On March 20th, my entire Texans fandom was put into question. This was the day when Bill O’Brien decided to ship All Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona for a rusty bike and a couple of scratch-offs.
The news was immediately vaulted into the “where were you” category of Houston sports, along with the Oilers-Bills debacle in 1993, the Phi Slama Jama loss to NC State in the NCAA Tournament, and oh, losing to the Chiefs this past season after being up 24-0 (among others). For me, I had just woken up and was in my kitchen when my family group text started buzzing louder than an aggravated beehive. The first rumor of us acquiring David Johnson was cool. I thought, “Sure, let’s take a risk on a guy who had a down year”. Then I saw who he was traded for...
I thought it was a lie. A joke. April Fools in March. Alas, it was reality.
At this moment, I had to take a step away from this Houston Texans football team. Being a writer for several years, I had dedicated many late nights and passionate hours typing away or watching film on past games. Just weeks after the crushing defeat in Kansas City, this trade felt unfair, personal, and disgusting. It downright hurt. Everyone felt it. There wasn’t much to take away from it other than trying not to be bitterly disappointed.
Hopkins wasn’t even my favorite player, but shipping him out resembled something more. A veil had been lifted. It was the realization that my franchise may never achieve the glory that my childhood dreams once thought possible. Not that this team won’t be good or even better in some areas than it was in 2019, but trying to grasp how this and the collection of recent moves were an effort to win a Super Bowl was tough.
Time and this unique offseason have helped heal raw wounds. A relatively quiet several months of football news have given me the necessary space to reasonably reintroduce myself to this 2020 team. This Texans team is one with talent, depth, weaknesses, and experience. A roster with new faces on the offense and familiar ones on the defense. A squad with a lot to prove and redeem after last season. A team with high expectations and hot seats.
No matter what this team is or will become, it’s time to return back to the team as fans. I’m not here to request a certain level of support; it doesn't matter if you are a season ticket holder or a fantasy football player. It’s about finding something or someone to root for and embrace this upcoming season. With all that’s going on in the world, this team offers a respite and community that is much needed right now.
With that, here are some ways you can enjoy the Houston Texans in 2020.
Embrace One of J.J. Watt’s Final Seasons
It’s hard to believe that J.J. Watt is nearing the end of his playing career. Three seasons have been cut short due to injury, but whenever he does get on the field, it’s something to behold. Watt is entering his tenth season in the NFL and will again be a critical part of Houston’s defense. It feels like a millennium ago when Watt was recording 20 sack seasons, and we have to acknowledge that his days playing in the NFL are numbered. In 2020, the Texans will be leaning on Watt as new faces on the defensive line will have to step up to fill voids created in free agency. Deshaun Watson may have surpassed Watt as the most impactful player on the roster, but Watt can still devastate an offense if he’s healthy and able. Hopefully he has two or three seasons left and he is able to spend those seasons with the Texans. For now, enjoy the Watt era for as long as it lasts.
Find a Rookie to Follow
Even though the Texans were without a first round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, they did acquire multiple talented players at positions of need. Jonathan Greenard has received the lion’s share of optimism, as his potential impact on the defense would be immense. Following a rookie and watching him grow throughout the season is one of my favorite traditions, and it begins in the offseason. Past rookies I’ve fanboyed over are Duke Ejiofor, Treston Decoud, D.J. Swearinger, Jaelen Strong, Louis Nix, Shiloh Keo, and Ben Jones.
Okay, I don’t have the best track record of picking Texans draft picks to follow, but it does draw me further into the team by knowing more about them and taking pride in their achievements.
This year, WR Isaiah Coulter is one to watch; he’s in a crowded receiver room but is the only large body receiver we have on the roster. If the Texans can groom him properly, he may be a household name in a couple seasons.
Root Against Bill O’Brien
Even though he’s won the division four out of the last five seasons, O’Brien is one of the most distrusted and maligned figures in all of football. That’s what happens when you assume authority in a power vacuum and then cast out anyone who thinks that’s a potential problem. Texans fans probably won’t be able to hiss and boo at O’Brien when the team steps on the field at NRG STadium, but they may not have to wait long to voice their disapproval in unison.
