The pages, they are a’ turnin’ here in Houston. Rick Smith, gone. Mike Vrabel – bye! Romeo Crennel – back in the saddle. J.J. Watt – running on some kinda science fiction treadmill to get back to being the All-World devourer of offensive linemen souls he was two seasons ago.
All is well.
In some ways, the offseason is the best part of being a football fan. Optimism rules. Bright potential hasn’t collided with harsh reality. The upside is clear in nearly every move where there’s upside to see.
First off, as explored last week, new General Manager Brian Gaine is all about putting his fingerprints on the team while remaining aligned with what is already in place. With an implied emphasis on improving special teams, the offensive line, and putting more talent around the greatest-injury-shortened-rookie-quarterback the league has ever seen in Deshaun Watson, Gaine is certainly saying all the right things. For now, at least, we can hope he’s going to do everything required to turn this team back into the 12- (or better) powerhouse we all know it can be.
In the addition-by-subtraction category, Mike Vrabel has ridden off into the Tennessee hills in search of moonshine and Marcus Mariota. Honestly, it hurt more to have him elevate from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator than it does for him to leave the team altogether to join the Not-The-Oilers. If anything, having him as a prematurely promoted rookie coach in the AFC South means Jacksonville is the only solid contender outside of H-Town for 2018. Maybe Larry Izzo can take the Colts’ HC job?
What really seems exciting is putting Romeo Crennel back in charge of the defense. Assuming last season’s injuries were a fluke, with a little help in free agency, Crennel should have a loaded gun when this unit hits the field next season. Jadeveon Clowney, Benardrick McKinney, Dylan Cole, Zach Cunningham and a few other promising young-guns-turned-veterans joining J.J. Watt, Kevin Johnson, Johnathan Joseph and the rest should give RAC all the pieces he needs to multiply pressure on opposing offenses and return this defense to championship form.
Then there’s Watt. Odds are he won’t return to his pre-back injury form ever again. But a 70% J.J. Watt is better than 98% of the rest of the league. Especially since he’s had even more time to learn the game, more time to instintualize the RAC defense, and his non-injured bits should all be the strongest and freshest they’ve been since his rookie season.
If Gaine can finally make the special teams special, bring in a few key offensive linemen, Bill O’Brien can get more out of that unit, Deshaun Watson can come anywhere near close to his 2017 performance, Crennel can get the defense back on track, and J.J. can just be J.J. when 2018 is all over and done, Houston will have its fifth division championship since 2011. Take it to the bank and cash that one!
What do you think? Which one of these landmarks of the 2018 offseason gets you the most excited? Which do you believe is the key to getting the Texans back into the Red Zone?