2018 HOUSTON TEXANS FOOTBALL PREVIEW

HEAD COACH: Bill O’Brien (Fifth Season)

RECORD WITH TEXANS: 31-33

CAREER RECORD: 31-33

2017 RECORD: 4-12

HOME RECORD: 3-5

DIVISION RECORD: 1-5

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Bill O’Brien

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Romeo Crennel

STADIUM: NRG Stadium (72,220)

 

2018 SCHEDULE

September 9 at New England

September 16 at Tennessee

September 23 NY Giants

September 30 at Indianapolis

October 7 Dallas

October 14 Buffalo

October 21 at Jacksonville

October 25 Miami

November 4 at Denver

November 11 BYE

November 18 at Washington

November 26 Tennessee

December 2 Cleveland

December 9 Indianapolis

December 15 at NY Jets

December 23 at Philadelphia

December 30 Jacksonville

 

2017 RESULTS

Jacksonville 7 – 29

Cincinnati 13 – 9

New England 33 – 36

Tennessee 57 – 14

Kansas City 34 – 42

Cleveland 33 – 17

Seattle 38 – 41

Indianapolis 14 – 20

LA Rams 7 – 33

Arizona 31 – 21

Baltimore 16 – 23

Tennessee 13 – 24

San Francisco 16 – 26

Jacksonville 7 – 45

Pittsburgh 6 – 34

Indianapolis 13 – 22

 

FIVE – YEAR WINNING TREND: 33 – 47

2013: 2 – 14

2014: 9 – 7

2015: 9 – 7

2016: 9 – 7

2017: 4 – 12

 

STARTERS RETURNING OFFENSE: 7

STARTERS RETURNING DEFENSE: 9

 

2017 TEAM STATS

OFFENSE:

TOTAL: 320.0

RUSHING: 115.1

PASSING: 204.9

SCORING: 21.1

THIRD DOWN%: 36.4

PUNT RETURNS: 8.5

KICK RETURNS: 20.7

 

DEFENSE:

TOTAL: 346.6

RUSHING: 109.2

PASSING: 237.4

SCORING: 27.3

INTERCEPTIONS: 11

SACKS: 32

TURNOVER MARGIN: -12

 

2017 INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

PASSING: Deshaun Watson, 126 – 204 –1,699 – 19TD – 8INT

RUSHING: Lamar Miller, 238 – 888 – 3.7 – 3TD

RECEIVING: DeAndre Hopkins, 96 –1,378 – 14.4 – 13TD

TACKLES: Bednardrick McKinney, 95

SACKS: Jadeveon Clowney, 9.5

INTERCEPTIONS: Andre Hal, 3

 

2018 HOUSTON TEXANS DRAFT: C

Round 3, Pick 4 (No. 68 overall):

Justin Reid, S, Stanford

 

There were already two quality safeties aboard with Tyrann Mathieu and Andre Hal, but more teams are playing with three safeties these days. Reid’s presence could lend more flexibility for how Mathieu is deployed. And if Mathieu, who signed a one-year deal, is not retained in 2019, the Texans will have an early jump on replenishing this position.

 

Round 3, Pick 16 (No. 80 overall):

Martinas Rankin, C, Mississippi State 

The Texans HAD to find some offensive tackles to protect the franchise quarterback for whom they traded away this year’s first-round pick last spring. Rankin has a chance to play in Week 1.

 

Round 3, Pick 34 (No. 98 overall) * compensatory selection:

Jordan Akins, TE, Central Florida

Bill O’Brien and his staff built a splendid, multi-dimensional scheme around Deshaun Watson’s mobility last year, and a flexible tight end can lend valuable dimension to that. How much Akins plays could be determined by how trusted he is as an on-the-move run-blocker.

 

Round 4, Pick 3 (No. 103 overall): Keke Coutee, WR, Texas Tech 

Round 6, Pick 3 (No. 177 overall): Duke Ejiofor, DE, Wake Forest

 

2018 KEY PLAYER MOVEMENT

ADDITIONS

CB Johnson Bademosi, New England

WR Sammie Coates, Cleveland

CB Aaron Colvin, Jacksonville

G Zach Fulton, Kansas City

OT Seantrel Henderson, Buffalo

G Senio Kelemete, New Orleans

S Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona

QB Joe Webb, Buffalo

QB Brandon Weeden, Tennessee

 

SUBTRACTIONS

OT Chris Clark, free agent

LB Brian Cushing, free agent

OT Breno Giacomini, Oakland

S Marcus Gilchrist, Oakland

S Eddie Pleasant, free agent

QB Tom Savage, New Orleans

G Xavier Su’a-Filo, Tennessee

 

OFFENSE PREVIEW

The Houston Texans rely on QB Deshaun Watson for their success on offense. That’s why it’s vital he stays healthy in 2018. Watson is on schedule to return to the line-up after suffering a torn ACL in November. When Watson was the starter in 2017, the Texans averaged nearly 35 points per game. He was also on pace to throw 43 touchdown passes. Watson is a very athletic, smart and strong armed quarterback who makes smart decisions and is very good in the pocket. Houston also needs Watson to run the football. The Texans were ranked third in the NFL when he was active. When he went down, the Texans fell to 31st.

