The Texans are a couple of weeks into the post-Bill O’Brien era, and offensively the improvement is already very noticeable. The Texans have scored 30 and 36 points. Deshaun Watson looks more like what we expected.
But hey, this team has issues on both sides of the ball. Some can’t be fixed in-season, and some perhaps can. Let’s take a look at some realistic in-season changes the Texans could institute right now (and going into the bye week after they host Green Bay), to continue to improve their offense. As you can see below, the first two items on my list have already been taken care of.
Fire Bill O’Brien.
Work to get Deshaun Watson some easier underneath and intermediate throws.
- Let’s see what we have in Keke Coutee.
Since Bill O’Brien was fired, a big disappointment for me has been seeing Keke Coutee continuing to languish on the inactive list. Granted, I don’t know if there are things we don’t know. Maybe he has horrible practice habits, maybe he just doesn’t grasp the offense, etc. But to me, the Texans have done themselves a disservice in two ways. The obvious one is hey - this is a lost season. Let’s get Keke some live fire experience and see what we have in him. Give him a chance to work out his issues on Sundays and hopefully become the weapon we’ve seen incredibly exciting flashes from.
Second disservice - if they had been playing him, he could give the Texans a legitimate trade chip. Maybe they’ve seen enough from him as far as work habits or whatever it is that continues to land him on the inactive list, but hell - fake it for a few weeks, give him some easy looks, and try to sell high (maybe at BEST a third from a desperate or playoff contending team??) I say third not based on current Keke, but on the Keke that might have been in the last few weeks if he were to play and put up big numbers.
Keke Coutee is SCARY when he’s right. He could be a game-changing weapon if only whatever his issues are could be fixed. I honestly think he could positively impact this offense more than any single player on the roster other than Watson himself.
- Scour practice squads for a new return man.
Technically this is a special teams move, but improving field position will directly help Houston’s offense. The Texans, if I recall correctly, grabbed DeAndre Carter off the Eagles practice squad a couple of years ago. Now, practice squads are bigger and even are able to include veteran players now. There’s NO WAY the Texans can’t do better than DeAndre Carter as a return man. Maybe there’s someone on the current team who can do better, but if not - 31 other teams with expanded practice squads - just roll the dice on a guy. You can’t do much worse than DeAndre Carter.
- Get Deshaun Watson more involved in the run game.
Sure, the chances he gets hurt may increase with more runs, but without more runs you’re not taking full advantage of his incredible skill set. Plus, when he has run this year (usually not by design), he’s shown veteran-level awareness and smart self-preservation instincts. Listen - if Deshaun is going to get hurt, he’s going to get hurt. Look at the way he scrambles. So many hard stops, spins, etc. I think the chances of him getting hurt from his mobility have a higher chance of happening during those insane scrambles than on designed runs.
- SOMEONE needs to teach Deshaun the proper way to disguise play-action passes.
The main reason why Houston’s play-action passing game isn’t firing on all cylinders is, well, nobody is afraid of Houston’s rushing attack because the run design and David Johnson have been awful, sprinkled with some iffy offensive line play, especially from the middle of the line. But I would not discount part of the issue is that Deshaun doesn’t really seem to sell the fake handoff as well as a lot of other quarterbacks in the league. Frankly, many LESSER quarterbacks are better at this than Deshaun is. This is something coaching should be able to fix VERY quickly.
- Tweak the run design and adjust run personnel.
I say “tweak” because it seems more realistic in-season than overhauling the run design. More outside runs, since David Johnson has actually had at least some success with those this season. More runs from formations under center, coupled with the above improvements for Deshaun’s play-action technique. Less David Johnson, more Duke Johnson. Duke isn’t Walter Payton, but he’s wasted on this roster at his current usage rate. Let’s see Duke get more chances and also play to both David and Duke’s (heh...David Duke) strengths by - you know - actually getting them involved more in the passing game.
On top of this, similar to my point about kick returners - scour practice squads for young/rookie running backs that have upside. Or look to your own RB “depth” to see if someone can take advantage of an opportunity in a lost season such as this. David Johnson almost CERTAINLY will not be here next year, so cast a wide net for a position that often excels even when the player is not thought to be top-end first round talent! Why not? Lower-drafted (and sometimes undrafted) RBs consistently make impacts year after year. The practice squads are expanded. There is talent out there.
So there’s my working list. There won’t be one for the defense, because, my friends, that is HOPELESS. The Texans need a talent influx badly and anything done to help the defense in-season will be with duct tape and prayers.
I’d feel a lot better about my potential changes listed above if we had a real General Manager. Jack Easterby was on the clock when the horrific DeAndre Hopkins trade was made, so maybe in his mind David Johnson WILL be here next season. See my issue? Anyone but Bill O’Brien or Easterby can see there’s NO CHANCE David Johnson should be on this roster when next season starts - but Easterby may want to try and continue to justify that gawdawful trade. You know who shouldn’t? Romeo Crennel. Tim Kelly. EVERYONE else. Yep, I’m still bitter.
What other realistic changes could be made to potentially improve this offense? Let us know in the comments section below.