Your Houston Texans have been incredibly quiet during free agency so far in 2017, as they are the only NFL franchise not to have signed any free agents from another team. The biggest concern? As has sadly been the case for years, the quarterback position remains a giant question mark.
Houston could have addressed the quarterback situation by bringing in a veteran free agent, but they instead sat idle. With Tony Romo having announced his retirement, the Texans may now instead focus on the upcoming NFL Draft rather than pursue players like Colin Kaepernick or Jay Cutler. If Houston does draft a quarterback, it is highly unlikely that a rookie will be contributing anything meaningful in the 2017 season.
That puts Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden in the wheelhouse to guide the offense this season, and that doesn’t have the analysts feeling very confident.
Football Outsiders has their early statistical 2017 projections out for all 32 teams, and you can see the full article HERE. This is the AFC South excerpt:
1. Tennessee Titans: 8-8 (8.1 mean wins; SOS: 29)
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: 8-8 (7.5 mean wins; SOS: 30)
3. Indianapolis Colts: 7-9 (6.6 mean wins; SOS: 28)
4. Houston Texans: 6-10 (6.1 mean wins; SOS: 10)
This will continue to be the worst division in the NFL, but at least Tennessee and Jacksonville seem like teams on the rise. The Titans ranked 15th in our DVOA ratings last season, best in the AFC South, and they've made some strong free-agent additions on defense. So has Jacksonville, and the Jaguars project to have a top-10 defense, but there's no reason to expect the offense to get any better.
Houston might have won the division last season, but the Texans ranked a dismal 29th in our DVOA ratings. That first-place finish doesn't do the Texans any schedule favors, because there's a big difference between playing the Patriots and playing the other AFC East teams. The quarterback position is a colossal question mark, which is enough to outweigh a defensive projection that gives the Texans a boost with the return of J.J. Watt. Meanwhile, the Colts continue to experiment with just how much a bad defense can fritter away the prime years of a good quarterback.
It’s hard to argue with this ranking, although I’d probably swap the Colts with the Texans. Look at that strength of schedule (SOS) variance! Consider also that the Titans and Jags have significantly improved their roster talent each year with high draft picks and investments in free agents like former Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye, and the competitive edge the Texans once enjoyed over the rest of the division has potentially evaporated.
During Bill O’Brien’s three years in Houston, a league-best defense has helped the Texans overcome a mostly inept offense in many one-possession tilts. The continued uncertainty at quarterback is setting the stage, or at least fueling the narrative, for the team’s suggested decline in 2017.
Had the Texans been more active in acquiring talent during free agency, especially in bringing in a veteran signal-caller like Tony Romo, or had they at least reinforced the offensive line, I think the expectations would be more positive. Houston can’t expect freshly drafted rookies to provide meaningful reinforcement at so many key positions (QB, OT, OG, S, CB, LB, TE) that have have gone completely unaddressed in free agency.
Obviously this outlook can change once the Texans do get through the upcoming draft and when they start signing free agents after May 9th, as that won’t count against the compensatory picks formula for 2018. However, based on what is known today, this appears to be a disappointing forecast for Houston.
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