After a lousy season, the Texans and their front office need a reality check with regard to the future direction of this franchise. In all honestly, I did not think that even with Deshaun Watson, the 2017 version of J.J. Watt, and Whitney Mercilus that this team was destined for greatness this season. We lost key contributors in A.J. Bouye, John Simon, Derek Newton, and Duane Brown, among others, while not fully replacing their talent. This offensive line, as displayed in Week One against the Jaguars, was never going to be capable of carrying this team deep in the playoffs. Even the magic that DW4 displayed was not enough to overcome the underwhelming offensive line.
The lack of depth on this team is alarming. Having to pay several star players league-leading salaries has zapped the Texans’ capacity to re-sign and keep mid-level talent on this roster. The dearth of talent in the back end of this roster contributed to the failure of the team to develop mid-to-late round talent in the drafts. Without a first or second round draft pick, it is terrifying to think that we will enter the draft with only picks in the later rounds that we’ve been ineffective drafting in.
After a 4-12 season, the roster is due for a legitimate overhaul. Aging veterans and underperforming young talent both will be threatened by an offseason ripe with potential for change. Listed below are the starting Texans and their job security on a scale of 1-10 (10 being very secure for next season). In these rankings, I considered their contract, their play this season, the talent that’s on the roster, draft needs/trends, and other contributing factors.
I decided to go with the assumed best player or starter for the 2018 season. I did not think this article would be as accurate as it should be if I based it off the Week 17 depth chart.
Starting Quarterback: Deshaun Watson. Job Security Rating: 7.
Positive reports from Deshaun’s therapy bring hope for him to be able to start Week One. His talent, skill set, and playmaking ability is far and away the best on the roster and/or what will be available in free agency. Injuries and setbacks do happen, especially for a player as competitive as Watson, so the potential for him to not be at the helm while he recovers is still present. For as much as the team has risked on his future, they will make sure not to rush him back too soon.
Starting Running Back: Lamar Miller. Job Security Rating: 5.
Maybe it’s the offensive line, but the only way I can describe his running is “hesitant.” D’Onta Foreman’s quality rookie season was cut short, but his return should signal the end of Miller’s tenure as the workhorse running back.
Staring Fullback: Jay Prosch. Job Security Rating: 7.
The Texans’ offense still finds value in using and implementing him in the offense. Bill O’Brien’s offense has started to utilize three wide receiver sets more often, but with the injuries to TE he will have a solid roster spot set for him next season.
Starting Wide Receiver: DeAndre Hopkins. Job Security Rating: 10.
A newly crowned first-team All-Pro WR, Hopkins has been the steadying force in the rocking boat that is the Texans’ offense over the last couple seasons. The highest-paid WR in the NFL—for now—has long-term plans with the Texans. Potentially the best hands in the league have served him well as Hopkins has caught more touchdowns from different QBs than anyone else in the league over the past few seasons.
Starting Wide Receiver2: Will Fuller V. Job Security Rating: 4.
Health and consistency is what we still need to see from Will Fuller after his second season in the NFL. He has answered many people’s questions about his ability to catch and be more than a speed/gadget player with a remarkable string of TDs early this season. With a unique skill set, the number of years remaining on his rookie contract, and little-to-no competition on the roster, Fuller’s place as WR2 is relatively secure.
Starting Tight End: C.J. Fiedorowicz. Job Security Rating: 3.
The quantity and severity of the concussions he has sustained has crippled his career. Now in jeopardy of being shut down permanently, his status as a starter is not trending positively. Second-year UDFA TE Stephen Anderson has developed well, especially from being on the practice squad just two seasons ago. The Texans just signed CJF to a new contract, good for over $16 million over the next three years. The team can settle on the promising TE, but the crystal ball is murky when looking into his future.
Starting Left Tackle: Chris Clark. Job Security Rating: 3.
Chris Clark has been a contributing member of the Texans for the last three years, but I think his time as a starter is up. He benefitted from the injuries and changes to the Texans’ line, as he has stepped in at tackle and performed to the best of his abilities. He will be a free agent this offseason, and he’s coming off IR after suffering a season-ending injury against the Ravens on Monday Night Football. With all of the expected overhaul this offseason for the offensive line, I am most confident that the Texans will address Clark’s position first.
Starting Left Guard: Xavier Su’a-Filo. Job Security Rating: 3.
With his rookie contract up this offseason, I can see the Texans going in a different direction at this position. However, with all of the changes that are due, I can also see the Texans signing XSF to a two-year contract while the team introduces new long-term options slowly. Fortunately for Sua’-Filo, he knows the Texans’ system (even if he doesn’t play in it well); that may be enough to keep him on the roster. His contract situation will be one to watch in the coming weeks.
Starting Center: Nick Martin. Job Security Rating: 7.
When Martin made mistakes, they were obvious and disastrous. With so many changes and movement up front, it seemed that there was a constant failure in communication between him and the rest of the offensive line. Missing his rookie year due to injury did not help the development of the the young prospect. Greg Mancz was the designated backup center, but his contract is up, so the competition behind Martin is limited. Martin played 88% of the snaps this season before going down with another ankle injury and will be deemed the center of the offensive line for years to come.
Starting Right Guard: Jeff Allen. Job Security Rating: 2.
