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Football NFL

NFL Team Previews: Houston Texans

If the OL can't vastly improve then I don't see this team making the playoffs

2018 Season Review: 11-5 (AFC South Champions)

The Texans won the AFC South after a 0-3 start losing to the Patriots, Titans, and Giants. From there on out, they reeled off 9 wins in a row before they lost another game in Week 14 to the Colts. They ended the season at 11-5 and AFC South champs but they got bounced in Wild Card round to their division rival Indianapolis Colts.

That loss wasn’t surprising at all, in fact many people were picking the Colts to beat the Texans because the Texans just seemed like a “meh” team. Also, they got the lovely early Saturday WC game on ESPN which is just classic Texans. The game was even boring as hell, which is par for the course for Texan playoff games. The Texans lost that game 21-7 where they got down 14-0 in the first quarter, 21-0 at half, and the only score in the second half came from the Texans with 10:47 left in the game. Watson and Keke Coutee were the only guys who could do anything for the Texans on offense, and even Watson didn’t play that well. He went 29 for 49 for 235 YDS 1TD and 1 INT with 8 rushers for 76 YDS. Coutee had 11 catches for 110 YDS and the lone TD for the Texans. DeAndre Hopkins only had 5 catches on 10 targets for 37 yards, while Lamar Miller ran for just 18 yards on 5 carries and caught 8 balls for 63 yards. Just an awful offensive performance by the Texans in the playoffs.

Their offense on the year was much better during regular season for the Texans. They averaged 25.1 PPG which was 11th in the league, Deshaun Watson threw for 4,165 YDS, 26 TDS, and 9 INT along with 551 yards on the ground and another 5 TDs. DeAndre Hopkins was a stud as always, catching 115 balls for 1,572 YDS and 11 TDS. Lamar Miller was the leading rusher with 973 YDS and 5 TDS. He only caught 25 balls for 163 yards and 1 TD however. In the playoff game against the Colts, Miller produced half that amount of receiving yards. As far as skill positions go, the Texans had two big injuries. The first was to Will Fuller who only played in 7 games but still produced 32 catches for 503 yards and 4 TDs. Watson loves Fuller and this offense is much better when they have that deep threat. Sadly in three years, Fuller has missed 17 total games. The second was Keke Coutee, a rookie, who came on during the regular season but only played in 6 games plus the one playoff game. He showed signs of being a breakout player but couldn’t stay healthy.

The worst part abut the Texans in 2018 no doubt, was the offensive line. First off Watson got sacked a league high 62 teams which is just unacceptable. Part of the reason the Texans weren’t picked by a lot of people in the Wild Card game was because of this offensive line and the good play by the Colts defense. Watson was constantly running for his life, and to his fault also was holding onto the ball too long. Houston was rated as the 27th worst offensive line in the league by Football Outsiders. They easily had the worst pass blocking offensive line, and their run blocking wasn’t much better. Their power rank was 23rd, and stuffed ranked was 21st. By stuff ranked Football Outsiders means ” the percentage of runs where the running back is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage. Since being stuffed is bad, teams are ranked from stuffed least often (#1) to most often (#32).” Houston ran the ball on 44.04% of place according to TeamRankings.com which was 8th in the league. So not only was their offensive line awful at pass blocking, they were a pretty bad run blocking team yet they still ran the ball the 8th most in the NFL. That leads to boring football.

Still the Texans managed to rack up 11 wins in part because of Watson and Hopkins connection, and because they had a defense that only gave up 19.8 PPG which was tied for 4th in the league. Behind J.J. Watt (16.0 sacks, 18 TFL, 25 QB hits) the defense was downright dominate in some games. During their 9 game winning streak, the defense gave up less than 20 points 6 times.

Houston racked up 43 sacks on the year, Watt had 16 of those while Jadeveon Clowney had 9 and Whitney Mercilus had 4. Houston was also second in the league in turnover differential. They recorded 15 INTs led by Justin Reid and Andre Hal who both had 3 each, while Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, and Tyrann Mathieu each had 2. Houston also recovered 14 fumbles good for 29 total takeaways. Their offense only gave the ball away 16 times. This differential also helped the Texans win game and overshadowed their awful offensive line.

Watson, Hopkins, Miller, Clowney, Watt, and MLB Benardrick McKinney all made the Pro Bowl.

Key Off Season Acquisitions

OT Matt Kalil (1 Year, $7.5 Million)

The Texans were atrocious on the offensive line last year. They need all the help they can get. Kalil didn’t play last year but he has shown he can be an effective OT in the NFL. If Kalil can come back from this injury, he could be a good cheap one year plug and play. And honestly, both tackle positions are up for grabs in camp.

