Texans: Uneven, but talented
Result: AFC South Champion
2019 Regular season record: 10-6
2019 Scoring Offensive Rank: 14th 23.6 PPG
2019 Scoring Defensive Rank: 19th 24.1 PPG
2020 Draft First Pick: none (traded to Miami)
Coach: Bill O’Brien
The Offseason Scenario
The struggle, such as it is in Houston, is to isolate and deal with deficiencies on what is basically an above average team. Two seasons ago it was protection for Deshaun Watson, which they only corrected in part in 2019 with the addition of Laremy Tunsil. Watson was still sacked almost fifty times this year, good for eighth most in the league.
There are flashes of brilliance every season on both sides of the ball, and the defense performed admirably given the loss of J.J. Watt for an extended portion of the year. It was a hodge podge of solid performances mixed with inexplicable lapses. This is a team that beat both Kansas City and New England in the regular season, but took losses to both Denver and Carolina, and barely scraped past Jacksonville 13-12 in week two.
DeAndre Hopkins wasn’t quite as effective as we’ve seen him, posting the lowest yards per reception of his career at 11.2. Is he still an elite pass catcher? He ranked outside of the top ten in yardage, TDs, and big plays (20+ yards).
It might be tempting to stay the course in Houston, especially after getting out to a huge lead over Kansas City before folding in the divisional round, but I think something’s got to give in Houston if they want to move forward. Deshaun Watson clearly has instincts of a winner, as he was able to take a team that was largely mediocre on both sides of the ball (14th offense, 19th defense) to the playoffs, but aside from him and defensive standard bearer J.J. Watt, all doors are probably open, especially with no help coming in the first round of the draft.
Free Agent Frenzy
One area that needs clarification for the Texans, and quickly, is the situation at running back. Lamar Miller was to be the primary back this season, but an ACL injury during the preseason derailed his 2019 campaign, leaving the rushing duties to veteran Carlos Hyde and leaving his future very much in doubt as his contract expires.
Resigning Miller might seem like a logical choice, given his effectiveness in 2018, but questions will loom about the injury, and Hyde performed admirably in relief, rushing for over one thousand yards in 2019. If I had to handicap it, my guess is that Hyde will find a new home, with Miller staying in Houston.
Cornerback Bradley Roby will most likely test the waters of free agency, and he’s likely to demand a significant salary bump for his services. Chances are, he’ll be lured away.
Seriously Premature Draft Hunches
Offensive linemen. Depth and versatility along the line will be key to the Texans taking the next step. Yet again, Deshaun Watson needs more help. With neither a first or a third round selection, it’s anyone’s guess how Houston will grade out the big boys, but it’s a safer bet than gambling on the best remaining cornerback at the end of the second round. Alternately, they could look for their line help in free agency and expect to use that second-round selection on a running back, where they should still have some viable options, if they don’t love the idea of bringing back Miller or Hyde.
For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.