PFF.com ran their latest 2023 NFL Roster Grades and, to be blunt, your Houston Texans came up a little short. While the non-roster move that makes the biggest difference over the 2022 version of the team, DeMeco Ryans, has already paid dividends, the rest itself is still a work in progress.
Biggest strength in 2023: Secondary
Signing Jimmie Ward away from the San Francisco 49ers was big toward improving this secondary and can help take the pressure off 2022 draftees Derek Stingley Jr. and Jalen Pitre, both of whom had very up-and-down rookie seasons. If those two can reach their potential in 2023, this secondary has the potential to be a no-fly zone.
It is pretty easy to imagine the Texans secondary as a source of strength this year. Pitre was a game changer as a rookie and stands to only get better in year two, especially under the tutelage of Ryans.
Stingley Jr. should also settle in as a solid, if not Pro Bowl level, defender. While he didn’t match the hype of his draft position in 2022, or touch Sauce Gardner’s success, he was also on a Love Smith led team. So, don’t judge too harshly.
Retired All-Pro CB Antonio Cromartie on #Texans CB Derek Stingley Jr. @stingjr 'Love him, I don't think he gets enough credit because he's not in a bigger market. The kid is phenomenal. Football IQ is high. He's a game-changer.' @KPRC2 @BallengeeGroup https://t.co/rorV3puNqf— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) May 23, 2023
The addition of Ward cannot be overstated either. He and Pitre should arrive as one of the strongest safety tandems in the NFL this year.
Biggest weakness in 2023: Wide Receiver
After trading away Brandin Cooks, there are a lot of question marks at wide receiver. The Texans made some moves, acquiring depth pieces Robert Woods and Noah Brown and drafting Tank Dell and Xavier Hutchinson, but they currently lack any top-end talent to help rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud.
Kinda hard to argue with this one. While it’s easy to get excited for the noobs, Dell and Hutchinson are still rookie receivers on a team known for failing to develop rookie receivers. Hopefully offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik and wide receivers coach Ben McDaniels can reverse that trend. Otherwise, general manager Nick Caserio might want to continue to beat the bushes for a WR1 so Stroud has a legit key target.
Rookie to watch: EDGE Will Anderson Jr.
The Texans gave up a fortune to trade up to the third pick in the draft to select the Alabama pass rusher, and for good reason. The next best edge rusher on the roster is Jerry Hughes, who turns 35 in August. Anderson was one of the most productive pass rushers in the country over the past few years and should provide an immediate boost to a Texans unit that sorely needs it.
While I’m still not sold on the whole “gave up a fortune to draft Anderson” line, Houston did invest significantly in this promising young man. Hopefully he’s more J.J. Watt than Mario Williams or Jadeveon Clowney.
Will “The Terminator” Anderson, Jr. led the nation with 60 pressures as a freshman and in 2021, he lead the nation again with 82 pressures and 17.5 sacks. #Texans #WeAreTexans— Texans Fan Battle Podcast (@TexansFanBattle) May 22, 2023
How many sacks will Anderson get in his rookie year? pic.twitter.com/bK7ILsQ5sZ
Over/Under 5.5 win total: Under
Despite making a lot of moves to build a roster core, this Texans team is still a couple of years away from making a dent in the AFC playoff picture.
It’s fool’s gold to think this Texans team is dominating the NFL in 2023. But, pulling the Under on 5.5 wins seems sadly pessimistic. Sure the H-Town roster isn't as loaded as the Kansas City Chiefs or Philadelphia Eagles, or a few easy moves away like the Buffalo Bills or Baltimore Ravens. In fact, they’re not even as positioned to make a move as the Miami Dolphins or Los Angeles Chargers. But, they’re no longer the 31st best team in the NFL either.
In fact, with a few lucky breaks, and some not so lucky ones for their division opponents in the Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans, the Texans might actually have a shot at winning the weak AFC South once again. It’s a long, long shot, but a shot nonetheless.