We usually go with the best and the worst performers of the week with each edition of roses and thorns. However, this week we will be a little more contemplative as we look at each position group a little more closely. Which position groups should the Houston Texans prioritize in free agency and the draft? Which position groups have seen the most success overall?
The top five guys from the last game saw a couple of new faces. Jake Hansen registered a 78.4 at linebacker to lead the team. Jalen Pitre and Roy Lopez also cracked the top five with 68.4 and 66.9 scores respectively. Those are pretty low scores to finish in the top five, but both of those guys desperately need to turn things around and here is hoping it is the beginning of better things to come.
Davis Mills ranks 28th among quarterbacks according to PFF. The rumor mills is spinning in overdrive as I write this piece. Some are saying he could be replaced by Kyle Allen. So, I will not pile on Mills more than what we already have done to this point. Quarterbacks obviously get more of the credit and blame depending on how the team is doing. We know someone else will be under center next season, so the only real drama will be figuring out who that new guy will be.
Dameon Pierce is still a top ten running back according to PFF. That’s even after his 10 yard effort this past week. Eno Benjamin ranked 22nd amongst running backs while in Arizona. If he can get on the field this week we might be able to see if he can be a nice secondary back in a run heavy offense. Troy Hairston is dead ass last (DAL) amongst fullbacks and Rex Burkhead is darn near that for running backs. A competent coaching staff would keep both of those guys off the field as much as possible.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
PFF has Nico Collins ranked 34th amongst eligible wide receivers. That makes him a solid number two according to them. However, he is catching a relatively low percentage of balls for the number of times he’s targeted. Is it on him? Is it on Mills? Is it on the play caller? These are all relevant questions. How Nick Caserio did not take a second rounder for Brandin Cooks I’ll never know. He ranks 61st amongst wide receivers. Chris Moore and Phillip Dorsett are essentially replacement level receivers at this point.
Jordan Akins is another positive from this season. He ranks 13th amongst qualified tight ends. O.J. Howard has regressed to average, but given that he was a late signing that’s not bad. It has been Brevin Jordan’s disappearance that is probably most noticeable here. Again, who to we blame for this?
This is a good, the bad, and the ugly kind of moment. Laremy Tunsil is a Pro Bowl left tackle. He ranks fifth amongst tackles according to PFF. Tytus Howards is well above average as well according to PFF. Some want to pan the A.J. Cann signing, but he is an above average guard according to them. So, while many want to trash this offensive line, there are some bright spots to celebrate on this unit.
Scott Quessenberry and Kenyon Green are not meant to be celebrated. It’s not Quessenberry’s fault that he was supposed to be a backup and was thrust into the starting role. I’m okay giving him a pat on the back and using an early pick to get a new center. Green presents a much bigger problem. You can see him getting beat and beat in spectacular fashion. Is he a bust or is he simply not getting the coaching he should be getting? Is he simply a young guy that needs to grow? These are difficult questions to answer at this point.
The Texans are seemingly built from the outside in. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo might be a keeper at defensive end. If Jonathan Greenard will ever get healthy he looks like a rotational player as well. Meanwhile, Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, and Rasheem Green have had their moments, but they are stopgap players that probably shouldn’t figure into future plans. It is the guys on the inside that present the problem. None of them are run stuffers. They are decent enough rotational players, but this team needs a stud defensive tackle in the worst way possible.
Christian Kirksey is a great guy. He stands up and takes the slings and arrows like a good veteran should. He is a good vocal leader and the kind of guy you want in your locker room. He also isn’t a good linebacker. Christian Harris might be a good linebacker some day, but he isn’t one right now. The Texans are on pace to have the worst rushing defense of my lifetime. This is not hyperbole. They have the worst rushing defense in terms of yard per game since 1972.
Desmond King and Steven Nelson were good free agent additions. As much as we might bag on Nick Caserio, we have to acknowledge the good things he has done. Those two have performed about as well as they could. Derek Stingley and Jalen Pitre were supposed to anchor this defense and they might some day. Jonathan Owens leads the universe in tackles ten or more yards from the line of scrimmage. He is another nice guy and a great story, but he is not a starting safety.
Whatever sport you are talking about, the key to coaching is when the whole can be better than the sum of its parts. Ultimately, Nick Caserio and Cal McNair will be tasked with answering the following question: is this coaching staff helping the team perform up to its potential? We all see the lack of talent, but does that warrant a 1-8-1 record? If we simply look at their rankings we might get a clue.
Points: 159 (31st)
Overall Offense: 26th
Points Allowed: 230 (17th)
Overall Defense: 31st
It might seem like they are overachieving on defense, but that also could simply be a function of their opponents shutting things down in the fourth quarter when they are already ahead. They ranks 32nd when offense and defense are combined. So, they are as bad as their record says they are. Simply put, this same coaching staff can’t return next season. Maybe Smith can stay on with new coordinators, but you cannot simply trot this same group out next season and expect a different result. It is the very definition of insanity.