CB Bradley Roby (1 Year, $10 Million)

Roby played behind Chris Harris Jr. and Aquib Talib for the majority of his career in Denver before starting 15 games last year. He helped the Broncos has one of the better pass defenses in the league for multiple years and now him and Kareem Jackson switch spots. Roby only signed a one year deal here which is interesting consider his talent and how much he’s proven in the NFL. I wouldn’t be surprised if Roby is betting on himself here and looked for a one year deal in a place where he can start and show the NFL he’s one of the best CBs in the league, and then get a bigger pay day next year. In my opinion, he’s an upgrade from Kareem Jackson.

FS Tashaun Gipson (3 Years, $22.5 Million)

Gipson comes over from Jacksonville where he was the starter the last three years for a great secondary. He never missed one game in Jacksonville and had 6 INTs with 159 tackles in his three years there. Gipson will start where Mathieu left and I don’t think the Texans will see a huge drop off here. I do think Mathieu is the better player, but Gipson is more than capable of filling those shoes.

RB Duke Johnson (via trade with the Cleveland Browns)

This trade just went down on August 8th. Johnson made it clear during the off-season he wanted out of Cleveland with the emergence of Nick Chubb, the signing of Kareem Hunt, and his usage last year. Duke Johnson is a great 3rd down back and with him in the mix, it gives Watson a great check down option and gives Bill O’Brien another play maker to use in his offense.

2019 Draft

Round 1 Pick #23: T Tytus Howard

The Texans needed desperate help on the OL so it’s no surprise they went with one of those guys here. What is a surprise, is the fact that they went with Tytus Howard from Alabama State who was a projected 2nd-3rd round pick. There were still guys like Cody Ford, Jawaan Taylor, and Greg Little left on the board. With how bad the Texans OL was last year, Howard is gonna be given every chance to start at RT or LT for the Texans.

Round 2 Pick #54: CB Lonnie Johnson

The Texans lost Kareem Jackson, and Tyrann Mathieu to free agency, and they only signed Bradley Roby for one year. Their defense is very good but if they needed help anywhere it is in the secondary. Johnson will have an outside shot to start, but even if he doesn’t he’s going to get a lot of playing time for the Texans.

Round 2 Pick #55: T Max Scharping

Everything I said for Howard I could say here for Scharping. The only difference is he went where he was projected to, a 2nd-3rd round pick. Scharping like Howard is going to be given every chance to start at either tackle position.

via the Houston Texans

Key Off Season Departures

FS Tyrann Mathieu (via free agency to the Kansas City Chiefs)

The Honey Badger used his one year in Houston to get paid because the Arizona Cardinals wouldn’t do it. Its no surprise that Mathieu left the Texans for a better team and more money. He is obviously a game changer at times, but Houston found other guys in Gipson and Roby who can help replace what he did. I think the Texans will be just fine without Mathieu.

CB Kareem Jackson (via free agency to the Denver Broncos)

Jackson has played his whole career with the Houston Texans and been very good, and very reliable. He did turn 30 and was playing some CB and some S for the Texans last year. It was just time for them to move on and get younger at the position.

RB D’Onta Foreman (cut during training camp)

When he was drafted many people thought it was only a matter of time until he took over for Lamar Miller. Well that never happened mostly due to injuries, Foreman just couldn’t stay healthy and apparently the Texans have had enough and cut him early on. This just cements Miller’s position as the RB1 and now the RB2 position is up for grabs with Alfred Blue also gone.

2019 Season Preview

The biggest issue for the Texans going into 2019 is obviously the offensive line. It was really the downfall of this team that is talented everywhere else on the field. However the 62 sacks given up were not all the offensive lines help, Deshaun Watson needs to be better in the pocket.

Watson to a certain extent reminds me of a young Aaron Rodgers in that he hangs onto the ball too long, trying to make plays with his legs behind the line of scrimmage. Honestly, Rodgers is still guilty of this today just not to the same extent he was early on. Bill O’Brien and Watson needs to work together on that internal clock in Watson’s head telling him when to throw the ball away. Watson just can’t take that many hits as a QB, and as a guy with the injury history he has. If Watson goes down, this team is done. Early on in the season, I would be focusing on Watson’s pocket presence and how many sacks are actually his fault. He is going to play at Pro Bowl level, he just needs his decision making to catch up to his physical skills.

