The Houston Texans had a horrible season last year, that saw the team go just 2-14. The coaching staff has been overhauled. The Texans had 10 draft selections in the 2014 draft and a host of decent free agent acquisitions that are expected to bring a reversal in fortunes.
After winning back-to-back AFC titles in 2012 and 2013, the Texans are eager to return to such competitiveness. Unfortunately, that seems like a distant dream to Texans fans.
Odds to win Super Bowl: 66/1
Odds to win AFC: 28/1
Odds to win AFC South: +300
Betting Odds courtesy of Bovada
New head coach Bill O’Brien and QB coach George Godsey will lead an offense that has no coordinator. Ryan Fitzpatrick will be tutoring rookie Tom Savage until he’s ready to lead an offense. With the lack of an offensive coordinator, it may be difficult for Savage to transition soon. The Texans typically run a lot of sets with no fullback and multiple TEs, but we’ll see if O’Brien continues that or not.
Fitzpatrick certainly leaves some to be desired. He’s averaged 21.2 TDs to 16.5 INTs over the past four seasons, hardly a good ratio by anyone’s measure. The Texans are hoping some kind of drastic turnaround from Fitzpatrick, but there’s not real good reason to expect it. He has the tools, but has historically made poor decisions, which is all the more perplexing given his off-field smarts.
Arian Foster’s health is crucial. He had back surgery. The Texans are hoping he returns to the dominance he displayed in 2012. He’s a great red zone option and is still just 28 years old, two years away from the witching hour for runningbacks. Expect O’Brien to limit his carries somewhat in the hopes of keeping him healthy (and prolonging his NFL career).
Andre Brown will be the No. 2 back, and he’s averaged 4.1 yards per carry over career. He’s been injury plagued, though, which doesn’t bode well given that Foster is trying to return to form, too.
Andre Johnson just turned 32, but had a great year last season with 109 receptions, 1,407 yards and 5 TDs. Johnson has been double teamed a good bit due to the Texans’ lack of quality receivers. DeAndre Hopkins emerged as a solid threat, though, with 52 receptions for 802 yards last season. He’ll improve on those numbers this year, which will only help Johnson and the Texans offense overall. Keshawn Martin and DeVier Posey add depth.
The Texans also have three quality TEs, including Garett Graham and Ryan Griffin. Both are good in mid-distance, while C.J. Fiedorowicz will be a premier blocker who can also catch his fair share of catches.
The OL has four starters back from a line that didn’t perform well last season. The OL may look a lot better, though, with some healthy quality running backs, but as noted, that is hardly a guarantee given that the top two backs have battled injuries. The line will no longer play strictly zone, but will employ more man coverage this year. Line coach Paul Dunn should be able to better utilize the talents of this line, but it will still be average at best.
Romeo Crennel will use a 3-4, but it’s not the same as the one Wade Phillips used last season. Crennel has five Super Bowl rings under his belt, and his hiring should go a long ways towards improving a defense badly in need of it. The LBs and linemen are too talented not to get a decent defense out of it.
J.J. Watt is one such player who will likely benefit from Crennel. Watt will be in motion more still, and he’ll rush a lot of third downs, something he’s been successful at in the past. Third round draft pick Louis Nix III is a beast physically (331 pounds) and he may be able to play tackle if he loses a little of that massive frame. The right end will be occupied by Jeoffery Pagan and Jared Crick, but both are not really ideal for the two-gap style that Crennel will implement.
The biggest boost for the Texans defensively will come at LB where No. 1 overall draft selection Jadeveon Clowney will make a tremendous difference, from day one. He’s going to be one of the best pass rushers in the NFL sooner than later. Whitney Mercilus will move to the strong side so that Clowney can do what he does best at his natural position.
Brooks Reed is a capable sacker but his real value comes in stopping the run. Brian Cushing must stay healthy. These four, though, will be among the best linebacking groups in the NFL this season, barring some bizarre twist of fate that sees Clowney be a bust (Does anyone think that’s even possible?).
The Texans return CBs Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson. Joseph usually covers the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver. He picks up far too many penalties and doesn’t make many big plays, but is solid in man coverage. The CB position though lacks depth beyond Joseph and Jackson. Brandon Harris needs to fulfill his potential, and A.J. Bouye needs to remain healthy or the Texans are going to be even thinner here. Strong safety D.J. Swearinger is a very hard hitter, but not so great at coverage. Eddie Pleasant also plays strong safety but will play a more prominent role in special teams.
The coverage and return units are nearly garbage for Houston. Shane Lechler is a premier punter, though. Randy Bullock hit just 26-of-35 on FGs last season, but four misses came from beyond 50 yards. Kickoff and punt coverage was a huge issue for the Texans last season, though, rendering the team with horrible field position regularly. Keshawn Martin is a good option for kickoff returns, as he averaged 26.3 yards per return last season.
It’s unreasonable to expect this Texans team to jump in a time machine and become the AFC championship caliber team it was just two seasons ago. With a complete coaching overhaul, it’s nearly impossible by most’s reckonings. Winning close games would go a long way towards trying to at least reach .500, though, but with a subpar quarterback who’s required to make more decisions than the typical QB, even .500 seems like a longshot. Bovada evidenced this by the +300 odds for Houston winning the AFC South.