The Texans finished last season at 11-5 and won another AFC South division crown. Many of those games came down to the wire with the Texans barely squeaked away. In order for them to avoid falling off, and letting up to the rival Colts, here is what needs to happen.
- Bill O’Brien needs to trust Deshaun Watson in crunch time situations. A recurring theme throughout his brief career is that O’Brien plays conservative as the game wanes down to the final minutes. This ideology puts a ceiling on a team—especially one who will face a first-place schedule. The elite teams in the NFL allow their quarterbacks to gun it. The Patriots, Chiefs, Steelers, Saints, and Rams all put the onus on their quarterbacks. Bill O’Brien frustratingly settles for up-the-gut run plays and others that barely put the Texans in field goal position. If Deshaun Watson has a green light like the other quarterbacks, expect his development to speed up and for the Texans to find themselves in positions to win against better teams.
- Will Fuller is arguably the best deep threat in the NFL. His ability to get behind a defense is reminiscent of Desean Jackson’s early days with the Philadelphia Eagles. The way he opens up the opposing secondary creates nearly infinite space in the middle of the field. If he can stay healthy for a full 16 games, he will give Watson the ability to limit the damage from the lacking offensive line. The tight ends, running backs, and slot receivers will find themselves open on short routes because of Will Fuller’s ability to take the top off of a defense. Watson will not have to hold on to the ball and wait for other targets to get open, thus allowing pass rushers to get him. Add Fuller’s chemistry with Watson on top of that and there lies a chance for firework shows in Houston.
- The Texans defensive backs need to be at least average. Their secondary has the potential to be the weakest link. With the departures of Kareem Jackson and Tyrann Mathieu and arrivals of Tashaun Gipson and Bradley Roby, one can argue that an already-troubled unit on the team actually downgraded. The Texans need their secondary to simply hold their ground. Bend but don’t break. The AFC class of quarterbacks is at a high. Everywhere you look, there is a star quarterback with the ability to light it up. The Patriots, Chiefs, Steelers, Colts, Chargers, and even the Browns have star quarterbacks AND better defensive backs than the Texans. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel will have a lot of work on his hands keeping these guys in position to limit damage. The nightmare scenario, and perhaps the more realistic one, is that receivers continuously blow by for huge gains in big games. The reliability and confidence in that unit does not quite exist, at least not yet.