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2017 NFL Season Preview - Houston Texans
New year, same story for Houston.
The Texans finished 9–7 for the third season in a row and clinched the AFC South for the second straight season. 2016 marked the first time in franchise history that the Texans swept Indianapolis and also the first time in their franchise history where their defense ranked number one in the league. Houston defeated the Raiders in the wildcard round 27-14 and advanced to the Divisional Round for the first time since 2012, where they lost to the Patriots 16-34.
Quarterback Brock Osweiler was a waste of a $72 million investment as he was indecisive and inaccurate. He threw 16 interceptions and just 15 touchdowns. He was benched for Tom Savage late in the season and only regained the starting job because Savage suffered a concussion. Running back Lamar Miller rushed for 1,073 yards and five touchdowns despite missing the final two games with an ankle injury. Tight ends CJ Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin are a nice tandem as both can catch and block. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins' production dropped but his skills are still there. The offensive line was a mix of good and bad. Left tackle Duane Brown had a nice comeback year after recovering from a torn quad tendon. Left guard Xavier Su'a-Filo is a better run blocker than pass protector. Right tackle Chris Clark was statistically one of the worst tackles in the league.
Defensive end JJ Watt played in only three games and underwent back surgery, ending his year. Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork played his final NFL season, retiring as a five time Pro Bowler. Linebacker Brian Cushing remains a physical force and the team's emotional leader. Inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney lead the team with 125 tackles and also had five sacks. Outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus lead the team with 7.5 sacking added another three in the playoffs. John Simon had another strong season before a chest injury hampered him. Cornerback Jonathan Joseph is no spring chicken and missed much of the year with injuries. AJ Bouye was one of the most improved players in the league while Kareem Jackson struggled in single coverage. Safety Quintin Demps lead all NFL safeties with six interceptions.
Even though they were a playoff, the Texans only produced one Pro Bowler in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney had his best season as a pro lining up all across the front seven and recording six sacks, 16 tackles for loss, 52 tackles, one forced fumble, and two passes defended.
The rookie class wasn't special in 2016, but the team hopes they fan progress moving forward. Wide receiver Will Fuller has speed and big play potential but was prone to drops. Center Nick Martin spent the whole year on injured reserve after undergoing ankle surgery. Wide receiver Braxton Miller is still learning the ropes as a slot receiver after converting from quarterback. Nose tackle DJ Reader looks to be Vince Wilfork's replacement. Undrafted defensive end Joel Heath played well filling in for JJ Watt.
Opponent Passing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
NFL Rank- 29th
NFL Rank- 8th
NFL Rank- 2nd
NFL Rank- 12th
NFL Rank- 29th
NFL Rank- 1st
With a 9-7 record for his third straight season, head coach Bill O'Brien has to find a franchise quarterback to run his offense the way it was ran in New England.
On January 16, the Texans and offensive coordinator George Godsey mutually parted ways after the team finished 29th in total yards for the 2016 season. Instead of hiring a new offensive coordinator, Bill O'Brien decided that he would be calling the plays on offense.
On January 18, the Texans announced that defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel had been promoted to assistant head coach while linebackers coach Mike Vrabel would become the team's new defensive coordinator.
On January 31, it was announced that Wes Welker had been hired as an offensive/special teams assistant coach. Welker had played for O'Brien in New England for five years.
Notable Additions- LB Sio Moore
Notable Departures- QB Brock Osweiler, DE Antonio Smith, NT Vince Wilfork, LB John Simon, CB AJ Bouye, S Quintin Demps
Texans 2016 Highlights
2017 NFL Draft
Houston went into the draft holding the 25th overall pick with positions that needed to be addressed. Specifically at quarterback, wide receiver, and offensive linemen.
The Brock Osweiler experiment was a bust and neither Tom Savage nor Brandon Weeden is the long term answer. An upgrade is needed at quarterback.
Other than DeAndre Hopkins, there isn't an established receiver on the offense. Will Fuller has potential but needs to work on avoiding drops.
The center and left tackle positions are stable but the offensive line lacks a reliable right tackle and needs better play from their guards.
On draft day, Houston traded up to the 12th overall pick with Cleveland to select Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson has all the intangibles to be a productive NFL quarterback but his short and slim frame raises durability concerns.
The Texans also notably drafted Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham in the second round, Texas running back D'Onta Foreman in the third, and Clemson defensive tackle Carlos Watkins in the fourth. Cunningham was viewed as the top tackling linebacker in the class but is still raw as a pass rusher. Foreman was praised for his physical running style but struggles maintaining his weight. Watkins has great quickness off the snap but needs to refine his technique as a pass rusher.
Deshaun Watson Highlights
What to Expect
Given the talent level of this team, they should be one of the top contenders in the AFC.
Tom Savage will likely be the starter going into the year but don't be surprised if Deshaun Watson supplants him in the near future. Lamar Miller will be solid and adding D'Onta Foreman gives him a power back to take some of the strain off him. CJ Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin will be reliable blockers and receivers for whoever is at quarterback. It will be key for DeAndre Hopkins to develop a relationship with all the quarterbacks so he can return to his Pro Bowl form. With Will Fuller being out with a broken collarbone for 2-3 months, it will be up to Braxton Miller, Jalen Strong, and Wendall Williams to step up and play opposite Hopkins. Having Nick Martin back helps at center but there are still concerns at both guard spots and right tackle.
JJ Watt looks to be ahead of schedule in his recovery and it looks like he and Jadeveon Clowney will make a solid pass rushing tandem. It will be up to DJ Reader and Carlos Watkins to replace Vince Wilfork in the middle. Zach Cunningham is more than capable of replacing John Simon, making the linebacker corps one of the strongest in the league on paper. Losing AJ Bouye and Quintin Demps in the secondary hurts but hopefully Kevin Johnson can return healthy Kurtis Drummond can replace Demps at strong safety.
Having a mobile quarterback like Deshaun Watson can take some pressure off of the poor offensive line for a season. And having one of the top defenses in football to go along with great offensive weapons, Houston looks to capture the AFC South crown for the third consecutive year.
Best record they can hope for: 11-5