The State Of The Franchise series focuses on the division winners in the AFC South last season, the Houston Texans.
It was not pretty by any means but the Houston Texans earned the right to be called division champions last season. The feeling of being division champs was a little more grand than normal despite the season’s shortcomings. Horrendous play came from their big money quarterback. The front office battled constant rumors of the termination of their head coach at the end of the season. The team’s star player was out for the season after just three games. Yet, despite all of that, the Texans were playoff-bound this past season. Now the Texans also have a little momentum going into 2017 although they still have a massive question mark waiting to be answered. Let’s analyze the Houston Texans for the approaching season.
Year four in the head coaching regime of Bill O’Brien is a critical one. Even though he has two division titles in his three seasons as coach, he also has three consecutive seasons of 9-7 records. Getting to double-digit wins is possible with the talent on the team but of course, it all comes down to coaching. The Texans have a new defensive coordinator in place and it is no other than Mike Vrabel. The longtime New England Patriot enters his first season as DC and with his work presenting itself on the field, it appears to be a great choice. Assistant head coach Romeo Crennel is the veteran voice on the coaching staff and maintains a consultant-like approach. The Texans even went as far as adding former Patriot receiver Wes Welker as an assistant coach. An interesting maneuver to say the least.
The Texans rewarded quarterback Brock Osweiler with a 4-year deal worth $72 million dollars last offseason. Only to see the 6’7 quarterback shipped out of town after his one and only season in Houston. Osweiler only completed 59% of his passes for 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions and was nowhere near what the Texans thought they were getting. Backup Tom Savage is now listed as the starter but that is likely to change by the time the draft rolls around. The mediocrity at QB affected leading receiver DeAndre Hopkins, despite the fact he produced a season with 954 yards and four touchdown catches. Second-year receiver Will Fuller made a few plays during his rookie season but even he was slowed a little because of QB play.
Running back Lamar Miller gave the team a quality season with 1,073 rushing yards and five touchdowns along with 31 catches. The team also got steady play out of their offensive line but it will be interesting to see if the Texans improve at the guard position. Left tackle Duane Brown is the rock of the group. He will also be counted on even more with a new face at quarterback.
Star defensive lineman J.J Watt only gave the Texans three games of services this season thanks to a back injury. Watt at 100% can fuel this very good Texans defense even more. The unit was good enough to get to 1st overall in total defense and some of that was attest to the improved play of Jadaveon Clowney. The athletic pass rusher posted 40 tackles and six sacks with the end result being a Pro Bowl berth. His progression along with the presence of Watt on the field has Vrabel and the defensive coaching staff anxious in 2017.
Linebacker Whitney Mercilus has been overshadowed by his defensive teammates but he was also stellar last season. He led the team in sacks with 7.5 and even threw in four fumble recoveries to boot. The team lost cornerback A.J. Bouye in free agency to division foe Jacksonville, but there are a pair of veteran corners in place in Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph.
O’Brien may have given a little magical potion to the team to still come away with a playoff group despite the circumstances. For his job security, O’Brien could not afford to enter the season with Osweiler as quarterback. It may have been costly to an extent but the team had to make a change at the position. Getting rid of Osweiler was a little unexpected but understandable as well.
At the skill positions, the Texans have the necessary talent. A fast wide receiver corp mixed with a versatile back and the league’s #1 defense can win a few games. All eyes are on the QB spot this offseason. What the team decides to do there may determine whether or not the Texans are playoff-bound this season. Now that Clowney has tasted success, it is vital that he continues to grow even with Watt on the field. The potential is there for the duo. They could very well be the most devastating combo of defensive lineman in the NFL. Settle quarterback position the right way and the Texans may find themselves in playoff land once again.