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Football Outsiders Answers Houston Texans Questions

Well, it's that time of the year again, and, as usual, Rivers McCown responded to several questions posed to Football Outsiders by your friendly Masthead about the team's upcoming season.

That's my running back, yo! (Cue Terrell Owens tears).
That's my running back, yo! (Cue Terrell Owens tears).
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Every year, Football Outsiders delivers their projections on each of the League's 32 teams. Along with those projections (available in the 2015 Football Outsiders Almanac, which can be purchased here), analysts for FO answer a series a questions about the teams from some outlets. Rivers McCown, former regular BRB contributor and, believe it or not, Houston Texans fan, answered five questions about our Houston Texans, which I present to you below.

BRB:  If, as feared, Arian Foster is gone for up to half the season, or even misses the first four games, how do you expect Bill O'Brien to adapt the offense to account for what the offense loses with Foster out? On top of that, which RBs on the roster do you feel will contribute the most in terms of making up for Foster's absence?

I’m highest on Chris Polk of the guys they currently have in camp. I’m also the guy who doesn’t understand O’Brien’s fascination with late-round LSU running backs.

I don’t really know that there’s a way to dress up Foster’s absence. I’m torn between it meaning a lot, and it meaning a little less than it should given how he produced last year. I do think you’ll continue to see plenty of carries, and if I were O’Brien I’d probably be launching some high-variance strategies with this offense. A lot of deep play-action bombs, going for two more often when possible, and so on. I’m not sure if that’s how O’Brien wants to play this, though.

BRB:  In an ideal situation, Bill O'Brien’s offense includes heavy usage of tight ends. Do you expect the TE position group to take a step forward this season as compared to last, and are there any names we should be looking for to break out and make their mark? We know that Garrett Graham is the jack of all trades and master of none, but what about F150, Ryan Griffin and the new guys? Any developments we should be looking for from them?

I think there’s an ideal situation for Garrett Graham somewhere between his low-target absentee role in last year’s offense and the ridiculous amount of targets he saw in 2013. No longer having Andre Johnson has to open receptions for somebody. But I think the reason you saw less of Graham last year is because O’Brien consciously chose to target corners on the perimeter, so unless Graham is doing that, I’d bet closer to the 2014 production than the 2013 production.

I thought Griffin deserved more of a fair shake last season. I guess there’s the hope that C.J. Fiedorowicz’s hands can improve, but I’ve never really seen him as an impressive receiving tight end.

With Arian Foster missing for perhaps the first half of the 2015 regular season, does this influence who O'Brien selects as the starting quarterback to start the season if both signal-callers continue to be mostly equal in performance?

I can’t see how it should. I expect O’Brien to pick the quarterback he’s most comfortable with as it pertains to winning games. I guess your argument is that Ryan Mallett’s deep ball might be preferable without Arian Foster? I don’t really think that’s an issue in the design of the offense. They can run deep play-action on a post instead of a go-route if they’re THAT worried about the arm.

(By the way, my guess is that it will be Hoyer.)

What are your realistic expectations for the Texans' defense this year assuming that everyone in the starting 11 stays healthy?

I think we’re at the point where we can suspend disbelief of J.J. Watt’s ability. I’m not even going to pretend that there’s regression coming for him. (It could. But I don’t think it will.)

For me, the major issue with this defense is "Does this team get secondary pass rush?" Jadeveon Clowney could do this. He could also take a while to get his legs under him again. We don’t really know. My suspicion is that Whitney Mercilus is what he is at this point, even if the contract Rick Smith gave him says otherwise.

Any time you can pencil in a vintage J.J. Watt season, you start ahead of the curve. My guess is that the Texans finish somewhere between the fifth and fifteenth-best defense. Closer to the former if they find more pass rush, closer to the latter if they don't.

DeAndre Hopkins is undoubtedly the offense’s main weapon now that Arian Foster is injured. Do you think that he can ascend to the realm of elite receivers this season now that he is the true number one?

I think Hopkins is a finished product at this point. I’d be shocked if his receiving efficiency didn’t go down this season given the lack of other options the Texans have to feed.

This isn’t a slam on how he plays the game. I think he makes the most out of his tools. He’s just not physically dominating enough to, in my mind, be a true "No. 1 receiver" in the scouting sense of the word. If we used the baseball 20-80 standard deviation scale, a true No. 1 would be a 70, and I’d put Hopkins at about a 65. Great player.

(Plus, you know, carrying dogs in bags? C’mon.)

Obviously these questions were posed and answered before OB revealed his QB decision to start Hoyer over Mallett but what say you, BRBers? Do you agree or disagree with the crux of Rivers' analysis? Any particular questions you have about our prospects for the season and development of our players? Will we finally gain some respect around the League this year?

While you're pondering all those questions, head on over to Football Outsiders and purchase yourself a copy of their always excellent annual Almanac.  Not only will you enjoy the content, but you'll likely find some useful gems for your fantasy football drafting strategy.