Tressa Furry previews the Texans’ upcoming season by taking a look at their current roster and shares her season predictions for the Houston franchise.
The Houston Texans won the AFC South in 2019, and powered their way into the postseason, almost pulling off the upset against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional game last season. That team still had DeAndre Hopkins. Not anymore!
There’s been plenty of changes to the Texans this offseason, as Bill O’Brien’s squad looks to avoid postseason misfortune in 2020. However, with an offense now designed for QB Deshaun Watson to carry his back on, and a defense that relies on the health of JJ Watt, it’s playing Russian Roulette for chances on a postseason return.
Are the Texans as doomed as it seems? Will they be able to keep up with the Colts and Titans in the AFC South? Let’s break down the 2020 Houston Texans.
DeShaun Watson is the best quarterback in the AFC South. There’s no doubt about it. We’ve seen the guy pop his eye out, put it back in, and throw for a touchdown like it’s nothing. We notice the pure athleticism and clutch plays that elevate the Houston offense, especially with weapons like DeAndre Hopkins (oh wait).
We also saw Watson get sacked 55 times in 2019 and 62 times in 2018, but that’s another story.
What helps Watson be an elite quarterback for the Texans is how the team had designed a tight offensive line in 2019 that not only reduced the amount of sacks on Watson, but enabled him to move out of the pocket and nail down his targets. The Houston offense kept them in the playoffs. But that doesn’t mean Watson is flawless.
Watson lacks practicality in his football arsenal. He sometimes plays as if he aims to appear on the SportsCenter Top 10 Plays rather than win football games. This is his 4th season and he’s capable of carrying a team to the Super Bowl. This little refinement — playing smarter while utilizing his skill set — will put him on top.
Okay, fine, let’s talk about the DeAndre Hopkins trade.
I understand if you can’t keep a huge talent on a team because of money. Using that rationale isn’t unwise. But to trade a player like Hopkins for David Johnson, a 2nd-round pick next year, and a 4th-round pick the year after to the hapless Arizona Cardinals? What the hell?
Like many things with the Texans, I don’t get how Bill O’Brien operates. His head coaching style is like a partner that exerts the bare minimum of effort towards a relationship to keep it afloat. That’s fine for you, but deep down, you know you want better. The Texans and their fans want better — that Super Bowl championship. Not just another trip to the playoffs to keep me content.
Many fans have yet to see how losing Hopkins is going to blow the Houston offense, because let’s face it: it’s a major loss. Adding Randall Cobb, once a great wide receiver for the Packers, is fine. However, Cobb is getting up there in age and he’s not going to be the explosive WR the Texans need. There’s Brandin Cooks, who will likely be one of Watson’s top targets. Kenny Stills is another solid receiver that came up big in 2019 after being traded from Miami (already an upgrade).
While having Hopkins depart is discouraging, the offense should keep the Texans competitive this season. There’s bigger worries with this team.
Here’s the bigger worries! Remember when JJ Watt missed half the season due to a pectoral injury? To say that the Texans defense got worse without him is an understatement — they ended up nearly last in the league in every category. The most alarming stat is without Watt, the Texans gave up 1.3 more yards per pass attempt, which Patrick Mahomes took full advantage of during the playoffs against them.
The pass defense is the Achilles heel for the Texans, and they tried to fix it in the draft this season. DT Ross Blacklock is the big selection this year for the Texans, and the team has some high hopes for him.
The likes of Whitney Mercilus, Zach Cunningham, and Justin Reid should make improvements for the defense this season if there’s a chance Watt will get injured again, as he is injury prone. Don’t expect them to be 28th in the league again, but it’s hard to defend them as a top 10 defense at all.
Houston’s special teams unit is just above mediocre, but their kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn earned them 100 points last season. Punter Brian Anger helped the Texans lead the NFL last season with the least amount of yards given up on punt returns (3.4).
COVID-19 Opt Outs
The only opt-out for COVID-19 from the Texans is DT Eddie Vanderdoes. The Texans boast one of the safest protocols for COVID-19 in the league, and they’re the only team in the AFC South not to have a positive COVID-19 case. Giving credit where credit is due.
Bets to Look Out For
Houston fares at a +5000 chance to win the Super Bowl. From the looks of it, the Texans will be lucky to make the playoffs this season. The offense has gotten worse with the loss of DeAndre Hopkins, the defense is still too shaky, and Bill O’Brien can barely be trusted.
What doesn’t help in the Texans favor is their schedule, ranked the 8th toughest in the league this season. I expect them to beat Jacksonville both times this season, and steal one home game from the Colts this season. Houston will struggle to start as they face the Chiefs and Ravens in their first two games. Their other victories will likely come against the Steelers, Patriots, Browns and Bengals. I’m going with the under win total.