NFL Preview Series: Houston Texans

Byron Dixon| BKD TV


 J.J. Watt is arguably the best player in the NFL considering he does just about everything on the defensive and as of last season the offensive side of the ball as well. He is just getting started, Watt is entering his prime at age 26 and still will be the leader for this Texans Franchise moving forward. Unfortunately, Houston’s best player on offense Arian Foster is going to miss the first part of the season with groin surgery which will not help this teams playoff chances.

While We Were Away: The Texans have to try their luck with either Ryan Mallett or Brian Hoyer. Head coach Bill O’Brien coached both when he was in New England. Mallett has the greater upside, and he looked pretty decent in his one, healthy start last year, he went 20-of-30 for 211 yards, two touchdowns and an interception against the Browns – before suffered a torn chest the following week that caused him to miss the rest of the season. Mallett has a tremendous arm, but the mental part of his game is severely lacking. Perhaps O’Brien, a quarterback guru, will help Mallett improve in that area. If not, Hoyer will get the nod. Hoyer was decent this past season until a multitude of factors – center Alex Mack’s injury, Josh Gordon’s return, which prompted Hoyer to force passes to the troubled wide-out – ultimately led to his benching. Hoyer is currently the favorite to start because his accuracy is superior, but things could change in the preseason. There were changes made elsewhere on offense, including the receiving corps. Andre Johnson is gone, but he showed some signs of slowing down and wasn’t the number one option any longer. DeAndre Hopkins took over that role with a 76-catch, 1,210-yard sophomore campaign despite playing with terrible quarterbacks. O’Brien called Hopkins one of the best wide-outs in the NFL, and the sky is the limit for the 23-year-old.

Houston also made one change up front. Long-time center Chris Myers was released this off-season because of financial reasons; he still played well, so he could be missed. The front line is anchored by stout left tackle Duane Brown, who surrendered only two sacks in 2014. Right tackle Derek Newton was re-signed this off-season to a contract worth more than it should have been. Newton is capable of blasting open huge running lanes, but he has major pass protection issues. Right guard Brandon Brooks doesn’t have that problem; he’s the second-best lineman Houston has behind Brown.

2015 Season Outlook: The big story concerning the Texans at this time last year was how dominant their front seven was going to be with J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney both rushing the quarterback at the same time. That never came to fruition, as Clowney barely played because of a knee injury but it looks as if this season he could be ready by the start of the season.Houston will at least be better against the run, which was an area in which it struggled in last year. There are two reasons for this. The first is the signing of Vince Wilfork, who will quite literally provide a massive upgrade at nose tackle. Wilfork turns 34 in November and has lost his pass-rushing ability, but he’s still very stout against the rush. Second, Houston managed to obtain Benardrick McKinney in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. McKinney will currently be an upgrade next to Brian Cushing, and he’ll ultimately replace Cushing as the team’s three-down linebacker.

The Texans have developed a pretty strong home-field advantage at Reliant Stadium in recent years. They were 18-7 as hosts in 2011, 2012 and 2014 if a Week 17 loss to the Titans in which the starters sat is excluded. The 2013 season should be discarded because it was an anomaly. Bill O’Brien needs to fix the special teams. This area was a mess under Gary Kubiak, and it continued to be that way in 2014. Houston was out gained by 6.3 yards on punts and 4.9 yards on kickoffs. Randy Bullock, a fifth-round pick in 2012, missed several clutch kicks early during the 2013 campaign. He was nearly exiled from Houston, but he eventually found his way. He was a steady 30-of-35 this past season, including 4-of-5 from 50-plus. Shane Lechler was once known as one of the NFL’s best punters, but he was just 22nd in net yardage last season.


2015 Record: 8-8 

When looking at this team knowing they have the stellar play of J.J. Watt, that can only take them but so far. This team has various questions at the QB position and is going to be without their best offensive player Arian Foster for at the first half of the season. Playing in a relatively weak division outside of the Colts they are the second best team but a slow start could be in order and they could finish strong in December and January but it could be a little to late.


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