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Football Outsiders Answers Five Questions About The 2016 Houston Texans

Tom Gower of Football Outsiders fielded five questions about some key Houston Texans' offseason changes and gave his thoughts on the team's 2016 outlook.

Lamar Miller breaks a tackle against the 49ers during the first preseason game
Lamar Miller breaks a tackle against the 49ers during the first preseason game
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

In our continuing search for #content regarding the Houston Texans, it's always good to catch up with someone from Football Outsiders to get their unique perspective on advanced/alternate statistics.  F.O.'s Tom Gower recently answered five questions I asked about the Texans, commenting on Lamar Miller's fit in Bill O'Brien's system, Brock Osweiler, and a general outlook for the 2016 incarnation of the team.

Speaking of statistics and analysis, F.O.'s 2016 Almanac is now available if you're interested.  It is well worth your time and money.

With that, on to the questions...

BRB: How does FO see Lamar Miller's role in the Bill O'Brien offense in contrast to Arian Foster?

We're still waiting to see just what Lamar Miller is. O'Brien the past two seasons has been happy to have a very run-focused offense. Has that been more because it's what he wants, or because he's had FitzMallHoyMisc at quarterback?

Second question, does he see Miller as a lead back, capable of handling 300 carries? Multiple Miami regimes have resisted the pleadings of outside observers to give Miller more of a volume role. Were they right that Miller should be more of a 150-carry/50-catch back?

We'll find out about the run game in time. The one prediction I'm more confident in is that Miller has more open-field juice and big-play ability than a late-career Foster did, so O'Brien should look to get him in space more.

BRB: The WR group has been turned almost completely upside down. I can't imagine a scenario where DeAndre Hopkins is less effective in 2016, but I can see where his targets will be down due to assumed improvement at both the WR and QB positions. Do you see his numbers increasing due to the QB improvement - or possibly taking a hit due to there being more available weapons in the passing attack?

Part of this will depend on the defense. Hopkins put up big numbers when the Texans were down big, which isn't unusual. If the defense plays all season as about the tenth-best defense instead of a third as a bottom-five unit and two-thirds as one of the best, like it did in 2015, then Hopkins' catch total will likely be down. Better quarterback play, and better targets around him, should help reduce the target total and improve his efficiency numbers.

BRB: There are limitless Brock Osweiler questions in Houston. Simply put - is Brock Osweiler's game a better fit for the Bill O'Brien offense than the Gary Kubiak offense?

The only answer I can give is "we'll see." We've only seen Osweiler play significantly in the Kubiak offense, and we know just how much Gary likes to adapt to what he has. Osweiler has said all the right things about being more comfortable with O'Brien, and it's plausible. I won't trust it until I see it on the field in the regular season, though.

BRB: It's almost universally agreed Jadeveon Clowney will be a plus-NFL player if he can only stay healthy. Do you feel he's being used appropriately in Romeo Crennel's defense?

Point one: In general, his experiences in Cleveland and Kansas City have soured me on Crennel's adaptability and ability to inspire consistent effort.

Point two: If Crennel is going to adapt his defense to showcase a particular player, that adaptation should be for perennial DPOY candidate J.J. Watt, not Clowney.

Point three: I think young players in great need of technical refinement, like basically all incoming defensive linemen, benefit from being put in the same position consistently and asked to win the same way. Multiple 3-4 defenses that move players around more, like Crennel's, are therefore tougher on young players than defenses that may be simpler like Jim Schwartz's 4-3 or even Wade Phillips' 3-4 (at least on the front end).

Would Clowney be more advanced/better in some sense if he'd been stuck at RDE in a 4-3 from Day 1 and told to just go? Yeah, I'd guess so. Should he drop in coverage? I wouldn't do that except in rare cases. But that's not Crennel's defense, and all schemes are trade-offs.

BRB: With all the "on paper" improvements in Jacksonville, the assumed health of Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, and the offensive overhaul in Houston, how do you see the AFC South shaking out? Do you still think the ceiling for the "best team" in the division will top out at about 10 wins?

Our mean projections have the Colts at 7.8 wins, followed by Houston at 7.4, Tennessee at 7.2, and the Jaguars at 6.9. Speaking personally, that seems like about the right order to me, except I see Jacksonville as higher variance than Tennessee.

This is August, so every team (well, maybe not Cleveland or San Francisco) can tell a coherent story about how X, Y, and Z are all going to happen and they'll win double-digit games. It could happen to somebody in the AFC South, but I doubt it, and the division winner will probably end up 9-7 or 10-6.

What's your reaction to Tom's answers?