2019 NFL Season Preview- Houston Texans
With a healthy roster, the Texans bounced back from a rough 2017.
After an 0-3 start to the year, Houston won 11 of their final 13 to win the AFC South championship and set a franchise record 9 consecutive wins that also broke the NFL record for most consecutive wins after starting 0-3. The Texans lost in the Wildcard Round of the playoffs, 21–7 to divisional rival Indianapolis.
The offense was fairly steady as they ended the year in the middle of the pack in points per game and yards per game. Running back Alfred Blue played in every game and finished with just under 500 yards and two touchdowns. D'Onta Foreman spent most of the year on the PUP list while he was recovering from a torn Achilles. Tight end Ryan Griffin went into the year as the starter, but wasn't much of a factor. The receiving corps dealt with injuries. Wide receiver Will Fuller tore his ACL midseason and Demaryius Thomas, who the team traded for after Fuller went down, tore his Achilles by season's end. The offensive line was among the worst in football as they gave up 62 sacks on the season.
The defensive line was the strength of the defense. Defensive end DJ Reader has continually shown versatility and an ability to anchor the line since Vince Wilfork retired. The strength of the linebackers is what makes the defense have one of the best front sevens in football. Inside linebacker Zach Cunningham continues to grow as one of the best young backers in the league. Dylan Cole also shows promise, but he has been injured over the last two seasons. Outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus was almost a non factor with just four sacks. The secondary was the glaring weakness with the defense. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph was still serviceable at age 34 and Kareem Jackson was having an All-Pro season at safety before switching back to corner after Aaron Colvin was injured.
The special teams drastically improved from last season. Kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn had a Pro Bowl caliber season making 88.1% of his field goals. Punter Trevor Daniel made the team forget about Shane Lechler by finishing second in the league for punts inside the 20. Deandre Carter was a solid pickup and brought life to the return game.
The team had six Pro Bowlers in quarterback Deshaun Watson, running back Lamar Miller, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, defensive end JJ Watt, outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, and inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney while Hopkins and Watt were also named first team All-Pro. Watson came back strong after tearing his ACL as a rookie, finishing with 4,165 passing yards and 31 total touchdowns. Miller finished with just under 1,000 yards and five touchdowns, but struggled to find running lanes and make defenders miss in the open field. Hopkins was phenomenal with 115 receptions for 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns without any drops. Watt was in the running for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year and finished with 16 sacks and a league leading seven forced fumbles. Clowney proved his value to the defense with nine sacks and a fumble recovery touchdown. McKinney is the leader of the defense and finished with 105 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception.
The rookie class was very productive despite not having a first or second round pick. Safety Justin Reid was a difference maker with 88 tackles, 10 passes defended, three interceptions, and a touchdown. Tackle Martinas Rankin struggled on the outside and will likely be moved to guard. Tight end Jordan Akins was a good receiving threat and played H-back when needed. Wide receiver Keke Coutee has playmaking ability, but his rookie year was derailed by injuries. Outside linebacker Duke Ejiofor showed good pass rushing ability as a reserve. Tight end Jordan Thomas looks to be the team's starting tight end of the future, but has to improve his run blocking.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
With the disappointing end to the 11-5 season, head coach Bill O'Brien has to keep the team as he enters his sixth season with the team and is under contract through the 2022 season. This will first full season without the ownership of Bob McNair who died last season. McNair's wife Janice and son D. Cal gained majority ownership of the team.
After the season, it was announced that O'Brien would no longer be the offensive play caller. The team then promoted tight ends coach Tim Kelly to be the new offensive coordinator.
On June 7, the Texans fired General Manager Brian Gaine after only one season. Chris Olsen was named the interim general manager for the 2019 season.
Notable Additions- QB AJ McCarron, RB Duke Johnson, RB Taiwan Jones, TE Darren Fells, T Matt Kalil, CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun, CB Bradley Roby, S Tashaun Gipson, S Tyvis Powell, P Brian Anger
Notable Departures- QB Brandon Weeden, RB D'Onta Foreman, RB Alfred Blue, WR Demaryius Thomas, TE Ryan Griffin, CB Kareem Jackson, CB Shareece Wright, CB Kevin Johnson, S Tyrann Mathieu
Texans 2018 Highlights
2019 NFL Draft
Holding the 23rd overall pick in the draft, the Texans have to make upgrades if they want to be a complete team. Especially at positions like running back, right tackle, and cornerback.
Lamar Miller and D'Onta Foreman aren't the most dynamic runners in the league. The team needs a more electrifying back who opposing defenses will fear.
Kendall Lamm is average at best and Martinas Rankin couldn't handle the duties. Matt Kalil is a solid pick up, but he hasn't a lengthy injury history.
Four cornerbacks were injured at the start of the season. Bradley Roby and Briean Boddy-Calhoun are solid additions, but the team has to prepare for life without Johnathan Joseph.
When it came time to pick, Houston ended up selecting Alabama State offensive tackle Tytus Howard with the 23rd overall pick. Howard has a thick overall frame for a solid anchor, but is still very raw in terms of technique due to him being a former quarterback and tight end.
Other Notable Draft Picks:
Lonnie Johnson Jr, CB, Kentucky- Long frame, questions about commitment
Max Scharping, OT, Northern Illinois- Fundamentally solid, must improve footwork
Kahale Warring, TE, San Diego State- Walk on mentality, very raw
Charles Omenihu, DE, Texas- Long armed with quick twitch, one year wonder
Xavier Crawford, CB, Central Michigan- Patient in coverage, slim build
Cullen Gillaspia, FB, Texas A&M- Soft hands and good speed, blocking needs improvement
Notable Undrafted Free Agent Signings:
Jordan Ta'amu, QB, Ole Miss- Great deep ball arm, slow to diagnose defenses
Johnnie Dixon, WR, Ohio State- Valuable deep threat, injury concerns
Lonnie Johnson Jr Highlights
What To Expect
The Texans have a lot of good pieces in place, but there is still somethings missing with this team.
Deshaun Watson has the skill to be a franchise quarterback for years, but has to do a better job of protecting himself and making smarter reads in coverage. Lamar Miller and is a solid back, but he isn't a complete back that will keep defensive coordinators up at night which could mean Duke Johnson could overtake him as the starter. Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins are a solid duo, but have to improve as blockers. Aside from DeAndre Hopkins, there are some questions with the receiving corps. Will Fuller has been injury prone since entering the league and the rest f the unit is unproven. The coaching staff likes the pieces they have on the offensive line, but they have to do a better job in pass protection moving forward.
The defense should remain the strength of the team. JJ Watt and DJ Reader do great work of the defensive line and Watt seems to have regained his three time Defensive Player of the Year form. The linebacker corps is one of the best 3-4 units in the league, but Whitney Mercilus has to provide the consistent pass rush he did in the past. The secondary has a nice group of rising stars and proven veterans. Tashaun Gipson and Justin Reid can both make plays at safety and the cornerbacks have enough depth to keep players fresh.
With Andrew Luck retiring in Indianapolis, Houston should be the favorites to win the AFC South but they still lack the talent to make a deep playoff run.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 11-5