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PFF’s Houston Texans Preview 2020

The number crunching site generates an interesting team preview.

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Pro Football Focus has really been stepping up their coverage lately, providing a great alternative to the same-old, same-old “mainstream” NFL coverage sites. Basing most of their observations off a foundation of PFF’s next-gen stats engine, the insights are unique, if nothing else.

Their latest Houston Texans-centric piece is a 2020 team preview, where they take a look under the hood of the Texans, kick the tires, and make some predictions for the coming season. Steve Palazzolo opens the piece with a quick recap of recent Houston history:

Since trading up to draft quarterback Deshaun Watson in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Texans have been treading water trying to recapture their draft capital and build a well-rounded team around their signal-caller.

The effort has been compounded by multiple high draft picks being traded in other deals, leaving the Texans with question marks in the secondary that remain unresolved. Trading star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins also didn’t help matters, though there’s an intriguing group of receivers in Houston that could get similar, if not better, production out of Watson.

The roster-building effort has resembled “Whac-A-Mole,” as Houston spent its limited 2019 draft capital on the offensive line while this past draft was used to shore up a depleted defensive front. The big question remains on the back end of the defense, where Houston must be able to stop good teams if they want to give Watson and the passing offense a chance to win high-scoring games. Their development will likely determine just how far the Texans will go.

Here’s his take on the guy under center:

Watson has clearly exhibited the high-end play that shows the Texans have something to build around, now it’s just a matter of avoiding the disastrous games that have plagued his early career. Watson creates big plays inside and outside the pocket, but he’ll often try to do too much in the pocket, leading to too many sacks and turnover-worthy plays. The next step for Watson is cutting down on those lulls and taking more “easy” throws to keep the offense on schedule, all while maintaining the highlight-reel plays that will make him a perennial MVP candidate.

While the jury is still out on how much of Watson’s faults should be laid at the feet of the offensive line, play calling, game plan, and scheme versus how much are just his weaknesses, the comments are still insightful.

There’s a whole lot more in Palazollo’s preview, and I recommend you take it all in. He closes with a look at Houston’s fortunes in 2020 as follows:

The Texans have seen a drop in their win total after jettisoning star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Despite Hopkins’ ability, this is an overcorrection by the betting market. At the current price, both the over 7.5 win total at plus money and the bet for them to make the playoffs at plus money are worthwhile bets purely because of Deshaun Watson’s ability. Things could easily implode down in Houston, but given the reduced price on their current markets, this is a situation to buy low on.

What do you think? How would you analyze the Texans’ chances in 2020 based on what we know so far?