2017 Houston Texans Preview
With the second team in the AFC South, I will be doing the Houston Texans who have GM Rick Smith and head coach Bill O'Brien this season. Last year, Houston's defense was the key to them winning the division, and that was without superstar JJ Watt. This season, they added who they hope to be the franchise quarterback in DeShaun Watson to the team via the draft, and if he turns out okay, they will win the south again.
To start, they traded up to get Watson, and they still had five picks in the first four rounds. In other words, they didn't lose too much to get him. Watson is what the Texans hope is the answer at the QB position, as they have never really had a great quarterback (Matt Schaub was decent). They also brought in OLB Zach Cunningham to replace John Simon in round two, and RB D'onta Foreman to give the backfield a three-headed monster. The most notable late-round selection was DT Carlos Watkins from Clemson.
Usually this spot belongs to the Green Bay Packers, but this season Houston did almost nothing via the free agent market. They re-signed tight end Ryan Griffin, and brought in nobody from another team.
To start, they lost CB AJ Bouye to rival Jacksonville, but I think Houston is comfortable with Jonathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson and Kevin Johnson at that position. They also lost OLB John Simon and S Quintin Demps, but they both have replacements ready. They also have a few free agents left who are unsigned, most notably Vince Wilfork, but ultimately Houston hasn't lost a lot. They basically have the same team as last year, plus DeShaun Watson.
The pass rush remains the strongest position on Houston, and when JJ Watt went down, Jadaveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus stepped up big time. Throw Zach Cunningham into the mix and you have yourself a dynamic pass rush surrounding Watt, and basically making a double team on him a mistake. Somebody will get to the QB on most third downs.
I think the group of receivers the Texans have is not as good as it can be, so I will go with pass catchers. Tight ends are especially the weak link in Houston, and with all that DeAndre Hopkins has shown he can do, Houston doesn't really have a great group of receivers.
FIVE MOST IMPORTANT PLAYERS TO THE TEXANS' SUCCESS
QB DeShaun Watson, RB Lamar Miller, WR DeAndre Hopkins, DE JJ Watt, DE Jadaveon Clowney
I don't care if Tom Savage starts game one, because Watson will be playing at some point this season. Watson is the key to the offense, and has the chance to become the first great QB in Houston. If that is to happen, Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins must take the pressure off him, in different ways. Lamar Miller must be the key in establishing a run game, and Hopkins must act like a number one receiver again. As far as the defense is concerned, a return of the near-MVP JJ Watt is vital to putting them over the top, and a version of Clowney that shows why he was the first selection in his draft class is important too.
I believe in Watson, and I believe in the pass rush in Houston. There is a good chance that Houston's record won't be worthy of what the team really is, but this team should make the postseason and be a real contender for a Super Bowl. This team is finally ready to not only win the division, but perhaps win the AFC. They could also easily go 8-8, it mostly depends on DeShaun Watson.