The Houston Texans finally hired a head coach after a long and arduous search. Congratulations to Lovie Smith for getting the job, let’s hope he lasts longer then David Culley, and isn’t as stupid as egotistical as Bill O'Brien. With this hiring the Texans focus shifts to free agency and the draft, and the Texans are focused on their current rebuild. The question now is:
How do you want the Texans to rebuild?
The first step is set in stone, and that’s to find your signal caller, whether it’s Davis Mills or not that’s still step one. Step two, however, is where things get tricky. Would rather spend high value draft picks on protecting your franchise guy, and then spend money on high value free agents for weapons, or the opposite, would you rather spend high value picks on weapons for your quarterback and then spend big money on protecting your quarterback.
I believe in building from the trenches. Assuming you have your franchise quarterback, I strongly believe in putting up a great left tackle for him, then going out and getting a smart center. If you look at some of the more successful young quarterbacks most of them have good centers. The Buffalo Bills went out and paid a premium at the time for Mitch Morse, the Los Angeles Chargers also paid a premium for Corey Linsley, and the Arizona Cardinals went out and acquired Rodney Hudson for Kyler Murray. Those same three quarterbacks also have high value left tackles. The Bills have Pro Bowler Dion Dawkins, the Chargers spent a lottery pick on Rashawn Slater, and the Cardinals spent big money on D.J. Humphries. Even look at Lamar Jackson. Baltimore spent huge money to lock up Ronnie Stanley. The first steps after finding your franchise quarterback is to lock up a blindside blocker and get a smart center. For the Texans, Laremy Tunsil is currently sitting at that left tackle spot, but since signing that massive extension he hasn’t played like the seventh best left tackle in the league.
The second phase is getting weapons for your quarterback. Rebuilding teams should spend draft picks on receivers, instead of spending big money on them, let the weapons grow with the quarterback and develop together as soon as that receiver hits the NFL. Once the quarterback establishes himself however, that’s the time to go out and pay big money for weapons.
Never. And I mean NEVER. Splurge on a running back. The NFL is in a transition period where teams are going to a running back committee instead of sticking with one guy with the only real outliers being Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor. I’m not against paying running backs if it’s working. Henry is the vocal point of the Tennessee Titans offense, Alvin Kamara as literally carries that New Orleans Saints offense on his back, and Dalvin Cook saves the Vikings multiple times per season. Yet there is a flip side to this. Ezekiel Eliot is the highest paid running back in the league and he’s not even the best back on his team, Christian McCaffrey is great but he’s never healthy, and the New York Giants spent the number two overall pick on Saquan Barkley instead of Quenton Nelson. The best rushing teams in the NFL have rookie contract running backs and committee back fields.
The Third Phase is when the defense comes into play. Most teams build up there defense from front to back. Defensive line to linebackers and then to the secondary with there being one major exception, the New England Patriots who build their defense from back to front. Texans general manager Nick Caserio for better or for worse is a Bill Belichick disciple, so it’s expected them to build the defense like New England.
Personally, I would start in the middle. It put a lot of value in the signal caller of the defense, and most of the top defenses have solid to great linebackers. The Patriots boast former Pro Bowler Donta Hightower, the Bills have Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds, the Saints Demario Davis, the Bucaneers have Devin White and Lavonte David, the Colts have Darious Leonard, and the 49ers have Fred Warner. Do it all linebackers are becoming a highly sought after thing right now in the NFL because of the wide variety of roles they can play.
From there it turns to the defensive line. Get a damn pass rusher. There’s a chance in this up coming draft to take a very good pass rusher, and this opportunity doesn’t come around very often. A solid pass rusher does so much more then just get sacks, he frees up the inside guys because he demands a double team. He forces the offense to keep a tight end or a running back into pass block, limiting a team’s pass catching options. A solid pass rusher just makes life horrible for linemen and quarterbacks and that’s why they get paid. The interior line comes next and it’s interesting with the Texans because Roy Lopez and Ross Blacklock both had solid seasons and are on rookie deals. It’s weird because for a roster so full of holes the interior on the defensive line has some serious potential.
Lastly we get to the secondary, the only reason it’s last is because lock down corners are really hard to find, and they are not only hard to find, but they are even harder to develop. When Marlon Humphrey was drafted he had a terrible rookie season where he barely started, his next year got better but not by much, and in his third year he finally broke out as a solid corner with huge takeaway potential. There aren’t many guys in the league where you can say matchup with every receiver in the league. Jalen Ramsey, Tre’Davious White, J.C Jackson, Marlon Humphry, Xaiven Howard, Marshon Lattimore, and Darius Slay are some of the top guys who are comfortable leaving playing one on one against the other team’s best receiver. Good safeties as well aren’t easy to come by, and when you have one it’s hard to justify paying them unless there game changing.
That’s the order to have a successful rebuild. The Texans need to find a center for Davis Mills, draft skill players, opt to not invest heavily in the running back position, find a top linebacker, build out their pass rush, and then focus on the secondary. If they do that, the next good Texans team can be here sooner than expected.