UA-59049186-1 2017 NFL Team Preview: Houston Texans - Good if it Goes

2017 NFL Team Preview: Houston Texans

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Last Year:

Record: 9-7

Offense: 17.4 (28th)

Defense: 20.5 (11th)

Offseason: 

Key Acquisitions:

Key Losses: DT. Vince Wilfork, CB. A.J. Bouye, S. Quintin Demps

2017 Draft Picks

RD(PK) PLAYER POS SCHOOL
1(12) Deshaun Watson QB Clemson
2(25) Zach Cunningham ILB Vanderbilt
3(25) D’Onta Foreman RB Texas
4(24) Julien Davenport OT Bucknell
4(36) Carlos Watkins DT Clemson
5(25) Treston Decoud CB Oregon State
7(25) Kyle Fuller C Baylor

2017 Outlook 

Coaching Staff

  • HC: Bill O’Brien
  • OC: Bill O’Brien
  • DC: Mike Vrabel
  • ST: Larry Izzo

Offense

QB. Tom Savage, Deshaun Watson

RB. Lamar Miller, Alfred Blue

FB. Jay Prosch

WR. DeAndre Hopkins, Braxton Miller

WR. Will Fuller, Wendall Williams

WR. Jaelen Strong

TE. CJ Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin

LT. Duane Brown, Kendall Lamm

LG. Xavier Su’a-Filo, Chad Slade

C. Nick Martin, Greg Mancz

RG. Jeff Allen, Josh Walker

RT. Chris Clark, Breno Giacomini

Defense

DE. J.J. Watt, Brandon Dunn

NT. D.J. Reader, Carlos Watkins

DE. Christian Covington, Joel Heath

OLB. Whitney Mercilus, Tony Washington

MLB. Brian Cushing, Zach Cunningham

MLB. Benardrick McKinney, Sio Moore

OLB. Jadeveon Clowney, Brennan Scarlett

CB. Jonathan Joseph, Marcus Roberson

SS. K.J Dillon, Eddie Pleasant

FS. Andre Hal, Corey Moore

CB. Kevin Johnson, Treston Decoud

NB. Kareem Jackson

Specialists

K. Nick Novak

P. Shane Lecher

 Breakdown

Offense:

The biggest question the Texans must answer offensively is Tom Savage or Deshaun Watson? Quite frankly anyone would be better than the disaster that was Brock Osweiler last season. Right now due to the experience edge Savage is the current projected starter and has been taking the first team reps in camp. But Watson will be giving every opportunity to win the job as the Texans gave up assets to move up in the first round to draft him. Savage is a more prototypical NFL style quarterback and has a big arm but Watson is a charismatic leader that is cool under pressure and comes through in the clutch. By most reports both Savage and Watson have been good so far in camp and if that continues then preseason will most likely be the determining factor of who wins this QB battle. Lamar Miller is the starting running back who looks to be even better after a decent first season with the Texans. His production dipped a little compared to his previous two seasons in Miami but a lot of that had to do with the shaky play of the offensive line more so than him. The receiving corps is not without talent and hopefully with competent QB play we can see it show. DeAndre Hopkins was one of the biggest victims last season of the Texans QB play. He proved in 2015 he is an elite receiver and did all he could last season given what was around him. The rest of the receiving group is in question due to Will Fuller, their 2016 first round selection, breaking his collarbone in practice. The timetable for his return is currently unknown and with him out it will be up to Jaelen Strong and Braxton Miller to pick up the slack. Both dealt with injury last season and only saw limited action. Miller is a converted QB still learning the position so there should be growth as he gets more reps and further learns the position. Strong lost weight over the offseason and reportedly looks leaner and more explosive. Both will need to be better than they were last year. The tight end position is likely where the Texans offense will have to turn to for the most reliable production after Hopkins as was the case last season. C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin were second and third in receptions last season both catching 50 or more passes. They figure to be thrown to a lot as I expect the Texans to rely on their two tight end packages more with the injury of Fuller. The offensive line overall was below average thanks to a lot of mixed results and inconsistent play from the group as a whole. The star of the group was Duane Brown who was one of the best tackles in the league last season which is why he is currently holding out of camp as he feels his contract deserves to be renegotiated. Unfortunately their right tackle Derek Newton had a major injury in the middle of last season tearing both patellar tendons. The injury was so severe he will also be lost for the entire 2017 season. That is a problem because Chris Clark had to step in and was a human turnstyle all year and is currently projected to be the starter again. He will have to play a lot better and do it quickly because reportedly Kendall Lamm has been very impressive in camp and could take the job. Nick Martin, who the team picked in the second round, was supposed to be the starting center last season but never played a down due to injury. He is healthy now and reportedly doing well in camp. So well that he apparently has the job no questions asked despite the fact this his replacement last year Greg Mancz was actually one of the better centers in the league. Jeff Allen was supposed to be a big free agent pick up for the Texans coming over from the Chiefs last year but apparently he left half of his game in Kansas City as he only seemed able to pass block. He was one of the worst run blocking guards in the league. I expect him to bounce back and be a lot better in 2017. At the other guard is Xavier Su’-Filo who was the worst of the original starting five a year ago. He was not great run blocking but he was especially bad in pass pro and if he does not start to play better Mancz might be taking over his spot as I imagine the Texans will be eager to find a spot for him to play after such a good showing last season. The Texans were one of the worst offenses in the NFL last season and should be better off slightly better QB play alone. However this offense still figures to struggle. The offensive line still has some issues and the receiving corps is littered with question marks. Combine that with an inexperienced QB regardless of which one wins the job and it just does not exude much confidence that this offense can be anything more than average.

