What happens when you have a quarterback who is a total dual threat? A guy who can slice you with the pass or dice you in the running game?
NFL Record Book:
Deshaun Watson: First player in NFL history with 4,000+ passing yards, 25+ passing touchdowns, 500+ rushing yards, and 5 rushing touchdowns in a single season
Then you take all that talent and you add a speedster like Brandin Cooks to a mix of receivers that already includes Will Fuller V and Kenny Stills? You get more go-routes and deep slants than you can shake a free safety at with any hope of victory.
Next, you bring in a sure-handed, veteran slot receiver in Randall Cobb, a guy who has made a living feasting in the intermediate zones on crossing patterns and quick slants. Pair him with tight ends Darren Fells and Jordan Akins.
To make things even more interesting, you add Duke Johnson Jr and David Johnson to the mix at running back.
Odds are, if they can all get on the same page with new offensive coordinator Tim Kelly fast enough, you get another record breaking season from Deshaun Watson.
Highest number of routes run at least 10 yards down the field by RBs, since 2017:— PFF (@PFF) September 2, 2020
1. Alvin Kamara 163
2. David Johnson 162
3. Duke Johnson Jr. 157
4. James White 147 pic.twitter.com/OjpAltTqfh
Assuming the Houston Texans’ offense can only deploy five of these weapons for Watson at any one time, the odds of a mismatch on every single play are pretty high. Particularly against defenses that don’t match up well against speedy receivers, underneath routes, or receiving options coming out of the backfield. As we’ve all seen time and again, Watson can extend plays in the event the offensive line loses at the point of attack somewhere; by the time he does, one of those five men will be open.
In the latest NFL.com power rankings, your Houston Texans land 16th, dead center, in the league, primarily due to the balance of potentially dream-team offense and potentially stuff of nightmares defense.
#16 - Kenny Stills was activated off the NFI list on Monday and now joins Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb in a post-DeAndre Hopkins wide receiver room in Houston. So what are we working with? Stills is a nice complementary player, and Cooks (concussion issues aside) has four 1,000-yard seasons at 26 years old. Cobb is a veteran who showed he could still play last year in Dallas, while Fuller profiles as a star in the making if his body ever allows it. If it all breaks right, Deshaun Watson can still make plenty of magic even without Hopkins. But the darkest timeline is obvious: The receivers crumble and Watson suffers through a frustrating and fruitless contract-push year. The absolute last thing Bill O’Brien needs is a DeAndre Hopkins butterfly effect involving his franchise quarterback.
While the Texans have still done nothing earth-shaking to bolster one of the worst defenses in the league last year (at least when J.J. Watt wasn’t on the field), they’ve clearly put all their eggs in the ‘score as many points as possible’ basket. This goes along with recent conventional wisdom, as illustrated in this late 2018 article.
Scoring Is Up: As most any football fan will tell you, watching NFL games in 2018 has been exciting. One reason is that scoring is on a record-setting pace. After 11 weeks, the NFL has been on a record pace for most points scored (7,791), most touchdown (895) and most passing touchdowns (570). On average, there are 48.4 points scored in a game, another record. Teams that score the most are also Super Bowl contenders.
The unfortunate part to this? Houston averaged 23.9 points per game in 2019, That’s below the 2018 average, for those keeping track at home. With a defense that gave up 25.3 points per game, the Texans needed to figure out how to put more points on the board since logic dictates when you give up more points than you score, well, that’s not good...
Between Cooks, Fuller V, Stills, Fells, Cobb, Johnson and Johnson, the Texans’ pass-catchers have averaged a total of 11.81 points per game. This may or may not come as a surprise, but the leading scorers in that span are David Johnson, Kenny Stills, and Darren Fells. By way of comparison, DeAndre Hopkins averaged an additional 6.75 points per game in that span.
All those numbers will need to come up, and someone will need to absorb the 6.75 loss from Hopkins’ absence as well. However, the Texans seem to have the entire route tree covered when it comes to the passing game, which is often the fastest way to put up points.
In Deshaun Watson’s three seasons in Houston, they’ve averaged 23.03 points per game, which isn’t enough. In the Bill O’Brien era, the Texans have averaged 21.68 points per game, with the high water mark coming in 2018 when they hit 24.1. With teams like the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs averaging 29.6 and 28.5 points per game respectively last season, it’s no wonder O’Brien put so much into a more lethal offense, supplying Watson with an armory full of weapons to attack opposing defenses.
Now all we need is for those moves to pan out, the defense to at least hold the points given up to something around league average, and Houston should easily repeat as AFC South division champions. Anything less should be the footnote at the end of the Bill O’Brien era (experiment?).
Time to put a number on it. I’m predicting the Texans will average 27.5 points per game this season. Not quite enough to surpass the Ravens or Chiefs, but enough to keep them firmly in the #3 seed range for the AFC.
What’s your prediction?