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Red Zone Play: Fill In The Blanks

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Time to plug the remaining holes in Houston’s WIN NOW roster.

NFL: AFC Divisional-Houston Texans at New England Patriots David Butler III-USA TODAY Sports

The blockbuster explosions are over, the multi-colored smoke is clearing, and slowly but surely, we’re getting glimpses of the 2017 Houston Texans’ roster.

The unending debate of who will take snaps from the center, be it Tom Savage or Deshaun Watson (and which center? maybe Nick Martin or Greg Mancz or…), will swirl until the moment Bill O’Brien names one of them as the leader of the Houston offense.

The angst over losing A.J. Bouye will continue, despite the fact that he only produced one quality season and allegedly turned down a lucrative offer to stay in H-Town so he could accept a slightly higher offer to wear all things glitter and gold.

Those topics are merely talk fodder, things to debate about with friends and frenemies while hanging out at the sports bar or in your favorite chat room/message board/internet hangout.

Now is the time to examine what Houston still needs, identify the few remaining deficiencies, and look to fill those holes as quickly as possible.

The Texans’ most glaring need is at right tackle. While Houston finally brought in another team’s free agent when they signed Breno Giacomini, word on the street is the aging vet’s best games are in the rear-view mirror.

So the need remains, especially considering Giacomini wasn’t signed as a guaranteed starter and his competition includes Kendall Lamm, Chris Clark, and a rookie dubbed a “project player”.

Beyond that, Rick Smith and company haven’t done much to overcome the utter lack of consistent production in the kick return game. While the blocking schemes haven’t been stellar, which echoes Bill O’Brien’s consistent comments regarding he and his coaching staff’s needing to do their jobs better, having a kick returner affectionately dubbed Tyler “Scissorhands” Ervin speaks volumes as to why Houston’s offense ranked in the Top Five amongst most drives starting inside their own 20.

The only other glaring need for Houston is at safety.

Déjà vu?

I wasn’t even writing for Battle Red Blog this time last year, yet I feel like I’ve typed those words before many times in the offseason.

Yes, it’s that bad.

For a man who used to play defensive back, Rick Smith sure can’t seem to get a handle on the last line of defense. The true conundrum arises when you look at the correlation between pass rush and defensive backfield productivity. Houston has had one of the strongest pass rushes in the league for years. Does that mean the front seven are making the back four look better than they really are? Or is the ability of the corners and safeties allowing the front seven to rise above? If I was a betting man, I’d go with the former. Especially when you consider the likes of Ed Reed, D.J. Swearinger and such as compared to J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus. However, no matter which way you choose to look at it, Houston needs a rock star safety.

We have three pretty obvious needs still to be addressed before the 2017 season kicks off. Preferably before training camp.

According to Spotrac.com, Houston has roughly $14 million to play with right now. That’s more than enough to bring in some talent at each of those positions.

The problem with that unfortunately lies with players already on the roster. DeAndre Hopkins and Jadeveon Clowney are both due a payday. And a big one.

Brock Osweiler didn’t do D-Hop’s bank account any favors, but trying to pay Hopkins like anything other than a Top Five receiver is foolish and asking for him to bail to the highest bidder once he hits the open market.

Clowney’s injury history hasn’t helped his bottom line much either, but there’s no denying he’s turning into the exact player Houston thought they were drafting when they took him with the number one overall pick. Pay the man, Rick. #NuffSaid.

While I’m certainly no mathmagician, it would seem the number-crunchers at NRG Park need to sharpen their pencils and get to work so the scouting department and Rick Smith can bring in a few more contributors before training camp gets under way.

The Texans gave notice they’re in WIN NOW mode by trading away the first two picks of next year’s draft to land Deshaun Watson and jettison Brock Osweiler. Now is not the time to go back to conservative business-as-usual.

No, now is the time to grab those battle red, liberty white, and deep steel blue chips and push ‘em all in.