.

The defensive end has scored three touchdowns, has 8½ sacks, has swatted down seven passes and leads the league with 29 quarterback hits.

Despite his dominant performance, the Houston Texans (4-5) are mediocre entering their bye week, and Watt said they'll use the extra time to search for ways to improve.

"We will see what we need to fix, see how we need to correct things, and see what we need to do from here then we will attack the second half of the season," Watt said.

Coach Bill O'Brien shook things up on Wednesday in an attempt to jump-start the offense, benching Ryan Fitzpatrick in favor of Ryan Mallett, who's thrown just four passes in four seasons in the NFL.

"We're going to give him a shot to play and lead this offense," O'Brien said. "We'll see how it goes."

Mallett spent three seasons as Tom Brady's backup in New England before being traded to Houston on Aug. 31. He'll get his first career start on Nov. 16 at Cleveland.

After years on the bench, there were times Mallett wondered if this day would ever come.

"It sure didn't seem like it, I'll tell you that," he said. "It's been four years ... I was starting to question if I was ever going to get a shot. Now I've got a shot and we'll see what I do with it."

O'Brien was the offensive coordinator for the Patriots when they drafted Mallett in the third round in 2011. He says that Mallett has a great grasp of his system since he's been working in it since then.

Mallett will try to turn around a passing attack that ranks 28th in the NFL. O'Brien is confident Mallett's up to the challenge in part because of how he's changed since the coach last worked with him in 2011.

"His work ethic has improved," O'Brien said. "I believe that he is a much more mature guy. I think he has a much better knowledge of pro football and what it takes to be prepared. Now it's his turn to go out there and see what he can do."

The Texans are also waiting to see what top overall pick Jadeveon Clowney can do after the outside linebacker has missed all but two games with a knee injury and an illness.

Clowney had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee after injuring it in the season opener. He returned in Week 8 and had one tackle in limited action before sitting out last week with the illness. He hopes to play against Cleveland, but is still having problems with his knee.

"I'm not able to do the things I want to do," he said. "It's just not where it needs to be right now, so I'm just going to take it one day at a time and just keep working."

Clowney has been sidelined by injury after injury since the draft. He missed the beginning of camp after surgery to repair a sports hernia and sat out more time in late August with a concussion he suffered in a dual practice with the Broncos.

As Clowney continues spending more time in the trainer's room than on the field, there have been rumblings that the Texans are becoming frustrated with the rookie.

Clowney laughed and shook his head when asked about that.

"We talk just about every day, me and O'Brien, the guys around me," he said. "It's not been a problem. They just want me as healthy as I can to come out there and help them. They know what I can do out there and they want me full-go and not just out there doing the motions."

He's unhappy that he wasn't able to do anything to get the Texans off to a better start and help erase the memory of last season's dreadful 2-14 record.

"It's been very difficult," he said. "I want to be out there with my team. We've all got the same goal. We want to win. I'm not out there to help them is really bothering me. Now I'm just trying to get better, get back out there with them."


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