5th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Houston Texans

We move on to the AFC South in our continuing previews of all 32 NFL teams over the course of 32 days (or so), with the Houston Texans, who came in last place in the division last season.

The Texans’ 4-12 record last season is not representative of the amount of talent on the roster. The defense took a big hit with injuries to DE J.J. Watt and LB Whitney Mercilus, who each played just five games. And QB Deshaun Watson was on pace to set rookie records before he suffered a torn ACL in Week 7 that ended his season. Getting those three players back improves the team — especially on offense, which wasn’t good with Watson out — so they feel like the team’s big offseason acquisitions. The one major free agent the Texans signed was S Tyrann Mathieu, who was released by the Cardinals. They also signed veteran QB Brian Hoyer to serve as Watson’s backup. In terms of losses, the team released veteran LB Brian Cushing.

The Texans ranked in the bottom half of the NFL with 5,120 yards and 338 points in 2017. In the seven games — six starts — Watson played, he threw for 1,699 yards and 19 touchdowns with eight interceptions; he also ran for 269 yards and two touchdowns. WR DeAndre Hopkins had 96 receptions 1,378 yards and 13 touchdowns in 15 games last season, and WR. No one else had more than 36 catches — and that was RB Lamar Miller, who went for 327 yards and three touchdowns on the 36 receptions. In 10 games, WR Will Fuller caught 28 balls for 423 yards and seven touchdowns. Miller was the team’s leading rusher, with 888 yards and three touchdowns on 238 carries. In 10 games, RB D’Onta Foreman ran the ball 78 times for 327 yards and two touchdowns, and RB Alfred Blue had 71 carries for 272 yards and a touchdown in 11 games. With Watt and Mercilus out for most of the season, the defense ranked 20th in yards allowed and last in points allowed.

The Texans face the tough test to begin the season, playing at the Patriots in Week 1. They stay on the road to take on the Titans in Week 2, then get their first home game in Week 3, when the Giants come to town. The Texans visit the Colts in Week 4, then host the Cowboys in a Lone Star battle. Week 7 sees the Texans heading to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars, then the Dolphins come to Houston in Week 8. After a game in Denver against the Broncos, the Texans have a bye in Week 10. Coming out of the bye, the Texans visit the Redskins. After that, they have three straight home games — against the Titans, Browns and Colts in Weeks 12, 13 and 14, respectively. Following a road game with the Jets, the Texans visit the Super Bowl LII champion Eagles in Week 17. They finish the regular season at home, taking on the Jaguars.

The health of Watson, Watt and Mercilus is going to be the key to how the Texans do this season. If Watson can continue the success he had in the first half of the 2017 season and the defensive guys can play like they have in the past, that will prove the defense that played most of last season, which is already improved by the signing of Mathieu. The Texans have also not had Watt and DE Jadeveon Clowney both healthy at the same time for an extended period. It appears that they will finally get that luxury this season. If things go right for the Texans this season, they should be competitive with the Jaguars for the top spot in the division, and could compete for a wild card if the Jags win the South.

Sources: http://www.houstontexans.com/, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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