Houston’s running attack will feature three backs returning from 2017, including Lamar Miller, D’Onta Foreman and Alfred Blue. Foreman is coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon. If Foreman is healthy, he could be the feature back because of his ability to run between the tackles and his speed to get to the outside. Miller is an excellent receiver and a very good pass blocker.

Watson will have one of the top receivers in All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins snagged 96 passes for 1,378 yards and an NFL best 13 touchdowns. Hopkins’ numbers were more impressive considering he was constantly double-teamed and challenged at the line of scrimmage. Will Fuller is another deep threat, if he can stay healthy. Houston averaged 40 points per game when Hopkins and Fuller were in the line-up together.

Bruce Ellington is another weapon in the slot, but he too couldn’t stay healthy. Look for rookie Keke Coutee to make a push to start in front of Ellington.
Ryan Griffin is expected to replace the retired CJ Fiedorowicz, but he is another player who missed time with injuries. Griffin is a big target who can take a hit in the middle of the field. Also in the running for playing time at TE will be Stephen Anderson, Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas.

The offensive line will have a new look in 2018 with four new starters. C Nick Martin is the only returning starter. Houston signed FA’s guard’s Zach Fulton and Senio Kelemete and RT Seantrel Henderson. Julien Davenport is expected to take over at LT after starting there for four games last season. This area will be a huge concern heading into the 2018 season.

 

DEFENSE PREVIEW

Houston’s defense ranked first in 2016. But like the offense, injuries were a factor in 2017. Romeo Crennel returns as DC and will have to replace LB Brian Cushing who retired. DE JJ Watt, DE Christian Covington and NT DJ Reader all finished the 2017 season on the DL list. Watt hasn’t been the same dominating player he was when he was the three-time NFL defensive player of the year. He can’t be counted on after starting only eight games in the last two seasons. Houston is hoping Watt can stay on the field this season.

LB Jadeveon Clowney has been excellent over the last two seasons without Watt. Houston fans are wondering what it would be like to have both of them on the field at the same time. Clowney is very good against the run and plays DE in passing situations. He drew consistent double-teams when Watt and Whitney Mercilus were out of the line-up. Don’t be surprised to see Clowney at DE more often in 2018.

Speaking of Mercilus, he too is returning from a torn pectoral muscle. That injury cost him 11 starts. When Mercilus is healthy, he is excellent in stopping the run, pressuring the QB and can drop in pass coverage.

The Texans will count on Benardrick McKinney, the team’s leading tackler, and Zach Cunningham inside. McKinney is good against the run, Cunningham saw vast improvement as the 2017 season progressed.

Look for veterans Brennan Scarlett and rookie Duke Ejiofor to compete at OLB if Clowney is moved to DE permanently.

Without a consistent pass rush, the Houston secondary was burned on a regular basis. The Texans addressed the matter by signing FA’s CB Aaron Colvin and S Tyrann Mathieu. Both should start immediately. Third-round pick Justin Reid is expected to compete for a starting position. FS Andre Hal could be the odd man out if Reid gets the start.

Mathieu may be the best off-season pick up because of his ability to play around the line of scrimmage, make plays against the run. His health will be as important as anyone in the Houston line-up.

Colvin is one of the NFL’s best “slot” corners and will compete with Johnathan Joseph and Kevin Johnson.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Punter Shane Lechler may be getting older, but he continues to produce. Lechler averaged 49.0-yard gross in 2017 and a 41.3-yard net average.

Kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn is looking to be more consistent in 2017 after missing five FG’s and three extra points.

The coverage and return game needs work after a 2017 season that saw way too many penalties, bad tackling and poor blocking. Brad Seely has been hired as the special teams coach to fix the problems.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS

Houston lost nine of their final 10 games, mostly because they were playing with back-ups because of numerous injuries. If, and that’s a big if, they can stay healthy, they have enough talent to challenge for the AFC South title. Improvement on the offensive line is imperative and the running attack needs to be more productive. The pass defense is better thanks to the signing of three FA’s.

This team may not be a Super Bowl contender, but with Watson at QB, they have shown they can beat anyone in the NFL.

 

PREDICTION: THIRD AFC South