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The Value of Things: Five burning Houston Texans questions

What questions need to answered by the end of 2023-2024?

NFL: Preseason-Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans 53 man roster has been set. That always answers a lot of questions at the outset. Of course, the roster will remain in a state of flux for the entire season. Players are added to the practice squad and then promoted to the 53 man roster. Other players go on PUP or injured reserve and are either replaced with players on the practice squad or someone else on the street.

Normally, we would be asking our next opponent five questions about the upcoming game, but here we are with a forced open date to start the season. So, we will ask and answer our own five questions in advance of the 2023 season. Obviously, we won’t have real answers. We don’t have a crystal ball and unlike the gambling guys, I’m not going to tell you how often I’ve been right. If I really had an 80 or 90 percent success rate I wouldn’t need your money or share what I knew with you. I’m 50/50 like most people.

Question One: Is C.J. Stroud a franchise quarterback?

I’ll say this. If we were to compile a list of franchise quarterbacks currently in the game that are under 30 years old, we would say that Josh Allen was probably the only one that we didn’t know was elite at the outset. Most of these guys hit the ground running from jump. That is to say that if you aren’t sure that your guy is the guy then most likely he’s not the guy.

Of course, quarterbacks improve over time. Pat Mahomes is not the same guy he was his first year as a starter. Pick any of the young studs and you’ll see growth to where they are now. The two guys that immediately come to mind here are Justin Herbert and Dak Prescott. Neither were thought to definitely be elite when they were drafted, but they immediately flashed something. Prescott may or may not be elite and Hebert has his detractors as well, but I suspect we will see pretty early on whether we are dealing with a future star.

Question Two: What is going on at left guard and with Kenyon Green?

Again, I don’t have definitive answers for any of these questions. These are questions that will be answered this year and in the case of Green it will be in the calendar year. I suspect he will either be right physically and starting at left guard this time in 2024 or he will be on the street. I think his situation has been handled about as well as could be expected. The organization didn’t put him on blast. They blamed it on injuries and maybe injuries are to blame. I suspect there is a lack of professionalism here that no one is voicing out loud. At least no one on Kirby is.

The Houston Texans clearly did not prepare fully for this eventuality. In March who would have guessed that Green would be lost for the season before it even started? Is the new Green (Kendrick Green) the answer at the position? I’m guessing no. Is Jarrett Patterson the answer at left guard? I suppose anything is possible, but I suspect that the long-term answer isn’t on the roster right now. Signs point to them whiffing on the 15th pick in the first round in 2022. It happens more often than you think. This one is still in development.

Question Three: Is Will Anderson going to be a stud?

This one is similar to the C.J. Stroud question. Unfortunately, this is where the bar has been set on Anderson. None of that is his fault. The team gave up a lot to trade up and get him, so it makes perfect sense that the bar is set this high. What does dominance look like? The Texans have selected four players on defense in the top five. The jury is still out on Derek Stingley, but we can pretty much write the book on Jadeveon Clowney and Mario Williams. Neither of them will be going into the football Hall of Fame.

Williams had 53 sacks in six seasons as a Texan. That likely would have been around 60 had he not missed most of the 2011 season. He finished with 97.5 career sacks and yet was never considered a dominant defensive player. Clowney is still playing and has been to three Pro Bowls. He was never considered a dominant defender. Unfortunately for Anderson, J.J. Watt is the bar here and I don’t know what he needs to do to meet it. Sure, being defensive rookie of the year would probably do it, but how realistic is that?

Question Four: Who else will emerge on offense?

Last year it was Dameon Pierce. When you are rebuilding you are looking for answers. Sometimes those answers come from unusual places. Pierce was a fourth round selection, but he became the lone bright spot on the 2022 Texans. Now, he is the foundation of their running game. As long as he is healthy, he will be a prominent part of the Texans offense moving forward.

Who is the next building block? The Astros went through something similar when they kept adding young pieces. First it was Jose Altuve. Then it was George Springer. Finally, Carlos Correa came up and everything seemed to move forward. Eventually Alex Bregman joined in the fun and the whole thing took off. So, will it be Tank Dell? Is Nico Collins finally going to step up? Will it be someone like Xavier Hutchinson or Dalton Schultz? The preseason isn’t going to answer this question either way. We will start finding out on September 10th.

Question Five: Who else will emerge on defense?

This is basically the mirror image of the last question. The Texans have studs on defense. At least they have guys that most people think will be studs. Derek Stingley and Jalen Pitre seem to be prime candidates. Some people think Christian Harris will be one of those guys. If they can find even one defensive lineman other than Will Anderson then this defense might have enough difference makers to be good.

When you look at teams like the San Francisco 49ers you see two kinds of players. There are the difference makers. These are the guys making the Pro Bowl every season that make the big plays when the games are on the line. Then, there are the guys that just do their job. The Texans have more of those guys than they did before. They signed guys at all three levels of the defense that will be solid starters. The difference between a solid defense and a great one is the number of actual studs you have.