The Texans are headed to the Divisional round of the playoffs following a convincing victory over the Raiders on Saturday night. Despite struggles on offense, the Texans have nabbed a second consecutive AFC South title and playoff berth, riding the league’s number one defense into the postseason once again. Even with so much talent on the roster, there are several areas where Houston needs significant improvement, depth and players to develop for the future.
Everyone is worried about the quarterback position. I get that, it’s an area of immense concern for me as well. But the success of any signal-caller starts with the offensive line, and the money and the draft picks need to be thrown in that direction as quickly as possible. Luckily, the first improvement is already on the roster, as 2016 second round pick, center Nick Martin, is slated to return next season. But the Texans still need help at nearly every position along the offensive line.
G: The guard position gives me serious anxiety these days. Xavier Su’a-Filo has flashes of decent play, but Jeff Allen has been a huge disappointment. The ex-Kansas City Chief (the guy who we saved $1 million/year to sign instead of keeping Brandon Brooks) seems incapable of temporarily obstructing defenders, let alone actually stopping them. The guard position has to be a top priority for Houston moving forward, if they ever want to keep a quarterback safe or see what Lamar Miller is really capable of.
OT: I hate writing this sentence, but I would be shocked if Derek Newton returned to the NFL after tearing BOTH patella tendons in October of this season at the age of 29. One of the best Texans’ offensive linemen to date, Newton suffered an injury that will likely mean the end of his career, and it will leave an enormous hole on Houston’s line. OT just became an even bigger issue for the Texans, who were already lacking depth at the position behind Duane Brown, who will be 32 at the start of next season.
Brian Cushing has been a leader and an exceptional playmaker for the Texans, but his absence from the line when injured is painfully obvious. His counterpart, Benardrick McKinney, has evolved into one of the top talents on the Texans’ defensive line. Backup Max Bullough has shown flashes of potential as well, but Houston can’t go wrong adding some depth to this important position. A player who is capable of taking over for Cushing down the line would be a huge step towards maintaining this dominant defense.
Vince Wilfork has mentioned his consideration of retirement, making Houston’s need at this position much more immediate. In 2016, the Texans nabbed D.J. Reader in the fifth round, and he has taken over a larger role throughout the season. Reader could be the answer to Wilfork’s impending departure, but either way Houston will need to find depth at this position, and soon.
Houston linebacker Whitney Mercilus is having another exceptional season, including an All Pro nod. But the talent opposite him marks a significant drop off, with John Simon and Brennan Scarlett on the other side. One of the few defensive positions where the Texans could use an immediate boost, a dominant counterpart to Mercilus could make this defense untouchable.
Houston has had an exceptional secondary this season, but that is largely thanks to impressive play from cornerbacks (I’m lookin’ at you, A.J. Bouye). I hoped the Texans would select a safety in last year’s draft (Karl Joseph, perhaps), but they waited until the fifth round to take K.J. Dillon. Largely a depth addition, Dillion joined Andre Hal and Quintin Demps on the Texans’ roster.
Hal has improved markedly in his third season with the Texans, but is still developing. Demps has been a shutdown defensive back and disruptive force this year, but he is 31 years old. Now is the time to draft a true future safety, to solidify one of the most imposing Houston secondaries in history. If Houston can hang on to breakout cornerback Bouye, bring Kevin Johnson back healthy and nab a playmaker at the safety position, their defense could be even better next year.
No, Brock Osweiler is not the long-term answer at quarterback (I know, you’re shocked). And as much as I like him (and his name), neither is Tom Savage. So Houston is right where they were at the end of last season: searching for a quarterback that can manage an offense, protect the football, and ride their stellar defense to a Super Bowl title. Only this year, they’re $16 million in the red before they’ve even started looking.
There has been talk of the Bills walking away from Tygod (aka Tyrod Taylor). I don’t hate the idea of him playing in Houston, but he’s likely going to require money that the Texans can’t afford to throw at the quarterback position. Houston could turn to the draft to tackle their quarterback woes, but they’ll have a late draft pick (bottom eight, barring a trade) and a lot of needs to address.
These are the positions that I feel are most pressing for the Texans to address heading into 2017 (in no particular order). There are others, of course, including depth at running back behind Miller, depth at defensive end, special teams and more. A lot of these decisions will revolve around whether or not Bill O’Brien remains at the head coaching position, as well as who we retain or release based on the salary cap. What are your thoughts, Texans fans? Is there a position or player you think Houston should focus on in the draft or offseason? A free agent or draft pick that you think they should target? Feel free to discuss in the comments