Texan fans had to endure quite the offseason this year. They watched as their de facto general manager traded away their star receiver for an aging, injury-prone running back and a second-round pick. They also watched as their starting defensive tackle left in free agency, and replaced him with said second-round pick. Deshaun Watson is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but he can’t do it on his own, which is what the roster could signal.
Make sure to check out all of our in-depth power rankings here.
- Overall – 80.05 (19th)
- Offense – 81.95 (14th)
- Defense – 75.74 (28th)
- Coach and Culture – 74.5 (T-29th)
- Home Field Advantage – 82.5, T-13th (4% Defense, 2% Overall)
Quarterbacks – 91, 3rd (36% Offense, 27% Overall)
Watson is one of the best game-changing quarterbacks in the league. He finished last year completing over 67 percent of his passes, throwing for over 3,800 yards, while throwing for 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also added over 400 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. Watson will get a massive contract extension soon and he might try to force his way out of Houston and go elsewhere if Bill O’Brien continues to relieve him of all of his reliable weapons on offense.
A.J. McCarron was once one of the most sought after backups in the league but hasn’t lived up to that as he has spent his whole career as a backup. He threw 37 passes last year and completed 21 of them for 225 yards and an interception. If Watson were to get injured, the season is already over and McCarron might make them a candidate for a top-five pick. Alex McGough is an intriguing developmental piece likely to be placed on the practice squad.
Running Backs – 76, T-27th (4% Offense, 3% Overall)
Last year’s leading rusher, Carlos Hyde is now in Seattle, opening up 245 rushing attempts. David Johnson was acquired in the Hopkins trade and hasn’t been the same since he exploded onto the scene in 2016. Johnson was phased out of Arizona as they traded for Kenyan Drake and already had Chase Edmonds who had shown some flashes last year. Houston is hoping that Johnson is healthy and will be able to get to his 2016 form where he nearly posted 1,300 yards rushing and 900 yards receiving.
Duke Johnson was acquired from Cleveland last year and had 820 total yards and six touchdowns. He has a similar skillset to David Johnson, which is kind of concerning given both of them don’t have the durability to be a 275 carry back anymore. David Johnson has had an abundance of injuries the last few years while Duke Johnson has never had the workload of a primary back.
Buddy Howell and Karan Higdon are the other two backs with any experience at all. Howell had five carries for ten yards last year, while Higdon didn’t wasn’t active for any games last year.
Pass Catchers – 79.5, T-20th (17% Offense, 8% Overall)
The blunder made by O’Brien opens up 150 targets in the offense. Brandin Cooks was brought over in a trade a few days after trading Hopkins. The Texans also brought in Randall Cobb at a steep price. Cooks will likely be the number one receiver, while Cobb will line up in the slot. Will Fuller has been plagued by injuries during his career, but has been a difference-maker in this offense when he plays. The trio missed eight games combined last year. They need to be on the field
The Texans added Kenny Stills as part of the Laremy Tunsil trade. Stills could potentially be cut or traded to save cap space. He played in 13 games last year and caught 40 passes for 561 yards and four touchdowns. With the additions of Cobb and Cooks, Stills could be on his way out. Keke Coutee has been on the field for 15 out of a possible 32 games during his first two years. He’s totaled 555 yards and two touchdowns during that span.
The top five receivers all have injury concerns and could miss time this season. DeAndre Carter and Steven Mitchell had 14 catches last year but will battle Isaiah Coulter for a roster spot. Coulter is an intriguing option but might not be able to find the field behind the top five unless an injury were to occur.
The duo of Darren Fells and Jordan Akins were solid last year with Fells exploding in terms of touchdowns. Akins caught 36 passes for 418 yards and two touchdowns while Fells had 34 catches for 341 yards and seven touchdowns. Last year’s third-round pick, Kahale Warring missed his entire rookie season being placed on injured reserve. He’ll likely have to fend off Jordan Thomas to be active for games.
Offensive Line – 77, 18th (24% Offense, 12% Overall)
The addition of Tunsil last year turned around the offensive line. Per PFF, he only allowed one sack on 28 pressures. Last year’s first-round pick, Tytus Howard quietly had a great rookie year after the selection was seen as a blunder by many draft analysts. Second-round pick, Max Scharping started 14 games at left guard and was solid. Nick Martin signed a contract extension early last year and isn’t a problem at the center spot. The right guard spot is a bit of a question mark. Zach Fulton graded highly last year but is seen as the weak spot on the offensive line and could be upgraded.
