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Red Zone Play: 3 Yard Gain, 2 Yard Loss

The Texans continue fighting for yards.

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NFL Pro Bowl Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The hits just keep coming for the Houston Texans.

Over the last few years, the front office has undergone a loss of the founding owner, the loss of not one but two general managers, an experimental ‘flat earth’ general management system, and the elevation of head coach Bill O’Brien to general manager.

The 2020 offseason brought a total offensive makeover from the top down that includes new offensive coordinator Tim Kelly, new feature back David Johnson, new wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb, and the departure of DeAndre Hopkins. Thankfully, the offensive line will have year to year continuity this season for the first time in...well, maybe ever?

The defense underwent a makeover of sorts last year with the introductions of Tashaun Gipson (who’s now gone), Bradley Roby, Gareon Conley, Jacob Martin, and the trade of Jadeveon Clowney. The starting defense for 2020 will look very different than the team that took the field in Week one of 2019 in New Orleans. The defensive coordinator is no longer named Romeo Crennel, as Anthony Weaver has taken over and promised to bring changes and new ideas to the defensive side of the ball.

Through all this churn, the one facet of the game that was an annual source of consternation in years gone by was special teams. Thankfully, special teams guru Brad Seely came along in 2018 and stabilized that unit. He put the best special teams effort on the field the Texans have ever had week in and week out.

Now that Seely has retired, it looks like even the kick and return game will see some upheaval.

To make matters worse, the NFL has finally announced when/how players can return to the team facilities to start preparing for the 2020 campaign. As someone who has stood in the Texans’ locker room, there’s no way to put a full team in there and keep them all six feet apart. They’ll have to run the social distancing obstacle course when they’re inside the facility, along with everything else.

All of this paints a fairly grim picture for a team competing in a league where the margin for error is razor slim and continuity is often the difference between winning and losing.

Thankfully, the Texans have leaders in Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt. If you’ve been watching H-Town football for any amount of time, you’ve seen both of these men put the team on their back and will them to a win. Unfortunately, we’ve also seen what happens when Watt goes down with an injury. Only some celestial power can help the Texans if they lose Watt and/or Watson this year.

Houston Texans Offense

Watson will enjoy the return of speedsters Will Fuller V and Kenny Stills. He’ll also have the addition of Brandin Cooks, one of the best deep ball receivers in recent memory. To make that even more exciting, Watson is second only to Russell Wilson on the best deep ball passers list.

Houston Texans Defense

On the other side of the ball, things aren’t quite so promising, as the loss of D.J. Reader and the news free agent Timmy Jernigan mysteriously walked away from a deal to join Houston (rumor has it he may have failed his physical) has left a 300+ pound hole in the front seven. The Texans’ defense struggled greatly to generate pass pressure last season, and without a run stuffing, block-eating defensive tackle to anchor the d-line, opposing run games might pose a whole new set of troubles as well. We can hope against hope rookie Ross Blacklock exceeds all expectations, but he’d have to be the second coming of Chester McGlockton to go from the NCAA to Pro Bowl NFLer without a full course of offseason reps. With no concrete rumblings that Bill O’Brien is looking at free agents like Everson Griffen, Damon Harrison, Mike Daniels or Marcell Dareus, it stands to reason they have their sites locked on a player sitting on someone else’s roster.

The team could also benefit greatly from bringing in safety Eric Reid, and there are several reasons to believe this could actually happen. It’s also just about the smartest play Houston could make in the roster improvement department right now, since Reid is not only a wily veteran, but he and his little brother, phenom safety Justin Reid, have the sort of chemistry that only comes from a lifetime of shared football experience. The two think alike, play alike, can share communication with a simple exchanged glance, and would love to play together.

With the two yards lost in the Brad Seely and Tim Jernigan news, it’s time for the Texans to gain three more by using some of their $19.2 million in cap space to bring in some help. As it stands, this roster, with all the changes, three new coordinators, and both the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens improving in the offseason, the Texans can’t afford to stand pat right now.