It’s been an interesting last few years for the Houston Texans. Everyone knows the situation around Deshaun Watson, and with it, came very low expectations in 2021. While those expectations were met, there were plenty of bright spots surrounding what many believed to be the worst roster in the league. However, the Texans fired David Culley earlier today after just one season. The latest report is New England Patriots linebackers coach, Jerod Mayo, could end up replacing Culley. Now, the Texans look forward to adding more talented youth to the club and continuously improving along with their rebuild.
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What Went Right
A successful tanking season. When teams are in the rebuilding business, it’s best for them to stay competitive but still lose. The Texans did this pretty well this year. In losses, Houston played teams like the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, and Tennessee Titans very close. This wasn’t even the pinnacle, however. The Texans landed some big-time upsets this year: one over Tennessee and one over the Los Angeles Chargers. The potential for this team is there, and with their draft capital restored, they should hit this potential in the next few years.
What Went Wrong
The front-seven. Houston’s defensive line was awful this season. They ranked in the bottom five in the NFL in sacks and were the second-worst run defending team besides the Pittsburgh Steelers. The good news, though, is that there’s some youth here. 2020 second-round pick Ross Blacklock has the potential to break out and 2021 sixth-rounder Roy Lopez is still a young guy in development. The Texans may still need to hit the free-agent market for help on the front-seven but all hope is not lost after an abysmal performance this season.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Brandin Cooks
Cooks has now led the Texans in receiving yards for the past two seasons and was a key asset for Davis Mills‘ rookie year. Many could argue Mills should be team MVP but he didn’t have a good start to the season, which cost him. Cooks now can hit free agency but Houston needs to bring him back to bridge guys like Nico Collins to the forefront while Cooks brings that veteran leadership.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Davis Mills
In comes Mills. He had a strange pre-draft process, as scouts didn’t like his experience and inability to make the big play. Still, Mills found himself at the 67th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Mills proceeded to have a very interesting year, to say the least. He took over the starting job after Tyrod Taylor and things started out rough. In Mills’ first three games, he didn’t eclipse 170 yards in any.
He finally got it together in his fourth game against New England, where he threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns. From there, Mills kept his momentum and showed promise the whole way. He finished the season with 2,664 yards, 16 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a completion rate of 66.8%. Overall, it was a great year for the rookie who is looking to keep his starting spot come 2022.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Roy Lopez
Due to the lack of draft capital Houston had last season, this came down to their two picks on defense: Garret Wallow and Lopez. Both had limited reps over the year, so we took the one who showed the most promise. While Wallow did have a big game against the Jacksonville Jaguars a while back, he only got meaningful snaps in seven games. Lopez appeared in 16 and got on the stat sheet in 12 of them. He produces consistent numbers and should see his snaps ascend next year.
Biggest Surprise – Nico Collins
This pick could very well be Mills but for variety’s sake let’s go with Collins. Collins, another rookie, was regarded as an underrated Day 2 player by most and this was accurate. The third-round pick was second on the team in receiving yards with 446. Collins also brought in 33 catches and added a touchdown to his name. The 6’4″ receiver proved to be an excellent physical, jump ball, guy to compliment Cooks’ field-stretching play and should continue to develop as he goes into next season.
Biggest Disappointment – David Johnson
Coming off a 2020 season where he had 691 yards and six touchdowns, the Texans gave Johnson a one-year, $5 million contract. Johnson followed that up with a horrible 2021 season. Johnson got carries in almost every game, but never eclipsed 40 yards and never got a touchdown. Overall, it was clearly a rough season for Johnson and it would be surprising if he gets anything more than the veteran’s minimum in free agency.
One Burning Question
What Happens at Quarterback?
Before the 2021 NFL season began, everyone believed that the Texans would select a quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft. Obviously, they will be trading Watson but Mills has played very well and might have the starting spot on lock. On top of that, selecting a quarterback in this year’s draft, especially at pick three, would be quite the reach. The Texans should keep Mills as the starter for next year, but it will be fun to see what unfolds and the draft capital they get for Watson.
Follow Charlie Parent on Twitter @Charlie_Parent
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