This has not been the easiest of seasons to be a Houston Texans fan. Coming into the season, most figured that the long rebuild would still apply, and that the squad would still not be all that good. In that regard, the Texans have not disappointed. Early in the season, the team played in several close games that could have been wins. Yet, the last few games have seen this team seemingly regress, and the play on the field grows more and more unwatchable. The Texans GM office does not lack for areas of focus come the off-season.
That does not mean that everything about the Texans suck. Amid the ruins of the 2022 season, some reasons for hope exists. The recent class of rookies, especially players like Dameon Pierce, Derek Stingley Jr and Jalen Pitre, while taking some not-unexpected rookie lumps, offer hope for the future. The Texans expect to enter the off-season with a lot of cap room for free agents and plenty of high draft picks, between the Texans’ ineptitude and the increasingly disappointing season of the Cleveland Browns.
Still, the current on-field product can’t really be considered quality…expect for one area. The offense aside from Dameon Pierce is, well, offensive. The Texans’ defense, while somehow keeping the scores in games surprisingly close, does little to stop opponents from doing what they want when they want. Of the three main areas of the team, it is in Special Teams where the Texans see the best on-field performance. One could argue that the Texans, between the offense struggling just to get a first down when the games are competitive and the defensive issues, get the chance to really practice/employ their special teams in game situations that other franchises can’t match. Yet, the special teams generally perform well, especially in comparison to their offensive/defensive counterparts.
Here is a listing of some of the Texans special teams rankings (relative to the rest of the league):
- DVOA: 7th
- Punt Average: 9th
- Punt Net Average: 4th
- FG Make Percentage: 10th
Compare those rankings with the offensive and defensive rankings:
- Offensive DVOA: 31st
- Yards/game: 32nd
- Points/game: 30th
- Defensive DVOA: 29th
- Yards allowed/game: 31st
- Points allowed/game: 18th
In particular, consider some of the following:
- Ka’imi Fairbarin: At times, he has been a big a punching bag for the Texans as any on the roster, especially after he received a curious contract extension in 2020. Yet, over the past two seasons, especially after he returned from injury at the start of the 2021 season, Fairbarin rates among the more reliable kickers in the league. This season, he is 15/15 on XPs and currently stands at 90% (18 of 20) on FG accuracy.
- Cameron Johnston: The punter? Typically, if the punter ranks among your best players, that doesn’t bode well for the state of your franchise. However, Johnston, since he came to the Texans in 2021, delivers some of the best punting in the league. Jokes about all the in-game reps he get’s notwithstanding, Johnston currently ranks in the top 10 for punt average (48.6) and net (43.2). While not leading the league, Johnston is doing his part to keep the Texans in the games that he is in.
- Jon Weeks: There are few constants on the Texans, especially for the positive aspects. Weeks is among them. As a long snapper, for all the punts and FGs he’s been in on for as long as he appears on the roster, you won’t find a bad snap or muff on his end. He can still provide punt coverage as well as any.
This is not to say that the team rules in all special teams categories. They do rank among the worst in punt return yardage (25th) and kick return yardage (31st). Houston currently does not have a returner (punts or kicks) that rates within the top 20. However, some of those stats are misleading, mainly due to the offensive ineptitude, all the punts they give other teams and the lack of kick returns this get due to various defensive struggles.
Special teams success does not ensure that a team will also be successful. The Texans are as strong an example of that statement as any. Still, for a squad with not a lot to boast about this season, the special teams offer some small morsels of happiness and pride. Especially when considering the past history of the Texans, where special teams often bedeviled the squad, it is nice that they are not the anchor of the past. Frank Ross is far from perfect, but in comparison with the rest of the coaching staff, he is the current ace of that lineup. As for the rest of the squad? Well, that is where Nick Caserio and the personnel staff of the Texans have their work cut out for them.