Defense:

The Texans defense carried the team last season as they were spectacular, especially down the stretch. They were number one in the NFL in yards allowed but unfortunately due to their offense turning the ball over or simply not being able to move it their points allowed average suffered a bit. They will have to overcome some key losses in the secondary to duplicate their success again in 2017 but it does help that their best overall player J.J. Watt is back after missing 13 games a year ago. Watt is an all-pro defensive end, perennial defensive player of the year candidate and with him back up front the Texans pass rush should be even more lethal than it already was without him. D.J. Reader was the team’s fifth round pick last year and ultimately ending up taking over at nose tackle for the now retired Vince Wilfork. He did a decent job and now looks to make even more of an impact as the full time starter for the full year. The Texans will be mixing and matching at the other defensive end spot as Jadeveon Clowney is expected to be moved around there some as well as playing outside linebacker. Though Clowney will play at end some I expect Christian Covington to start at that spot. He has gotten better with each year of his young career and was a very reliable run defender for the Texans last season. With John Simon now with the Colts and Watt healthy again I expect to see Clowney playing more edge linebacker than defensive end unlike last season. He and Whitney Mercilus form one of the best 3-4 outside linebacker tandems in the NFL as both are pro bowl caliber players that impact the game as run stoppers and pass rushers. The Texans have a pretty good duo in the middle as well between the young hard hitting Benardrick McKinney and the savvy veteran Brian Cushing. McKinney is one of the biggest linebackers in the league at 6’4 nearly 250 pounds and made great use of it as he was one of the very best off-line linebackers rushing the passer in the league. But what really helped him was his improvement in coverage. McKinney is on the verge of becoming an elite linebacker and 2017 may just be the year he does it. Cushing’s run defense has started to fall off a bit as he ages but he was still highly reliable in coverage last year. The Texans arguably had the best overall secondary in the league last season. Unfortunately they lost two very good players in A.J. Bouye and Quintin Demps and did not look to replace either in free agency or the draft. The Texans instead decided to promote within believing they already had the pieces in place to fill both voids. That could very well be the case at corner as the team’s 2015 first round pick Keven Johnson was lost for most of last season and looks to return to the starting lineup this year. He missed most of last season due to injury which was in part what helped open the door for Bouye to blow up the way he did. Joining Johnson will be the team’s best corner Jonathan Joseph who is still going strong in his 30s at a position where players typically start to fade at his age. Kareem Jackson will be in the slot and he too had a good season last year. If Johnson can play up to his potential the Texans will have three good corners again this season and hopefully not miss Bouye much at all. Replacing Demps at safety might prove to be a bit more challenging as there is no former first round pick coming off injury ready to take over for him. Instead the team will turn to last year’s fifth round pick K.J. Dillon who did not get a chance to play much last season and will be looking to prove his worth in his first season as a starter. The good news is that Andre Hal is back at free safety. The former seventh round pick has proven to be a steal and will be looking to have his best season yet in a contract season. Overall I expect the Texans to be one of the elite defenses in the NFL yet again. The combination of Watt and Johnson returning from injury should be plenty to offset what they lost in free agency. This is a defense that can stop the run, rush the passer, and cover and they will be very difficult to move the ball on.

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