Back to the offensive line. If the OL can’t vastly improve then I don’t see this team making the playoffs, their division is just too good and if the Colts can play good defenses again they’re going to up against a top 15 defense at least six times during the year. The offensive line needs to open up better holes for Lamar Miller as well. Somehow Miller gets around 1,000 yards but when you watch the Texans try to run the ball, it’s like trying to unclog a toilet with a $2 plunger – its awful. Miller averaged 4.6 yards per carry last year which was the highest he’s had in since he joined Houston. I would like to see him increase that number now that he’s the main guy in the backfield with Foreman gone. Also, you’d like to see a lot less runs being stuffed at the line.

At WR the Texans need Will Fuller to stay healthy. Fuller is completely capable of getting to 1,000 yards if he can just stay healthy. The times Fuller has been on the field, Watson has loved him and he can help take away some game planning towards Deandre Hopkins. Coutee is another guy the Texans need to be healthy. He had a great postseason game against the Colts, catching 11 balls for 110 yards, and 1 TD. If those guys can stay healthy, Watson could have one hell of a year and compete for an MVP.

On defense, this team should be great again. They did lose some good players but they also replaced those guys very well. Just like at WR, the Texans need J.J. Watt to stay healthy for this team to make it back to the playoffs. He did play in every game last year, but the previous two years he played in a total 8 games.

Jadeveon Clowney is also a toss up for this team right now. Currently Clowney is refusing to sign his Franchise Tag over issues about what position he is, and he probably wants to get paid more. Clowney hasn’t been the stud he was expected to be after the Texans took him first overall in 2014, but he has been very effective and voted to three Pro Bowls and was named second team All-Pro in 2016. Currently the news is that Houston is shopping Clowney around, but because he hasn’t signed his Franchise Tag, Clowney can basically pick where he’ll go. With this new team Clowney will sign a long term contract. So now only does this new team have to give up a lot to get Clowney, they’re also going to have to pay him a lot of money.

Without Clowney this defense takes a big hit. They should still be very good, but you don’t just get rid of a guy like Clowney and not have it effect your team in a negative way. The problem with the Texans is how late this is all happening. If this was happening in March the Texans could have tried to replace him through the free agency or the draft but instead they are stuck here.

Schedule

The AFC South plays the AFC West and NFC West this year. The Texans won the South so they also get the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens.

Let’s just start here, the Texans have the hardest schedule in the league. They play 7 games against playoff teams from last year, play the 9-7 Titans twice, and they also play the Panthers and Falcons. The only really “cake” games based off last year, are at home against the Raiders and at the Buccaneers.

As for prime time games, the Texans kick off Week 1 on the road on Monday Night Football against the Saints. Their next prime time game doesn’t come until Week 12 vs the Colts on Thursday Night Football, and then the following week on Sunday Night Football vs the Patriots. The only real unique thing about the Texans schedule, is that they play the Titans twice in three weeks (Week 15 &16).

The Texans bye week falls during Week 10. Go look at their schedule before Week 10. Would you be at all surprised to see them as just a 3 or 4 win team? They have a brutal start to the season in their first 7 weeks. Many people will see the Jags and giggle but the Jags are no pushovers. They have an incredibly tough first 9 weeks. And after their bye week, they get no break by going to Baltimore, then the Colts and Patriots at home. By the time they get the Broncos in Week 14, their season could be all but over.

via the Houston Texans

Fantasy Player You Want

If Will Fuller can stay healthy all year, he’s going to be a stud and make Watson even better in fantasy. Hopkins is obviously a top two WR but right now, you can get Fuller as a WR3 for a guy who could easily go over 1,000 yards if he plays 14+ games.

Fantasy Player To Avoid

On the other WR end, I don’t want any part to do with KeKe Coutee. He was a good flash in the pan last year, but it was so short lived that I don’t want to trust him. He’s a guy who has to prove he can replicate what he did for a few games last year, over a full season. He’s going to be behind Hopkins and Fuller, and he’s on a team that wants to run the ball a lot. I”d stay away from him.

Ceiling

I have a confession, for some reason I find the Texans a very boring team and I don’t know why. I don’t know if its because I’m tired of seeing boring playoff games from them, I don’t like their stadium, Bill O’Brien’s chin might scare me. What I also don’t like is their OL and schedule. The Texans have crazy talent on both sides of the ball which will keep them in game and they’ll be in the hunt for a playoff spot late in the year, but I don’t see this team winning more than 9 Games.

Floor

Even with all the bad feelings I have about this team, its hard for me to see them dropping to a top 10 pick. I’ll say they win at least 6 Games, even with the hard schedule.

Photo: Brett Coomer, Staff Photographer
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