NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa
As time goes on, things change. It’s one of the few true facts of life.
The Houston Texans will be experiencing some big changes going into 2015, but can they bank on beating anyone other than the Bengals in the first round to get a playoff win?
The biggest change is that the organization’s greatest player of all time, Andre Johnson, will be suiting up elsewhere in 2015 (with the rival Colts no less). The former 2003 #3 overall pick caught over 1,000 passes, compiled over 13,500 yards and scored 64 touchdowns in his twelve year career with Houston.
All doing so with lackluster quarterback play at best. Show me somebody who says he won’t be missed even a little bit and I’ll show you a lair. For all of the Andre Johnson naysayers, I will say this. If you can catch 85 passes for 936 yards with whoever on planet earth was playing quarterback for them last season (revolving door of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Chase Keenum & Ryan Mallett) I think you can be productive one year later with Andrew Luck.
That may be an elementary way of looking at things, but so be it. Colts’ Head Coach Chuck Pagano has boasted of how good Johnson looks so far in Indy and I believe him.
What about a more familiar face to most of our readers on the defensive side of the ball, Vince Wilfork. Wilfork was the lone companion to Tom Brady from the 2004 Super Bowl championship team and will certainly be inducted into at least the Patriots’ Hall of Fame when it’s all said and done. Wilfork, who signed a two year $9M deal, is added to the likes of JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Hello!
AJ and Wilfork changing scenery is a big change, and will be weird for most NFL fans.
But here is something that most likely won’t change that much : quarterback play.
It has been the thorn in the Texans’ side ever since even before those darn Letterman jackets made a primetime Foxborough appearance.
Efforts are being made to improve at the position however. Head Coach Bill O’Brien made it a priority to sign QB Brian Hoyer, and did so inking the former Browns QB to a two year $10.5M deal. Both Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett have a past Patriots history with Bill O’Brien, but I’m not expecting a huge quarterback competition here. You don’t pay Hoyer that kind of money to sit the bench.
Unless of course, you are the Cleveland Browns.
Here is the good news: Brian Hoyer will be the best quarterback the Texans have had since the team was founded in 2002.
Here is the bad news: Brian Hoyer will be the best quarterback the Texans have had since the team was founded in 2002.
In a division with Andrew Luck, I’m not sure Hoyer is the guy who can get it done. Not all about the quarterback situation though, as the Texans have been Busy Bees’ this off season.
The Texans have been big time players in Free Agency thus far in 2015. As previously highlighted, Andre Johnson will be playing against the Texans twice a year, a sight I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing. The Texans helped combat the loss of Johnson though, adding two quality second tier receivers.
Cecil Shorts, the former Jacksonville Jaguars and Mount Union star signed a modest two year $6M deal. I don’t think his stats in Jacksonville are a true representation of Shorts’ potential, as that quarterback situation has been a train wreck since David Garrard left town. Not saying Shorts is a Pro Bowl kind of guy, but I think he could be a very productive player in Bill O’Brien’s system.
May not get as much notoriety, but I love the Nate Washington signing. Washington highlighted my list of most underrated free agents, and signed a very reasonable one year $1M contract. Yes, he is one year past the wrong side of 30, but as a WR3 I think Washington could be nice option for Brian Hoyer in 2015.
A trio of DeAndre Hopkins, Nate Washington and Cecil Shorts is pretty formidable in my eyes, and if you expect the Texans to add an early receiver in the draft such as myself it could be one of the more underrated positional groups in the league.
Defensively speaking, the additions of Vince Wilfork and Rahim Moore won’t break the internet the way a certain cornerback wearing #24 did when he returned to New York this season. However, the two could prove to be key additions to an already talent rich defense. I believe the Broncos would have loved to keep Moore around, but the “all in” philosophy last off season made guys like Moore (as well as Pot Roast Knighton WAS, Julius Thomas JAX, Orlando Franklin SD) near impossible to keep.
As for Wilfork, he is added to arguably the best defensive line in the AFC.
Don’t give me this Jadeveon Clowney is overrated nonsense. Seriously, I don’t want to hear it. If he can get healthy (could be a big if, granted) I expect the 22 year old to terrorize offenses the way he did his sophomore year for South Carolina. I’ve watched a lot of SEC football in my day. If we are talking about pure pass rushers, he is easily the most disruptive and memorable force I have been fortunate enough to watch.
Hah. I haven’t even talked about the best defensive player in the league yet, JJ Watt.
Watt is the only player in NFL history to record two 20+ sack seasons, and the former Badger is just 26 years old. He has never played alongside a DT as talented as Wilfork, so I expect Watt to be even more dominant in the coming future. In just four NFL seasons, Watt has recorded 57 sacks. Just absurd considering he isn’t just a pure edge rusher flying up the field to pad those sack numbers every down.
Other key defensive free agency moves were keeping two of their own in the family. Underrated LB Akeem Dent as well as CB Kareem Jackson were both resigned. Jackson in particular was absolutely critical. I believe he is worth every penny of that four year $34M contract the Texans gave him this off season.
