A lot has changed in the Texans organization since the they drafted Deshaun Watson in the 2017 NFL Draft. From the front office to the players on the field, it may surprise you to see how dramatically different this team looks now than it did three seasons ago.
Nowhere is the contrast more apparent than the offense the Texans will roll out heading into the 2020 season. Most notably, two franchise cornerstones in Duane Brown and DeAndre Hopkins were inauspiciously traded away for meager returns. On top of that, last offseason featured another high impact trade to revamp the offensive line and bolster the receiving corps.
Taking a trip down memory lane, the 2017 offense was fraught with young, hopeful prospects and highly suspect offensive linemen. Many of these players were drafted when I first started writing for BRB, and I look back with sadness seeing how their careers turned out. A player’s career can truly be set off course by their first training camp, and that was the issue with so many players in his 2017 offense.
Like looking back at your childhood pictures, it’s important to remind yourself how far you’ve come in so little time. Compared to the 2017 version, the names and faces heading into 2020 are a completely different cast. Even with the past two offseasons exemplifying how not to manage an organization, Houston’s 2020 offense appears to be in a better place than it was three years ago.
Deshaun Watson’s first career start came in Week 2 against the Bengals on Thursday Night Football. The week before, starter Tom Savage was benched after being sacked six times in just one half of football. But most notably, in that game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (who would go on to the AFC Championship Game), the Texans suffered an onslaught of injuries. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin, Stephen Anderson all left with concussions. Bruce Ellington, Will Fuller, and Alfred Blue also weren’t available against the Bengals. Take that into consideration when looking at this group.
2017 Houston Texans Offense
Running Backs: Lamar Miller, D’Onta Foreman, Tyler Ervin
Tight End: C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin, Stephen Anderson
Wide Receivers: DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Bruce Ellington, Braxton Miller, Jaelen Strong
Offensive Linemen: Breno Giacomini, Xavier Su’a-Filo, Nick Martin, Greg Mancz, Chris Clark, Jeff Allen, Juli’en Davenport
Foreman and Ervin’s careers should have been much more fruitful in Houston. Foreman’s rookie year was cut short due to an Achilles injury, but it was promising at the start. Miller had a decent season carrying the load behind a miserable offensive line, though he never lived up to the high price the Texans paid for his services.
With all three tight ends out with concussions in Watson’s first start, Evan Baylis was promoted from the practice squad for the game and was let go one week later. Fiedorowicz would call it a career after two consecutive concussions. Griffin was let go before the 2019 season for an incident following the NFL Draft. Anderson was a player replaced by Jordan Thomas in skill and position.
Many were quite optimistic about Houston’s receiver corps entering the 2017 season, but the lack of depth was apparent. Strong was suspended Week 1 of the season and Will Fuller was quickly sidelined with a broken collar bone. Miller never fully made the transition from college quarterback to NFL wide receiver.
You remember how that 50-yard run instantly elevated Watson to all-star status? That’s because he was running for his life. The very first play, Su’a-Filo got absolutely BLASTED by Geno Atkins. Only Nick Martin and Greg Mancz still reside in Houston with the Texans. This offensive line on paper is terrifying. I do not recall being overly worried about the line in 2017, but this was not a talented group by any means.
2020 Houston Texans Predicted Offense
Running Backs: David Johnson, Duke Johnson, Karan Higdon, Buddy Howell
Tight Ends: Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas, Darren Fells, Kahale Warring
Offensive Linemen: Laremy Tunsil, Max Scharping, Nick Martin, Zach Fulton, Tytus Howard, Greg Mancz, Senio Kelemente
This group is bound to change by two or three names. In my prediction of the Texans’ 55-man roster, Warring and Coutee did not make the cut. Many suppose one wideout will be traded before September comes; there are too many mouths to feed with similar skill sets.
Three. Only three players, plus Deshaun Watson, stand in Houston after playing in the 2017 offense. Nick Martin, Greg Mancz, and Will Fuller. From career-ending injuries to falling into O’Brien’s doghouse, the change in the Texans’ offensive personnel is remarkable.
Other than DeAndre Hopkins, who else should be featured on this 2020 roster that isn’t here? Which high-potential prospect are you disappointed never turned out?