1) Bill O'Brien has a reputation as a quarterback whisperer, but he keeps saddling himself with pretty bad passers. Is there a plan or are they stuck in QB purgatory?
I think he has a short term plan with Ryan Mallett that could eventually turn into a long term plan. Brian Hoyer probably already exhausted his only shot with this team in just three abysmal quarters as a starter, while second year player Tom Savage is already on IR. If Mallett doesn't work out, Bill O'Brien literally has no other options on the roster to improve the quarterback position. Either Mallett is the guy, or Houston will be looking at a new signal caller high in the draft next year. It's that black and white, unfortunately.
2) The Texans looked promising last year, but they've lost both of their first two games. What went wrong -- or is this just a temporary stroke of bad luck?
Injuries are mostly to blame in my opinion. All-Pro left tackle Duane Brown played hurt in week one and then missed week two. Arian Foster has been out since the beginning of training camp. Starting left guard Xavier Su'a-Filo has missed the last month with a nasty high ankle sprain while his backup, Jeff Adams, was just lost for the season against Carolina. Mike Mohamed, one of the very best coverage linebackers in the NFL, has also been out for the last few weeks. To top it all off, DeAndre Hopkins might miss this week's game with a concussion and Garrett Graham is now literally the only healthy tight end left on the roster after a knee injury to C.J. Fiedorowicz. Ryan Mallett has no weapons and no protection because everyone is hurt, so the offense is pretty much crippled right now.
When healthy, I think this Texans team could compete with anyone in the NFL on a regular basis. They just can't get off the trainer's table right now, unfortunately.
3) After being picked first overall in 2014, Jadeveon Clowney had a disappointing, injury-marred first year. Has he shown signs of progress in his second year in the league?
Oooooooh baby yes he has. This guy is going to be a monster. Take a look at the video below and see for yourselves.
4) The Texans' running game seems to be really struggling, which can't be a good thing given the quarterback play. Is it just Arian Foster's absence or is there something else going on?
Not having Duane Brown or Arian Foster has killed the run game completely. Brown is arguably one of the two or three best run blocking tackles in the league, while Foster is considered by some to be the best one-cut slashing running back the NFL has seen in the last decade. They are both All-Pros for a reason, and it's because they are absolutely irreplaceable. Alfred Blue is mediocre at best as a replacement, which stings even more because the Chargers just had to trade up and take Melvin Gordon one pick ahead of the Texans.
No, I will never, ever get over it. Melvin was ours, dammit. OURS.
5) Is there any relatively unknown player who we should watch out for on Sunday?
Rookie CB Kevin Johnson, who presumably was the organization's backup plan if Melvin Gordon was gone, has been simply sensational so far in his young career. I am not exaggerating when I say that he has been the team's best defensive back in the first two weeks of the season, which is super impressive considering that cornerback is the deepest position group on the roster by far. You should see Johnson out there a lot in nickel packages behind starters Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson, though if K-Jo keeps this level of play up he might not "just" be a nickel guy for long.