- Associated Press - Friday, November 4, 2016

HOUSTON (AP) - Brock Osweiler was supposed to be the solution to years of quarterback woes for the Houston Texans.

Through eight games, it’s unclear if that’s the case.

At times, such as during a fourth-quarter comeback against the Colts, Osweiler has looked worthy of the $72 million contract Houston used to lure him away from Denver.

But there have been other times, such as his performance in Houston’s three road games , where Osweiler didn’t look any better than the string of quarterbacks the Texans ran through last season.

The good news for the Texans is that they enter their bye 5-3 and leading the AFC South despite his inconsistent play and the loss of star defensive end J.J. Watt.

“There’s been some good spots and I think there’s obviously been some bad spots,” Osweiler said. “But I think the thing that’s encouraging is I feel like I’m getting better every single week and I feel like this football team is getting better every single week.

“So, there’s plenty of room for improvement (and) fortunately we still have eight more games.”

Though he’s seemed rattled at times when he’s struggled on the road, Osweiler never shows any cracks in public in his picture-perfect veneer off the field. He always says the right things, takes the blame when the offense sputters and vows to get better.

But those close to him know that he hears the criticism mounting with each bad road outing and that his struggles weigh on him.

“In this league everyone’s striving for perfection, so when it doesn’t go the way that we prepared or practiced or wanted the result to be we all die a little, so to say,” offensive coordinator George Godsey said. “But he’s been able to overcome that, a little bit of adversity so it’s a good sign going into the next half of the season.”

Coach Bill O’Brien believes Osweiler has improved each week and the quarterback insists that he feels comfortable in the offense and is convinced he has the skills to lead this team.

“I have great confidence in myself, I have great belief in myself,” Osweiler said. “I’m my own biggest critic. When a game doesn’t go how maybe I wanted it to or how this team wanted it to, I examine that film very hard. I’m very hard on myself to improve, to learn, to get better.”

Osweiler has thrown nine touchdowns with nine interceptions this season to lead a passing game that is among the worst in the league, ranking 30th in the NFL by averaging just 199.2 yards a game.

He’s been much better at home than on the road, with eight of his touchdown passes and all of the team’s wins coming in Houston. He’ll have to figure out a way to get things together on the road when the Texans start the second half of the season at Jacksonville before a game against Oakland in Mexico City followed by two of the next three away from Houston.

He’s focused on getting Pro Bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins more involved in the second half after he’s been limited to 434 yards receiving through eight games after finishing with a career-high 1,521 yards receiving last season. Hopkins knows he’ll have to do more in the second half to help Osweiler and the offense improve.

“There were a lot of plays I left out on the field I could’ve made (in) the first eight games,” he said. “Just got to go out and make it right.”

While Osweiler hasn’t played up to expectations, Houston’s offense has been kept afloat by the steady play of the team’s other big offseason acquisition Lamar Miller .

The Texans signed the former Dolphins running back to take over for Arian Foster, the team’s all-time leading rusher whom they released in March. Miller enters Week 9 ranked fourth in the NFL with 637 yards rushing.

On defense, Houston lost Watt to a back injury after three games. But the defense has remained the strength of the team without last year’s Defensive Player of the Year, thanks to a pass defense that is among the best in the league and a breakout season by Jadeveon Clowney .

Clowney moved from outside linebacker to defensive end to fill in for Watt and is having the best season of his young career.

The top overall pick in the 2014 draft is healthy and has started each game and has 30 tackles, three sacks and a career-high nine tackles for losses.

Defensive line coach Anthony Weaver loves the way Clowney is playing now that he’s on the field consistently.

“Every time he goes out there and has success, his confidence gets higher,” Weaver said. “If I’m the rest of the league that scares me. A confident Jadeveon Clowney with his God-given ability could be frightening to the rest of the league.”

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AP NFL website: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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