That’s because there’s little room for a slow start this season. The Texans play the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Minnesota Vikings in their first four games. That’s three playoff teams and a Steelers team that welcomes Ben Roethlisberger back. If the Texans go 0-4, every O’Brien detractor is permitted to come out of the woodwork and demand his dismissal and/or resignation. If you want O’Brien gone, here’s your chance.
Enjoy the Most Talented Offense in Team History
Whether you approve of who's on the field and how they got there, Houston’s offense is packed with dynamic athletes. Randall Cobb may be an elder statesman, but he’s a legitimate slot receiver talent that O’Brien has never had. Brandin Cooks has speed like you’ve never seen. Not to mention Will Fuller, who can take the top off any defense. Add in David Johnson’s pass catching abilities, Kenny Stills big play talent, and the addition of the 6’3” rookie Isaiah Coulter, and you’ve got yourself a potent offense. Oh, and there’s Watson...he’s pretty good too.
Even the glorious 2011 and 2012 seasons didn’t feature as many elite athletes as 2020’s offense will. Those teams were a two-man show of Arian Foster and Andre Johnson. With new offensive coordinator Tim Kelly, we should see the next evolution in the Texans’ offense. We fans could finally be in for the high-octane offense we’ve been waiting on for years.
Follow a Positional Battle in Training Camp
Picking sides is fun. It’s half the reason sports are enjoyable. The innate instinct to root for someone that represents you or that you follow is intrinsic to the human experience. Fortunately, the Texans have several positional battles where players are competing for jobs or roles. Even more fortunately, the QB position is no longer one of those competitions.
This topic can and probably will be its own article in the future, but there are several position battles to watch this training camp. Senio Kelemente, who just signed a one-year extension, will be competing against Max Scharping, who had a strong first year at left guard. The wide receiver position will be a popcorn bag of different options to choose from. New additions in Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks will be competing against Kenny Stills, Keke Coutee, and Will Fuller for playing time. Tight end is a four-man race, with second year Kahale Warring as a major wild card after missing his rookie season. The entire secondary position is a who's who and who isn’t of players trying to edge one another out for a starting role. Competition breeds success. Success breeds victories.
Watch a Star-Studded Schedule
When you are struggling to root for your own team, sometimes embracing who they play gets you up and motivated on Sundays. The Texans’ first four games should be enough to get you amped for the football season. The Texans will play an elite roster of quarterbacks that include league MVPs Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Aaron Rodgers. Not only that, they get a Week One rematch against the Chiefs, a Thanksgiving game against the Lions, and a chance to win the AFC South a third time in a row. The Texans also take on the NFC North, a division we only see every four years. Though actually attending games may be off limits, it will be the first time in eight years the Texans travel to Detroit and Chicago.
Watch the Growth of the Offensive Line
Possibly not a flashy topic, but you may recall the inferior offensive line the Texans have rolled out the past three seasons. O’Brien has purged most of an offensive line from 2018 that allowed Watson to be sacked a league high 62 times. If you’re a sadist, you can watch every single sack from that season in the link above.
The Texans spent their 2019 NFL Draft bolstering that offensive line. A first-round pick on Tytus Howard was followed up by a second-round pick for Max Scharping. Neither pick were all that inspiring when they occurred, but both players showed promise in their rookie season. Now, Howard will be working to recover from a knee injury and Scharping will be fighting to keep his starting job.
Laremy Tunsil inked a mega-deal this offseason, making him the highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history. Tunsil was also voted #66 on the NFL “Top 100” list. It’s been a fruitful last few months for Tunsil, but all that matters is if he can protect Watson’s blindside moving forward.
There’s a lot to look forward to as a Texans fan in 2020. This will certainly be an era that we collectively look back on with wonder. All I know is that how you approach the 2020 season will determine how you remember it. I’ve realized that you can either choose to laugh or you can choose to cry when it comes to the Texans. Now that the 2020 season is upon us, it’s time for you to find something to cheer for this season. Despite everything that happened this offseason, there are plenty of choices available.