The Houston Texans finished the 2019 season with a disappointing loss against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Playoff game. The Cheifs would go on to win the Super Bowl game a few weeks later. Houston finished the regular season 10-6 and in first place in the AFC South. The Texans defeated the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card Playoff game and then ended their season with the divisional playoff game.
Houston started the offseason off with several signings during the free agency period and trading DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals. Houston signed contract extensions with offensive tackle Roderick Johnson, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, quarterback AJ McCarron, cornerbacks Bradley Roby and Phillip Gaines, wide receiver DeAndre Carter, tight end Darren Fells, linebacker Tyrell Adams and long snapper Jon Weeks. Also, the Texans signed Randall Cobb, slot receiver from the Dallas Cowboys, safety Jaylen Watkins from the Los Angeles Chargers, and Brett Qvale, the offensive tackle from the New York Jets.
The Texans continued to tweak the roster with the 2020 NFL Draft. In the second round, 40th overall pick, the Texans drafted defensive tackle, Ross Blacklock from Texas Christain University. In the third round, 90th overall defensive end Jonathan Greenard from Florida was drafted. With the 126th overall pick in the fourth round, the Texans took offensive tackle, Charlie Heck, from the University of North Carolina; and in the fifth round Isaiah Coulter, the wide receiver from Rhode Island was drafted.
Houston padded its offensive line during the draft to try and minimize the loss of Hopkins and even though Hopkins was an integral part of the Texans’ offensive line they have assembled an offensive line that can endure several different defense route options.
Deshaun Watson has thrived during his time with the Texans and Bill O’Brien‘s goal in the offseason was to give him enough help on all fronts to make sure he continues to thrive in the future. Houston is bringing back all five of its offensive line starters which include Laremy Tunsil, Max Scharping, Nick Marin, Zach Fulton, and Tytus Howard. Also, receivers Kenny Stills, Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, and Cobb are all speedy players with the ability to shift with little to no notice. One of Watson’s strongest qualities is his ability to throw deep passes and this group of receivers has the capabilities to keep up with Watson’s talent.
Texans’ veteran defensive end J.J. Watt will be back to take the lead of the defensive line this season after missing the last eight games last year due to a torn pectoral. Carlos Watkins, Brandon Dunn, Angelo Blackson, Charles Omenihu, and second-round draft pick, Blacklock will take to the field on the defensive line with Watt.
In addition to the defensive tackles and ends, the linebackers also will play an important part in this season’s defensive line. Bernardrick McKinney and Zach Cunningham will prove to be an explosive inside linebacking pair. Dylan Cole and Tyrell Adams will provide rotation opportunities within the inside linebackers. In the past, outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, has performed better when Watt is on the field, so with Watt making his return, Whitney will hopefully be more consistent in his play.
As mentioned above, the Texans re-signed Roby and Hargreaves after releasing Johnathan Joseph, while Lonnie Johnson has been working on strengthing his skillset in the offseason. Even though Houston released Tashaun Gipson following the draft, they are still in good shape with Michael Thomas, Watkins, Eric Murray, and Justin Reid.
QB (2) – Deshaun Watson, A.J. McCarron
The Texans and Watson are working towards a long term deal to keep him with the franchise for the majority, if not all, of his career, McCarron was re-signed to be the backup quarterback this offseason.
David Johnson comes over in the trade that sent Hopkins to Arizona. He is motivated to show he still has plenty left in the tank. Duke Johnson returns as the backup and a pass catching specialist.
WR (6) – Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller, Randall Cobb, Kenny Stills, Isaiah Coulter, DeAndre Carter
This unit shouldn’t have any surprises as the top five receivers are all locks to make the roster. With Carter penciled in as the kick and punt returner, his roster spot is pretty secured as well.
Fells is the veteran of the group joined by the three younger players. While Fells is solid, if former third-round pick Warring can step up his play this season, he can become the red zone threat the team needs.
After years of having one of the worst offensive lines in the league, the Texans have put together a solid group. Tunsil is now locked up long term while the Texans appear to have found two long term starters in the draft last year with Scharping and Howard. The depth isn’t great but suitable.
DL (6) – J.J. Watt, Ross Blacklock, Angelo Blackson, Charles Omenihu, Brandon Dunn, Carlos Watkins
Watt leads the unit that has high hopes after drafting Blacklock with their top selection. Omenihu had a solid rookie season and should continue to build off that success. As long as Watt stays healthy, the defensive line will be a problem for opposing teams.
After trading away Jadevon Clowney, many thought this unit would struggle. However, Mercilus picked up his play while the duo of Scarlett and Martin combined for seven sacks last season. Duke Ejiofor will miss the season after being placed on injured reserve and his loss is a big blow to this team.
Cunningham just got a massive contract extension and now looks to back up the money the team gave him. McKinney is one of the better run-stopping linebackers in the league while Cole is a solid reserve and plays a key role on special teams.
This unit doesn’t have a lot of star power but plenty of good players. The Texans have high hopes for Johnson this season and many around the league believe he could become the team’s top cornerback by the time the 2020 season is over.
SAF (4) – Justin Reid, Eric Murray, Jaylen Watkins, Michael Thomas
After sliding in the 2018 NFL Draft, Reid has been a star for the Texans. In two seasons, Reid has 166 total tackles and five interceptions. He leads an otherwise lackluster unit. Murray and Watkins will split time at the other safety spot while Thomas is one of the better special team’s players in the league.
No surprises with this unit. Both Anger and Fairbairn were impressive in their play last season while Weeks has been the team’s long snapper for several years now.
COVID (1) – Eddie Vanderdoes (DL)
In the past two years during the offseason, the Texans have made huge moves that have been frowned upon by fans and analysts, including trading Clowney and Hopkins, but controversy doesn’t stop O’Brien from doing what he thinks is best for his team in the long term. O’Brien doesn’t only center his attention on the current season, but the team’s future seasons as well. This youthful squad, if everything goes according to plan, could lead the Texans to the Super Bowl in their very near future.
Season Prediction: 11-5 and AFC South Champions.
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