The Houston Texans closed their season without a playoff loss to the New England Patriots in a summary of the whole year. The defense played great and kept the team competitive, while the offense did the bare minimum and it cost them. But not everything was a downer for this year. The team won their division for a 2nd straight season and the defense rose to number one in the rankings. There just as many ups as there were downs.
The Emergence of the Defense
While many people agonized over the production of the offense, the Texans’ defense became a top ranked unit in the league. Some of this can be thanks in part to to former number one overall pick, defensive end/linebacker Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney has been plagued with injuries for most of his career, which has kept him on the sideline for the most part. However, as defensive end J.J. Watt went down, it opened up the opportunity for a healthy Clowney to enjoy his first ever pro bowl season. In addition to Clowney, linebacker Whitney Mercilus had his coming out party as well and also earned a trip to the pro bowl. The secondary was on point despite the various injuries that happened, including to safety Quentin Demps, who missed the last 2 playoff games.
Next season, the defense will be even more stacked as they start the year healthy. Watt will be recovered from his back surgery and join Clowney on the defensive line. Cornerback Kevin Johnson will also make his return and aid the secondary. Considering the possibilities that are stacking up right now, the defense could remain as one league’s elite units.
The Offense is Under Review
The offense just did not have a great year this season and there is no other way to get around it. After signing quarterback Brock Osweiler to a huge contract in the offseason, so many expectations had after believing the infamous QB situation was solved. However, that was not the case at all. The unit finished 29th in points and yards, especially in passing. That is not something you want to hear about when giving a free agent QB $72 million. But more on that in a few. The best thing to come out of the offense was the ground game, which finished 8th in the league. The team signed former Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller in the offseason and he proved to be worth it. Miller became a 1,000 yard rusher this year. That was difficult to garner up considering the injuries that the offensive line went through during the season.
The receiving group also shared in the ups and down sentiment. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins looked to have a promising season going forward but finished with the worst numbers of his career. Rookie wide receiver Will Fuller started to look promising, but drops throughout the year took away that excitement for him. The tight ends improved tremendously as they put up over 90 catches as a group this year and became reliable targets for Osweiler.
The offense had its moments to shine but it also had its moments that weren’t so polished. It is a unit that can stand to have some improvement going forward. But it has to solve one very issue that has plagued it for the longest time now…
When NFL fans think of Brock Osweiler this offseason, the number 72 will pop in their head automatically. As Osweiler struggled during the season, the criticism strengthened on why he was given a $72 million contract with very little starting experience and evaluation. Analysts have branded him as the worst free agent quarterback signing in NFL history, and the Texans have 3 more years of dealing with him. Some could argue that his performance this year (15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions) may have affected the way that Hopkins was able to produce this year and why his numbers were so low. Eventually, the coaches just got fed up and benched him for Tom Savage, who helped piece together a couple of wins before being sidelined with a concussion. That made a way for Brock to return and finish his year with a playoff win but a poor performance in the divisional round of the postseason against the Patriots.
There has been so much that has been said about Osweiler this past season as well as within the past few days. Without question, the Texans should still address the quarterback situation, but not to the extreme of cutting Osweiler, which so many of you have suggested. That would be fine if you had $25 million to spare ($19 million base salary for 2017 and $6 million roster bonus for 2018) but there are other ways. The primary route should be to open the position up for competition. Osweiler only has had one year learning the offense versus Savage, who has been in the system since coach Bill O’ Brien first arrived. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to draft somebody this year. Between now and the actual draft, there are going to be 20 different sure things coming out of college that play quarterback.
The Houston Texans have the potential to be better than what people perceive them to be. They have the playmakers on offense and defense. O’ Brien is a good coach, that might make some questionable playcalls here and there, but honestly no coach is perfect in that area, just really smart or lucky. This team has had some tough moments these past 3 seasons but Billy O has brought them through it. The fanbase needs to take a deep breath for a week after this year’s rollercoaster but get ready to ride the bulls on parade come 2017.