The Round-Up: Houston Texans Edition

Heading into the 2018 season the Texans were touted as a strong suitor to win the division and that’s exactly what they did with an 11-5 record. Unfortunately, they couldn’t make much headway in the playoffs putting on a poor showing in the Wild Card Round and falling 21-7 to the Colts. Despite their strong regular season it was clear the Texans definitely had some work to do if they wanted to keep hold of their division crown in 2019, so without further ado here’s what the Texans did.

Houston Texans general manager Brian Gaine answers questions during his introductory news conference at NRG Stadium on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Houston. Gaine is the Texans third general manger in team history. ( Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle )

The Losses

The Texans suffered from very minimal losses this offseason, with their cuts either making lots of sense or their new signings looking extremely promising. The Texans biggest cut of the offseason was not a player, instead, it was their decision to part ways with GM Brian Gaine after just two seasons. While Gaine’s first season a general manager, 2017, was abysmal with the Texans posting a disappointing 4-12 record things had started to look up. Those looks held true throughout the regular season with the Texans putting on a strong showing all the way up to their dismal performance and defeat in the Wild Card Round. The news of Gaine’s firing came as a shock to many as the GM had been fairly well-liked and thought to have made fairly good decisions. The above was even noted in the organization’s final findings as Ian Rapoport reported that Gaine was “good but not good enough”. It will be interesting to see how the Texans operate without a new GM for the 2019 season, as back in early July sources told ESPN they would “divvy up those responsibilities among existing front-office members such as Matt Barzirgan, James Liipfert, Chris, Olsen, and Jack Easterby”. The Texans still have the likelihood to be a good team this season, however, the lack of a GM is concerning and will definitely be a factor to keep in mind as the season unfolds. The only other mentionable loss the Texans suffered this offseason happened when they released their former first-round pick cornerback Kevin Johnson. The number 16 overall pick was not a huge loss for them in retrospect, as over the past three seasons Johnson had quite the issue staying healthy. In the 2016 season, he was limited to a mere six games, he doubled that number in 2017 playing 12 games, but in 2018 he dropped to a disheartening 1 game before suffering multiple concussions and being placed on injury reserve. Overall the Texans haven’t been too reliant on Johnson due to his injury-prone nature which heavily minimizes the damage done from his loss. Even when on the field he wasn’t the strongest member of the Texans secondary, so don’t expect to see his departure have that significant of an impact on the Texans. With the only notable player loss in the offseason coming in the form of a CB, it appeared that the secondary required a few additions and a bit of reshaping.

The Additions

The Texans added two different players to strengthen their offensive line in hopes to give Watson more time and a safer pocket and to increase protection for the run game. They did this back in April, using their first-round draft pick on Alabama State tackle Tytus Howard, securing him at 23rd overall. Sometimes Howard can take a couple of seconds to find his hand placement, but once he does he’s an extremely solid pass protector. He seems to be a great fit for Houston as he was a great tackle but also has the versatility to shift around the offensive line. Head Coach Bill O’Brien recognized this as noted that he like Howard in the left guard position, possibly using it as a stepping stone towards eventually starting at the tackle position. Just one round later at 55th overall, the Texans selected yet another tackle, Max Scharping from Northern Illinois University.

The Texans also added a multitude of secondary players ranging from brand new to veteran players. Among those players are former Los Angeles Chargers safety Jahleel Addae, a former first-round pick, and Denver Bronco CB Bradley Roby, former Jacksonville Jaguar S Tashaun Gipson. As for the new additions they drafted two new cornerbacks in the draft. First, they selected Lonnie Johnson Jr. in the second round, at 54th overall, from the University of Kentucky. Then midway through the sixth round, Houston also scooped up Xavier Crawford out of Central Michigan University. These abundant additions to the secondary will surely fill up some gaping holes and strengthen what was previously one of the weakest secondaries in the league. Also with the varied experience, these players bring to the table, especially the veterans, Houston’s two freshly drafted cornerbacks will be able to learn a lot and should develop quite well surrounded by these players. Overall, the Texans left the offseason strengthening both their offensive line, which was needed given the sheer amount of sacks they let up last season and their secondary, another extremely weak element of their team. The Texans are heading into the 2019 season looking even better than they did last season, so will they be able to manifest a similar record?

The Overview

Monstrous pass rusher Jadaveon Clowney has been in a contract holdout, however, Ian Rapoport reports that he is expected to end his holdout after week 3 of the preseason. It appears there will be nothing to worry about and Clowney will be starting when week 1 rolls around. A huge relief to Houston’s defense as he one of their most important pass rushers opposite of the ball and he has developed a Watt-like habit of breaking through offensive lines. Of course, J.J. Watt will continue to man-handle opposing o-lines and put immense pressure on both the quarterback and the run game. Furthermore, the Texans also did a lot of work during the offseason to solidify their secondary and bolster their overall defense which seems to have succeeded quite well. Finally, they added two strong players to their offensive line which should increase pocket protection and run blocking. Overall, the Texans offseason had a whole lot of positive with the very little negative, and perhaps built one of the league’s best defenses by the end it.

Season Prediction

While parting ways with their GM definitely will have a slight impact in Houston it appears the improvements drastically outweigh the losses. I expect Houston to post a similar record with the likelihood of improving upon it as well. The Texans are likely to sweep the Titans while splitting games against the Colts and Jaguars, with the home team each taking their game. Additional wins can be anticipated in matchups against the Buccaneers, Broncos, Panthers, Raiders, and Ravens. A few more losses will be doled out to Houston by the likes of the Chiefs, Patriots, and Saints. The rest of the games will be toss-ups for Houston. The Texans have a floor of 9-7, with a very likely wild card birth, and a ceiling of 12-4, with a division title.