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Red Zone Play: Making The Houston Texans Special Teams Special Again

Roster moves are a byproduct of Brad Seely’s improved system.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles
Deandre Carter wore #2 and #16 in Philly, to wear #14 in Houston
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not a major bit of breaking news to point out that the Houston Texans’ special teams unit has been an area of weakness for years. In fact, it’s hard to argue it’s been a blind spot for head coach Bill O’Brien through his entire tenure in Houston. That is, until O’Brien hired new special teams coach Brad Seely last offseason.

While Romeo Crennel resuming defensive coordinator duties grabbed most of the headlines, Seely’s arrival has had a dramatic impact on the Texans.

Sure, Houston hasn’t had any huge special teams plays that make the yearlong Sportscenter highlight reel, but in recent years fumbles, poor blocking, terrible coverage and just about anything not kicking related has been well, terrible.

Entering this season, Houston shook things up by releasing arguably the best punter in NFL history, Texas native Shane Lechler, and went with unknown rookie commodity Trevor Daniel. While Daniel’s current 44.5 yards per punt is shy of Lechler’s 47.0 of last season, the coverage unit has done a much better job containing the opposing return men in 2018 than in years past.

Speaking of return men, running back/kick returner Tyler Ervin has had the best season of his NFL career. Not only has Ervin avoided putting the ball on the turf, his return average has swelled from 8.8 yard per return to 25.3. He also had his longest career kick return of 36 yards this year. While those aren’t exactly the kind of stats that crack a game wide open, they’re a dramatic improvement from the kind of stats that crush your team’s chances, like we’ve seen in years past.

Then Brian Gaine and Bill O’Brien waived Ervin not long after the bye week began, stunning many people, myself included.

This move was reportedly made to clear space for rookie wideout/return man DeAndre Carter, recently waived himself by the Philadelphia Eagles. Based on stats alone, there isn’t much to get excited about with Carter. He’s currently averaging 20.4 yards per kick return and 10.3 yards per punt.

The key here is potential.

Carter is 5’8” and built like so many return men who have excelled in the NFL in the right system.

He also brings some potential game-changing ability in the passing game, as seen in this video:

If the Texans are to keep up their win streak and make a deep run into the NFL Playoffs, special teams is going to have to make some big plays sooner or later. Hopefully, with the marriage of DeAndre Carter and Brad Seely, the first of these memorable special teams plays happens this weekend in Landover when the Houston Texans take on Adrian Peterson and the Washington Redskins.

How long do you think it will be before we see a big play by the special teams in Houston? Give us our best prediction in the comments section.