Time is such a short commodity. Self-scouting is so important and so few coaches are able to do it consistently. I remember when I was coaching, data was so hard to come by and getting the time to analyze it was even harder to come by. However, when I could find the time, it was invaluable. Were my lineups the best I could put out there? Were there weaknesses in my own team I could shore up?
In a similar way, the Houston Texans can take this time to answer two very important questions. First, are they putting the very best lineup they can out on the field or are there guys they currently have that should get more playing time? Secondly, are there positions they should target in free agency and the draft based on what we are seeing on the field right now?
Quarterback— Davis Mills
Mills has a 70.0 grade. Essentially, for most positions a 60 grade is supposed to be average, but that is not universally true. For quarterbacks it ends up being closer to 65. That means that PFF considers Mills to be above average overall. Kyle Allen hasn’t taken any snaps and Jeff Driscoll has only taken a few gimmick snaps, so there really isn’t anything else to compare this to. As for the future, I think everyone knows how we feel at Battle Red Blog, so I’ll leave that there.
Running Backs— Dameon Pierce and Rex Burkhead
This is a tale of two cities. Pierce rates at 75.1. That not only makes him the best running back on the team, but it makes him the top rated rookie running back in football. He is also the best rated draft pick by far from this past draft for the Texans. There just isn’t enough we can say about him at this point. The backup position is another story. Rex Burkhead scores a 57.3 which falls below that 65 target and ranks him 54th with only about 60 backs qualifying.
Dare Ogunbovale is the only other halfback getting snaps so far this season. He has a 60.0 grade, but that is probably just a default. If it were me I would have brought in a group of backs during the bye week to work out. Someone there has to be better than Burkhead and probably younger too. This is pretty simple. In order for this team to win they need to run the ball 25-35 times a game. Pierce can’t have all those carries. Someone needs to carry the ball 5-10 times a game and it can’t be Burkhead. It just can’t.
Wide Receivers— Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins, Chris Moore
At first glance, it would appear that Cooks is having a down season and PFF would agree so far. However, a 63.5 grade is not terrible and when you consider he has never been an elite wide receiver it makes perfect sense. Teams can double him fairly easily which means someone else needs to pick up the slack. That has been Nico Collins so far. He has a 71.0 grade. No one is going to confuse either guy with Deandre Hopkins, but that isn’t a bad one-two punch for a team like this.
From there, things get dicey. Chris Moore officially qualifies based on snaps and he came in at a pedestrian 55.3. That beats out guys like Phillip Dorsett (50.9) and Tyler Johnson (46.3). They’ve already cut Chris Conley. So, the options are limited and we knew that would happen when John Metchie was ruled out for the season. We hope he will return next year, so that will likely impact their offseason thinking.
Tight Ends— O.J. Howard
Howard was signed eight days before the start of the season, so we have take his 53.0 grade with some understanding. No one expected him to be a world beater. They hoped he could be a willing blocker and occasional receiving threat and he has done that so far. Brevin Jordan (53.7) and Pharaoh Brown were supposed to get the bulk of the time. Brown was cut and Jordan has been out with ankle issues.
The find of the season was Jordan Akins. He wasn’t exactly a find given that he has spent the past several seasons with the team, but he was signed at around the same time as Howard and he’s put up a 77.5 grade in limited time. He should get more time from here on out. Mason Schreck has also done okay with a 53.0 grade. If Jordan can’t produce this might be a position of need again when the draft runs around.
Offensive Line— Scott Quessenberry, Kenyon Green, AJ Cann, Laremy Tunsil, Tytus Howard
This is where we reach a crossroads. Are you about winning or are you about developing talent for the future? Fortunately, the best five guys are on the field, but Quessenberry (50.5) and Green (52.7) have struggled relative to their teammates. Their possible replacements (likely Justin McRay 48.5) are not any better. So, we just deal with the growing pains for now.
Green in particular should get better as the season moves on. He has been very effective as a run blocker, but has struggled in a couple of games against good interior pass rushers. That should even out as he gains more experience. As for center, that will be an obvious area of focus in free agency or the draft since Justin Britt flamed out.
Laremy Tunsil presents another problem. He has a 80.9 grade which leaves him as the fifth best tackle in football. He will make another Pro Bowl at that pace and even his run blocking has gotten better. Still, he is one of the highest paid tackles in the business. So, do you trade him and get more draft capital (and salary cap relief) or do you keep him since he is a top performer at a position of need? Howard and Cann have not been quite at a Pro Bowl level, but they are both better than average (68.8 and 65.2 respectively) so, at worst the right side of line has been solidified.