By Euan De Ste Croix (@podcastTexans)
The NFL season is over which means 2 things, 1 – it’s time to be sad for a few months until the NFL Draft and 2 – You now have a lot of time on your hands.
In this series of articles, we try and take care of number 2.
entering the season
Another Houston Texans season has come and gone with an all too familiar ending. A disappointing play-off loss and not for the first time, a resounding defeat to Kansas City. This was to be the final act for the players, prior to clearing out their lockers, at NRG stadium.
In July, the Texans decided against having a GM, when Brian’s Gaine was fired and the team were heavily scrutinised for the investment given in trade deals involving Laremy Tunsil & Kenny Stills coming in from the Dolphins. Conversely, Jadeveon Clowney was sent to Seattle for a cents on the dollar type of value, in a seemingly emotive move by O’Brien.
A mixture of an ageing defensive co-ordinator and erosion of defensive talent contributed to the biggest concerns of this team. The lack of pass rush, mixed with a continuously revolving personnel in the secondary would typically not provide a formula for effective defence. A historical shift in identity for a team which has been lead by it’s defensive stars.
during the season
The biggest change for team was beating the supposed upper echelon teams with wins against Kansas City and New England contributing to a 10-6 record and were even afforded the luxury of resting their starters for week 17 (for those with an interest in to patterns, go and check out the Houston win loss sequence this season).
This offence lead by Deshaun Watson, at times, looked capable of beating anyone. However, two regrettable off-days against Carolina and Denver, both at home, lead to much frustration amongst the fan base. O’Brien was caught on camera amidst a heated exchange with a fan, leaving the field in the latter, which summed up the frustration levels amongst the support.
Will Fuller’s absence towards the back end of the season again was a sore miss for the Texans. Fuller is a true game changer on offence and the Texans looked one dimensional without him on the field. The offensive improvement were equalised by the fading talent and injuries to their defence. Which ultimately left them cursing what could have been, if an automatic seed had been grasped, for a consecutive season.
In the Wildcard game they were reliant on a monumental comeback form Watson against the Buffalo Bills being. Acrobatic heroics from Watson we’re required, coupled with a John Allen implosion to sneak an overtime win. The divisional match up, reversed the roles, where the Texans, inexcusably threw away a 24point lead. As they were on the receiving end of an offensive schooling by Andy Reid and Patrick Mahommes.
Some players of note, Carlos Hyde had a bounceback season, rushing for over a 1000 yards, a career first, after bouncing around multiple rosters in the past few seasons. Duke Johnson was third in targets and provided a complementary piece to this offence. Both 1st and 2nd round picks Tytus Howard and Max Sharping had stellar rookie seasons to build upon and solidified the line in front of their quarterback.
On defence, Whitney Mercilius was able to put together 7.5 sacks and 2 interception on the season. The former Illinois, first round pick was rewarded with his second contract extension, despite his age. Jacob Martin off the edge has a great deal of potential if he can develop as a speed rusher. Zack Cunningham lead the team in tackles yet again and is perhaps their most important piece in that unit.
After falling substantially short, it would seem changes to the coaching staff would likely follow. The loss of Jadeveon Clowney, left a big hole in the front seven which will be priority number one to address. There’s also issues with the personnel in the secondary left the Texans finishing 28th in defensive efficiency and in need of major upgrades. In his maiden season as defensive co-ordinator, will face a sizeable challenge to turn this unit around.
The biggest talking point this off-season will be the growing influence of coach Bill O’Brien. He as de facto-GM made major plays to add to the offence and the cornerback positions. This then lead to relinquishing draft picks but the teams record regressed and looked more than short of being genuine contenders in the playoffs. Long time cap guru Chris Olsen was let go just weeks after the season, with further changes in offing for the front office and its unquiet structure, centred around O’Brien.
Another AFC South title is a modest achievement based on the draft capital expended. With many key players requiring extensions (Tunsil, Watson, Cunningham & Fuller) this off season, it will likely consume much of their cap space. The ability for Texans to acquire players cable of generating a pass rush and improving depth on Offence may not be an easy task, especially considering the lack of draft capital over the next few years in the early rounds.
As we stand today, the fan base is growing restless with Bill O’Brien who will need to build a roster capable of a top AFC seed and a deep play-off run if they are to be appeased.