By Michael Eccleston
The Houston Texans are always missing something, aren’t they? They just can never put it all together. Last season, Houston took advantage of a weakened AFC South and defensive end J.J. Watt and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins led them to a 9-7 finish, which was good enough to win the division. The Texans were then exposed by the Kansas City Chiefs in one of the ugliest playoff games of all time because Houston lacked a quarterback. Brian Hoyer isn’t going to win you too many big games, especially in the postseason. Unfortunately, they learned that the hard way. Hoyer had a miserable time at home against Kansas City’s defense, throwing for just 136 yards and 4 interceptions. His QB Rating was 15.9 in that game… Just let that sink in.
I mean, good grief. I was puzzled by the fact that head coach Bill O’Brien didn’t pull the plug earlier in the game when he saw how lost Hoyer looked…
But anyway, the Texans went into this offseason knowing that they had a defense that was good enough to compete with nearly anybody, but it was no secret that they had a suspect offense, which was ranked 21st in the NFL in points for last season. No more Arian Foster, who was about as unlucky and injury prone as it gets. The loss of Foster is a big hit because of the fact that when he was healthy he was one of the best all around runningbacks in the league, but at the same time, Houston needed to move on. They added runningback Lamar Miller from the Miami Dolphins who is extremely talented in his own right. Miller is a threat both as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield so he expects to carry a lot of the load this season. Alfred Blue will also see a decent amount of time.
The Texans desperately needed a quarterback, so they swooped in and nabbed young 6 foot 7 Brock Osweiler from the Denver Broncos. Osweiler signed a 4 year 72 million dollar contract on March 9th in hopes to be the answer in Houston. Over-paid? Maybe. That’s yet to be seen. This team has always intrigued me because they have had solid pieces to work with on both the defensive and offensive sides of the ball, but they’ve never had a quarterback that could take them over the hump. A lot of pressure on the 25 year old Osweiler? Yeah, but welcome to the NFL, kid.
Houston was looking primed to be much improved from last year… And then the news struck that J.J. Watt needed to have back surgery and may have to miss part of the season. More bad news for the Texans: The AFC South will be MUCH better than it was last season. Andrew Luck will be back for the Indianapolis Colts, the Jacksonville Jaguars made countless moves to improve both in free agency and through the draft. Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, Julius Thomas, Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon are nothing to sneeze at on the offensive side. Not to mention Dante Fowler Jr. will be back after he missed his entire rookie year to play with a suddenly stacked defense with Malik Jackson, Paul Posluszny, Myles Jack, and Jalen Ramsey. The Tennessee Titans are also improved. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is looking to take the next step going into his second season and they acquired DeMarco Murray to receive the bulk of the carries with rookie Derrick Henry to complement him. Second year receiver Dorial Green-Beckham looks to step up as a major weapon alongside Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker.
So what are the results going to be for Houston this season?
Well, the Texans’ offense improved this offseason. There is no question about that. They signed a quarterback who has some promise and signed a talented Lamar Miller to solidify the running game. But if they have to play without Watt for any amount of time this season, they could be in big trouble. Outside linebacker and former first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney will need to step up in a huge way to fill the role as a top pass rusher. The Texans’ secondary with corners Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson isn’t bad, but they need that pass rush to be ferocious in order for this defense to strive. The sooner they can get Watt back the better. We’re talking about one of the best players in the NFL today (if not the best). If Watt can start the season at 100 percent, I like the Texans’ chances to make the playoff picture interesting both in the division and for the wildcard, but without him, I see a troubled road ahead of them in this improved and all of a sudden exciting AFC South division.