The Houston Texans come into this season on the heels of a dismal 2-14 season that saw them lose all 14 games in a row. As a fan, that was the bottom of the barrel. I mean, I sat through 1-15 in 2005, and that wasn’t as bad as this was. The problem was, the team seemed on the brink in some of the games. They either lost leads in the second half or came charging back time and again only to fall short. It didn’t matter if it was Matt Schaub sucking under centre or Case Keenum sucking under centre. They looked very little like the team that won the AFC South two years in a row, and the problem is that they looked very much like the team that won the AFC South two years in a row.
If you believe that quarterbacking and coaching were the root of the problem, well, probably you know something about football. Also, if you believe that, you have to admit that the Texans made some changes this year. They passed on the temptation of a premiere quarterback in the draft at first over-all, instead opting for Jadeveon Clowney, the no-brainer best player. Granted, the draft every year is a crap-shoot, and Clowney could be the next Aundray Bruce, but the consensus was, at least to my untrained ear, that Clowney was the guy.
Gary Kubiak was yanked from the sidelines before the season was over, with the reins handed to Wade Phillips to close out the season. Unfortunately for him and his head-coaching prospects, the season finished the way it was trending, and the Texans did not opt to bring him back. Instead, the Texans chose Bill O’Brien, an offensive-minded disciple from the Bill Bellicheck school of coaching. He led Penn State in the wake of the Paterno debacle, and did very well. Beyond that, I know very little about the man they call OB.
Without an offensive coordinator, I have to wonder if O’Brien has bitten off more than he can chew. He’s going to call his own plays, and manage to oversee the entire operation for the team in his first year as a head coach. I find that to be a very ambitious goal. But he’s brought in guys that he presumably trusts to be position coaches, and we’ll see the way that goes,
At defensive coordinator, I’ve been an admirer of Romeo Crennel for some time. I won’t pretend that his time in Cleveland didn’t happen, but I consider that to be a learning experience for him. He’s a great defensive coordinator, but a terrible head coach. If he holds on to that, he should be fine. Also, Cleveland since their reincarnation have been nothing more than a black hole for promising quarterbacks and good linebackers.
At quarterback, any suggestion that it might be the same-old, same-old was banished when Matt Schaub, he of the pick-six, and his early understudy, T.J. Yates were sent out of town in trades.
Still, the quarterbacks the team trotted out in the preseason were a backpack full of mediocre. I think they realized just how dire the situation was when they traded a conditional sixth/seventh-round pick to New England for Ryan Mallet. He joins Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tom Savage on a depth chart. I know a couple things about Mallet from my less-than-extensive googling: He can throw 80 yards, and he drinks a lot. Maybe he’s gotten that second one under control, and if so, I laud his newfound maturity. I hope that kind of decision-making keeps him from throwing a touchdown to the other team each and every game. I know some things about Fitzpatrick, too. During the 1-15 season, he rolled over the Texans as a member of the Rams. I also know he was beat out of a starting position in Buffalo by a EJ Manuel, who is the current regime’s draft pick.
Fitzpatrick did not impress in camp, and I predict that if Mallet learns the playbook, something that should be a given, since he’s a playing product of the same coaching tree, he’ll be starting by week 5. If the Texans didn’t have the receiving weapons they do, I would not give this group any chance of putting up numbers.
At running back, Arian Foster returns. At least until he gets hurt. If and when he does, Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes, and Ronnie Brown — yes, that Ronnie Brown — will be there to back him up. Between the mileage on Foster, his injuries, and a system change that will impact the work that the offensive line does, I’ve got a bad feeling about the running game this year.
At fullback, Jay Prosch seems to do what fullbacks should do, which is block. Can he catch? I don’t care. I want him to open holes. Anything he grabs out of the backfield should be a ten-yard penalty if it’s noticed.
Which means that the wide receivers should be stellar. Right? I mean, Father Time can’t catch up on Andre Johnson this year, right? And his hold-out means that he should be well-rested. Deandre Hopkins should be ready to come into his own. He doesn’t drop much — at least not much that makes it to him. Devier Posey is a bit more of a mystery to me, but he’s made the team again, and he looked not too bad in the preseason, so we’ll see what they can get out of him. Keshawn Martin has to be on his last legs. I mean, as a receiver he’s done very little to impress me, at least. As a returner, he’s a little better than solid, when the team can manage to avoid a penalty, which isn’t very often. Finally, they have another guy, a young guy, named Johnson. Damaris Johnson, to be more precise. We’ll see what he brings to the bench, because I doubt he’ll get much playing time.
Tight end caught a little bit of a makeover. Owen Daniels was allowed to leave, which surprised me. When he’s healthy, he is open. But Garrett Graham is younger, probably cheaper, and doesn’t have as much surgically repaired tissue. Behind him, I’m a little surprised to see that C.J. Fiedorowicz has passed Ryan Griffin. I wonder if he’s one of those earth-moving blocking types. I like them, but I hope it doesn’t cut into Griffin’s playing time too much. I liked the way he ran routes last year.
Chris Myers returns at centre, and I can only hope that he stays healthy. He’s been a good pickup from the Broncos since he arrived, and I have nothing but dread at the idea of Ben Jones filling in.
Speaking of Jones, he starts at guard ahead of Xavier Su’a-Filo, who was supposed to be the guy, but apparently his pass protection wasn’t up to snuff. I’m hoping he’ll be able to take over soon. On the other side, Brandon Brooks brings his mammoth 6’5″ 335 pound frame to the line. Hopefully he’ll be able to hold up.
On the edge, Duane Brown is the best offensive lineman the Texans have. Run or pass, he tends to dominate. Jeff Adams is his understudy. I know nothing about him. On the right side, Derek Newton has beaten out Tyson Clabo. This worries me. I remember Newton last year, and it didn’t look good. If he’s better than the guy who’s supposed to replace him, the Texans will probably want to start looking at mobile quarterbacks because that’s the only way they’re going to be able to get a pass off after the first three quarterbacks have been declared legally dead.
It seems that Randy Bullock, the incumbent kicker, has beaten out whatever fresh-faced loser he was facing in camp, so he can continue to miss the kicks when it matters. He has an iron leg and can kick it a ton, but you can practically see the Archie-Comics-esque sweat drops flying from his head when the game’s on the line. We’ll see if he’s overcome his psychoses from last year when the bullets start flying for real. Until then, they’d better have whatsisface from the preseason on speed dial.
Given that this is a rebuilding year, I’ll accept that the team isn’t going to do too well. The quarterbacks are not great, the running situation scares me, and the main receiving threat is almost ready to collect social security. There are some bright spots — Arian Foster could have a resurgence and stay healthy. Johnson could sip once more from philosopher’s stone or whatever, and the late addition of Ryan Mallet could be just what the team needs — later on. The offensive line is really concerning to me, with a couple of re-treads and some unknowns paired with a rock-solid left tackle and centre. With all this to consider, I have absolutely no idea how things will work out offensively for the Texans, but if I had to guess, I’d say the passing game will take awhile to gel, and the running game will suffer until they can start to make some teams guess instead of just stacking the box all game.
Tomorrow, I’ll look at the defense, unless I forget or just don’t feel like it.