This overpaid, injury-prone player was a liability at every position he played on the line. Bill O’Brien likes players with a diverse skill set, which Allen does supply, but the Texans cannot deny the mistake they made in not re-signing Brandon Brooks and signing Allen instead. He simply does not has quick enough feet to be a tackle and is not aggressive enough at the point of attack to be a starting guard. His three false starts in a row against the Titans was potentially one of the most embarrassing moments in franchise history. His contract may be his only saving grace.
Starting Right Tackle: Derek Newton. Job Security Rating: 4
Breno Giacomini was the only player on the Texans to play all 100% of the snaps on Houston’s offense. That is a remarkable feat considering how injured the Texans were this season. Derek Newton should be back from injury this season and will be in the running to retake the position that he relinquished. Breno is a free agent this offseason, so if the Texans bring him back or any other player in, there should be a good battle for this position.
Starting Left Defensive End: Jadeveon Clowney. Job Security Rating: 10
Arguably the Texans’ most valuable asset, Clowney has legitimized himself as a consistent powerhouse on the defensive line. Even with only one more year on his rookie contract and a looming record-setting new deal, he’s the most solidified player on the roster.
Starting Nose Tackle: D.J. Reader. Job Security Rating: 6
The player with the most competition at his position, Reader showed solid strides in his run-stopping abilities. In replacing Vince Wilfork, the Clemson product will benefit from the return of all of the stars around him. This past season, he would lose ground later in games in battles that he would win earlier in the game. Still on his rookie contract, Readker will battle Carlos Watkins and Brandon Dunn in 2018, as both had quality years in 2017.
Starting Right Defensive End: J.J. Watt. Job Security Rating: 8
The shining star of Houston has had a tough last two years. There is no replacing J.J. and what he brings to the football field on a weekly basis. When healthy, he is the most dominating athlete I have ever seen. We really need him back. His contract has several more years on it, and the Texans have so many other issues that they will trust in his determination to get back. They will hold off on looking for a replacement. If J.J. can return to being his dominating self, the Texans will have a bounceback season.
Starting SAM Linebacker: Whitney Mercilus. Job Security Rating: 7
Another player who is just as good a human as he is an athlete, Mercilus missed almost all of this past season after going down with a torn pec against the Chiefs. The Texans truly missed his pass rush skills and his ability to set the edge in the run game. The OLB will have to rehab this offseason, but once he returns I predict he’ll slide back into the defense and continue his high production levels.
Starting Inside Linebacker: Benardrick McKinney. Job Security Rating: 8
His numbers slumped in 2017, as he tallied 34 less tackles and two less sacks, but he still showed great tenacity at the point of the attack. He represents the new guard on the Texans’ defense and will be the signal-caller on the defensive side of the ball for a long time to come. He does have some competition with Brian Cushing still on the roster, but many predict Cushing will be let go for more salary space.
Starting Inside Linebacker: Zach Cunningham. Job Security Rating: 7.
In my opinion, he was the most improved player throughout the 2017 season, Cunningham learned to tackle with his chest and body rather than extending his arms. He had a slow start and mistake-prone start to the season as he was constantly beaten around the corner and by RBs in passing routes. Over his last two games, Cunningham recorded 10+ tackles and demonstrated an improved speed in reading the play. One season down and Cunningham looks to have found a spot on this roster.
Starting JACK Outside Linebacker: Brennan Scarlett. Job Security Rating: 4.
As the replacement for John Simon, Scarlett struggled with getting overwhelmed by double blocks and running plays directed at him. He would consistently lose the edge, and teams were able to rush the ball on the Texans better than usual. Of everyone on the front seven, Scarlett is the most susceptible to changes this offseason. I can see the Texans addressing this position early (a/k/a third round of the 2018 NFL Draft) in the draft, as it is a critical piece to Houston’s defensive scheme. Scarlett is signed for the next season, so he must demonstrate that he’s worthy of a starting role.
Starting Left Cornerback: Johnathan Joseph. Job Security Rating: 3.
Outside of the Cleveland game, Joseph’s talents and production took a dive this year. His numbers looks similar, but teams were able to pick on him at a higher rate than usual. His two-year contract has expired and I doubt the Texans will keep the veteran on the roster any longer. He may still have two years left in the league, but the defense is going to see a bunch of changes in this secondary. In an effort to get younger, the Texans will probably not re-sign the 33-year-old corner.
Starting Right Cornerback: Kareem Jackson. Job Security Rating: 6.
With one more year on his contract, Kareem should be back again in a starting role with the Texans. I thought he struggled with faster receivers and was not able to fully replace A.J. Bouye. Jackson may have also started heading down the steep hill on his career. I would not be surprised if the Texans bring in a set of corners to be the new leaders in the secondary.
Starting Strong Safety: Marcus Gilchrist. Job Security Rating: 3.
A one-year replacement for Quintin Demps turned out to be a season-long struggle. He was seen getting burned deep on several occasions. Gilchrist was solid in assisting against the run, but being this big a liability will not last in the NFL. Expect the Texans to add new players to his position as well.
Starting Free Safety: Andre Hal, Job Security Rating: 7.
The leading interceptor on the defense, Hal was a stalwart in Houston’s secondary. Signed through 2020, Hal is going to be set as the Texans’ best option in the defensive backfield this offseason. He is a great player to build around and is one of the only representations of the Texans drafting well late in the draft. His two interception game against the Titans in Week Four was a bright spot for the secondary’s performance as a whole.