Senio Kelemete and Greg Mancz have had some starting experience in Houston and offer some depth behind the starting five. Roderick Johnson is solid depth at the tackle spot behind both Tunsil and Howard.
Run Defense – 72.5, 31st (6% Defense, 2% Overall)
With D.J. Reader heading to Cincinnati in free agency, the Texans run defense took a major hit. Angelo Blackson and Eddie Vanderdoes are the main defensive tackles in Houston’s scheme. Second-round choice, Ross Blacklock will battle for a starting spot on the defensive line. Charles Omenihu is more if a pass-rush specialist, but he isn’t a bad run defender either. J.J. Watt has dealt with a lot of injuries during his time but is still a great player.
Pass Rush – 78, 22nd (21% Defense, 10% Overall)
Houston only finished with 31 sacks last year with Watt missing half of the season. Whitney Mercilus is still playing at a high level at the age of 29. He led the team with 7.5 sacks last year. Watt had four sacks in eight games last year. Brennan Scarlett stepped up in the role Jadeveon Clowney played before him and had 3.5 sacks last year. Omenihu and Jacob Martin were the fourth and fifth options last year and combined for 6.5 sacks.
Houston’s defense isn’t as great as it used to be. The pass rush is a major reason why. Watt and Mercilus aren’t getting younger and the depth behind them hasn’t proved to be what they thought. Houston is hoping that third-round pick, Jonathan Greenard can battle with Scarlett for the third spot in the pass rush rotation. Greenard is coming off of a ten-sack season from Florida and should be able to take that spot by the middle of the season.
Linebackers – 80, 16th (15% Defense, 4% Overall)
The Texans have a great tandem at the linebacker position with Cunningham and McKinney. Unfortunately, the depth behind them isn’t great. Peter Kalambayi and Dylan Cole are the main depth behind them and only made 34 tackles last year. If one of the two starters goes down with an injury, the defense will take a major step back, which they can’t afford already.
Secondary – 72.5, 29th (26% Defense, 17% Overall)
The Texans’ secondary is a mess. Houston allowed 32 passing touchdowns last year, fifth-most in the league. Bradley Roby and Gareon Conley return this year and the Texans are putting a lot of faith in Vernon Hargreaves as their third cornerback. Both Roby and Conley were once sought after commodities but in Houston, they aren’t exactly living up to their name value. Lonnie Johnson was selected in the second round last year and played about half of the defensive snaps. Johnson will battle Hargeaves for the third cornerback spot. Phillip Gaines, Keion Crossen, and John Reid round out the cornerback room.
Justin Reid is the star of the secondary and one of the leaders of the defense. He had 78 tackles, five pass deflections, and two interceptions last year, and posted a high PFF grade. The Texans overpaid immensely to get Eric Murray in free agency, handing him a three-year contract worth $18,000,000. Murray only started four games in the Browns safety room. Houston would’ve been better off retaining Jahleel Addae, who is still a free agent.
Coach and Culture – 74.5, T-29th (19% Offense, 28% Defense, 15% Overall)
Houston lost possibly their best player in Hopkins and got a minimal return. Watson has been hinting that he is frustrated with the front office, which isn’t a great sign. The Texans have five four similar style receivers, as well as two similar running backs in the Johnsons. Houston’s five starting offensive linemen return from last year, but besides them and Watson, the offense is changing, and not for the better. Houston ranks 27th in offensive coach and culture.
Anthony Weaver takes over for Romeo Crennel as the defensive coordinator. Houston lost Addae, Joseph, and Reader during the offseason who all played valuable positions. Watt and Mercilus have injury concerns and the secondary is a huge weak spot. Houston comes in 28th for defensive coach and culture.
O’Brien has turned the Texans upside down. As the de facto GM, he has traded away two of his best players in Clowney and Hopkins and gotten minimal in return. Watson is going to have to put the team on his back once again this year, which might not be enough. The defense isn’t the same it once was and the Texans have a ton of offensive weapons with injury concerns that could be on injured reserve after week one potentially. I feel bad for Watson.
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