Three years ago the Houston Texans were coming off their fourth playoff appearance in five seasons. Now, the question is when will the next trip to the postseason be coming?
The Texans moved on from their former franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson after a series of lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct by Watson were filed on behalf of massage therapists. Davis Mills outperformed most of the quarterbacks selected ahead of him in the 2021 NFL Draft and now the process is underway to improve the talent at the other positions.
Houston used the third overall pick on cornerback Derek Stingley. Offensive lineman Kenyon Green, safety Jalen Pitre, and receiver John Metchie were other top-50 picks.
The Texans finished last in the NFL in total offense and ranked only ahead of the New York Jets in total defense a season ago so there is plenty of work to be done for a team that the NFL picks have finishing at the bottom of the NFL standings. Lovie Smith will be the fourth coach for the Texans over the last three seasons.
The Texans (+2500) have the worst odds to win the AFC South Division title. Those are the worst odds of any team in the NFL. According to the Las Vegas odds, the Texans (+25000) rank 32nd among 32 teams in the odds to win the Super Bowl.
- 2021 record: 4-13 (third in AFC South)
- Playoff result: Did not qualify.
- Season opener: vs Indianapolis Colts, Sept. 11, 1 p.m. EDT
- Playoff teams on 2022 schedule: HOME – Dallas, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Tennessee; AWAY – Las Vegas, Tennessee
- Key newcomers: OL A.J. Cann, RB Marlon Mack, OL Cedric Ogbuehi, LB Blake Cashman, DE Jerry Hughes, DE Rasheem Green, DE Mario Addison, CB Fabian Moreau, CB Steven Nelson, CB Isaac Yiadom, CB Kendall Sheffield, S M.J. Stewart, QB Kyle Allen.
- Key losses: QB DeShaun Watson, S Justin Reid, RB David Johnson, WR Danny Amendola, TE Jordan Akins, QB Tyrod Taylor, OL Geron Christian, DL Jaleel Johnson, DE Jacob Martin, LB Eric Wilson, CB Terrance Mitchell, CB Jimmy Moreland.
- Award candidates: Derek Stingley, +1000 in the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year odds; Dameon Pierce, +2000 in the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year odds; John Metchie, +5000 in the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year odds; Brandin Cooks, +10000 in the NFL Offensive Player of the Year odds.
Mills proved he can play at the NFL level. The highlight of his rookie season came when he threw for 254 and two touchdowns in an upset of the Los Angeles Chargers. He had four 300-yard passing games and during a season when many of the first-round picks struggled, the third-round draft selection provided a ray of hope.
The running game was a mess, especially after Mark Ingram was traded to New Orleans midway through the season. Rex Burkhead led the team with 427 yards. The Texans averaged only 3.4 yards per carry. The hope is that Dameon Pierce, picked in the fourth round, will provide a boost at the running back position similar to what Mills accomplished at quarterback a season ago. David Johnson, a key piece in the trade for Hopkins, rushed for less than 1,000 yards in 25 games with the Texans before moving on.
The Texans gave up plenty to acquire receiver Brandin Cooks and offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. They will be expected to be leaders on an offense in need of plenty of help.
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) June 14, 2022
The hope is that the interior of the offensive line will be improved with the signing of A.J. Cann and the drafting of Green. Former first-round picks Tytus Howard and Cedric Ogbuehi join Tunsil at tackle.
Receiver Nico Collins and tight end Brevin Jordan had their moments as rookies. Collins had 33 catches in 14 games while Jordan hauled in 20 passes in nine contests. They both figure to have larger roles moving forward. John Metchie was a productive player at Alabama. However, he still needs to work his way back from injury.
The Texans were rather aggressive when it came to making changes on defense. Not only do Stingley and Pitre come in to help a secondary that lost safety Justin Reid in the offseason, but linebacker Blake Cashman, defensive ends Jerry Hughes, Rasheem Green, and Mario Addison as well as cornerbacks Fabian Moreau, Steven Nelson, Isaac Yiadom and Kendall Sheffield join the Texans.
Stingley is listed by the NFL picks as one of the favorites in the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year race even if cornerback isn’t a position that usually produces rookies of the year.
Houston does return its top five tacklers from a season ago, including linebackers Kamu Grugier-Hill and Christian Kirksey. Desmond King, Tavierre Thomas, and Eric Murray are back in the secondary.
Jonathan Greenard led Houston with eight sacks. He will need some help as more will be expected from defensive tackles Roy Lopez and Maliek Collins.
Linebacker Neville Hewitt had 21 tackles as Houston posted back-to-back wins against Jacksonville and the Los Angeles Chargers and more of that is needed.
This is looking like a long rebuild for the Texans. After not having a pick in either the first or second round in 2021 and without a first-round selection in 2020, the Texans had two first-rounders and two more selections in the second round. The hope is those players will help the Texans turn the page after a forgettable run by Bill O’Brien when franchise mainstays J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins exited.
With Watson now with the Cleveland Browns, Howard is the only player taken in the first round by Houston from 2016-21 still on the team. That is one of the reasons why the Texans come into the season as perhaps the worst team in the league.
The good news is that Jacksonville isn’t much better so there will be two games against the Jaguars. Other than a three-game stretch against Dallas, Kansas City, and Tennessee, the schedule isn’t too daunting.
Nobody is expecting Houston to make a run for the playoffs. However, surpassing the expected regular-season win total of 4½ would be a nice start for a team that is almost starting over. None of the first five games of the season are against 2021 playoff teams so if the Texans can pull out a win or two, perhaps those who bet online will start believing in this team.
Houston was listed as an underdog in its last six games in 2021 and there should be more of that in 2021. Keep in mind that the Texans did cover in three of their last four contests.