A wind of change blew through the Houston front office this off-season. One-year general manager Brian Gaine was relieved of his duties, much to the surprise of the NFL world. Looking closer, this is not the shocking move as once perceived. It immediately became aware Bill O’Brien et al had their eyes on someone else all along. Current New England Patriots director of player personnel, Nick Caserio, was seen as the ideal hire.
However, the Pats filed tampering charges against the Texans over their approach for Caserio and thus ended any chance of his departure, for now. His contract with New England expires after the 2020 NFL Draft. So it seems Houston will go GM-less for the 2019 season, until BoB gets his man. Do not be surprised when the Houston Texans announce their new general manager in 2020, possibly some time after the Draft.
The wait will drag on for this new hire. It is a distraction that must be put aside. Attention should turn to the current roster and ensure it is capable of going beyond the Wildcard Round of the playoffs.
Stars in space
As soon as Watson was drafted back in 2017, it felt like this franchise finally had its missing piece. For sure, he has showcased his talents and has proven to be the focal point of Houston’s offence, but what has equally become apparent though, is just how fragile the situation is here.
Cycling back to the 2017 season, this is where Watson and Watt succumbed to season-ending injuries and Texans finished the season with a 4-12 record. Not to mention other talents like Jadeveon Clowney. He was rarely 100% healthy throughout the year, which book-ended in arthroscopic knee surgery for him.
Without these stars, the Texans crumble like no other team in the league. But when all is well health-wise, they can beat anyone on their day. As shown in the season just passed, they were one play away from upsetting the Patriots in Week 1. Most notable however, was the nine-game winning streak which ensured playoff football in Houston. A 10-6 record meant a spot in the Wildcard Round. Divisional rivals Indianapolis Colts proved too much and the season ended there for the Texans.
The difference between the 2017 and 2018 campaigns tells the story. When the big-time players are healthy, this is a competitive team primed for playoff football. But take one piece away from the star-studded puzzle, the void it leaves is a gaping one. These stars in Space City must prove to be durable. They are elixir of the Texans’ life for the 2019 season.
It’s no nuclear-level secret where the biggest weakness lies on this roster. An even just about adequate offensive line goes a long way to help ensure an injury free QB. This is not the case here. The best way to make friends with a Texans fan is remind them how many times Deshaun Watson was sacked last year. An NFL-high 62 times if your brain needs jogging. With this in mind, you would think an aggressive push was made to improve the situation.
A bundled draft means the Texans are on the back-foot. The round one selection of Tytus Howard did not exactly excite fans and experts alike. This followed an uninspiring free agency in which a washed-up Matt Kalil was the only o-lineman signed. With little change to last year’s lineup, the best hope for Houston to improve in this area is refined coaching.
A big year for offensive line coach Mike Devlin, who enters his 4th year with the organisation. If the same struggles continue, expect his name to be the first on the chopping block.
Running game foes
With the pass protection inabilities of this line made abundantly clear, attention should also be given to the run game. Lamar Miller might just be the most average running back in the league. He’s got D’Onta Foreman hot on his heels, but for now, Miller maintains the role as the lead back in Houston. The stats of both running backs could be greatly improved with more consistent O-line play. Miller cooked up 4 games last year in which he went for 100+ yards on the ground.
However, in games where he had 10+ carries, there were also 4 occasions where he failed to reach 50 yards. Whether this is down to his own poor play, a better offensive line would surely have improved this stat-line. This season will be the most important year in Miller’s career with the Texans.
Now that Foreman is a full year removed from his achilles injury, the competition will be feisty to be RB1. If the offensive line can improve even slightly, it will perfectly set the battleground for this clash.
Likelihood of making the playoffs: Good, if healthy.
On paper, it appears the Texans have the 2nd best roster in their division, just behind the Colts. This should act as motivation for the year ahead. They arguably have a top-5 QB accompanied by possibly the league’s best wide receiver. Defensive talent is also there to make sure the opposition’s score stays low, whilst the stars of the offence run up the points. One critical aspect will run throughout the whole season – stay healthy. If luck is on their side, it should be playoffs for the Houston Texans.