Other players the Texans have resigned include WR Damaris Johnson, QB Ryan Mallett, OT Derek Newton and LB Jeff Tarpinian.
Some guys not previously mentioned that will not be with the team next year comprise of S Kendrick Lewis (BAL), QB Thad Lewis (CLE) and LB Brooks Reed (ATL).
C Chris Meyers, SS Danieal Manning, DT Tim Jamison, DT Ryan Pickett and DT Jerrell Powe all remained unsigned.
So with all the changing of faces, what will the Texans plan now be on draft day?
With the 16th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans select...
The Texans are in a real interesting spot here. Dead smack right in the middle of the first round with multiple ways to attack the pick. In order, I view the Texans biggest needs as S, WR, QB, OT.
Losing Kendrick Lewis and possibly Daniel Manning hurts. Losing your two starting safeties with Andrew Luck in division hurts even more. This is why the Rahim Moore signing was so clutch. There is still a hole in the secondary however, as D.J. Swearinger still owns a starting job.
Unfortunately, I don’t really view any safety in this class worthy of the 16th pick. Trade down options here maybe? Have to find a willing dance partner first.
Assuming they stay home at 16, and assuming he is on the board, what about Dorial Green-Beckham here. I encourage you to check out my DGB piece I wrote a little while back highlighting his tumultuous career. I also encourage you to watch some DGB film or a highlight video if you like watching freak athletes doing freak athlete things. DGB would be a really nice fit here.
Shorts is a quick speed guy. DeAndre Hopkins is a pure athlete who showed real improvement in his second season. You may not have noticed if he wasn’t on your fantasy team, but Hopkins caught 76 passes for over 1,200 yards and 6 touchdowns last year.
Add the big, physical presence that is DGB and I think you have three receivers who complement each other extremely well. Another receiver I’d take a good hard look at would be DeVante Parker, I just give the slight edge between the two to DGB.
Another guy I’m looking at here is Danny Shelton. He just dominated the Senior Bowl, and could be a great long term fit alongside the terror that is JJ Watt. DT isn’t a pressing need but the value here would be ideal, as I view him as a top 10 caliber player. After all, Big Vince is already 33 years old. By the time Houston figures its quarterback situation out to be a real Super Bowl contender, Wilfork will be retired.
If they did go the safety route, I feel good about saying my #1 safety Landon Collins will be on the board here. It’s not that I hate Collins, but he isn’t Earl Thomas or Eric Berry coming out of college which is why he is overall lower on my board. He is a good prospect, but in a normal year I don’t think he’d be the “best safety in the class”, which is why he has been linked to some top 10 spots earlier in the off season. He has ideal measurables with phenomenal strait line speed for his size (6′ , 225 lbs). He would most likely be asked to play right away over D.J. Swearinger.
Mr. Everything on the offensive line, Cameron Erving from Florida State, would probably be a nice fit anywhere if we’re being honest with ourselves. He would most likely play center for the Texans, if they went in this direction.
And I’ll leave my readers with an under the radar play here : Marcus Mariota. He very well may go at #2 and cancel all the fun and drama for us. But let’s paint this scenario. Tennessee doesn’t fall in love with Mariota, and chooses the safer pick with Leonard Williams as nobody is willing to give up three 1st rounders to move up.
Say the Jets at 6 (I don’t think they would) pass on Mariota and go the Dante Folwer Jr., Randy Gregory, or Shane Ray route. Very possible considering what their needs are and how they view their quarterback situation. I know every fan in the world has given up on Geno Smith, but have the Jets given up on their 2013 second round pick already? Don’t forget, yes this was a real life thing, they signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a two year $7.25M deal.
If Mariota gets past pick #6 there is potential for a real slide past that position. CHI, ATL, NYG, STL, MIN are the following picks, do they really need a QB?
Pick #12 could be the next Mariota destination : Cleveland. Would they be gun shy though after the Manziel pick? Here’s my point: could Houston move up a few spots if they want to try and take the developmental Mariota while learning behind the seasoned vet Brian Hoyer? If Aaron Rodgers can slide down the board on draft day, trust me, Marcus Mariota can too. It is an interesting situation to follow that 100% hinges on what the boys’ in Nashville are planning to do with their #2 pick.
If I’m Houston, I go the DGB route if he’s on the board at 16, and get my guy in the second round at safety. I’m a huge Ifo Ekpre-Olomu fan and I think people are forgetting about him due to his injury. I believe his best NFL upside resides as a safety, and he will more than likely be on the board when the Texans come around in round two.
Past the opening rounds I expect Houston to bolster the secondary a bit, add an OL or two, and most definitely bring in a developmental DT at the least for some long term plans past Vince Wilfork.
Can they contend for a Super Bowl? In my humble opinion – no. I see a significant gap between the Colts and Houston, let alone the Patriots, Ravens & Steelers and Houston.
However, there is no doubt Houston has a chance at a wild card. One would assume with four games against Tennessee and Jacksonville their chances for a bid are high. The AFC South drew the NFC South and AFC East as common opponents this year (New England will be traveling to Houston in 2015).
Overall, my pre-draft prediction will have Houston missing the playoffs, but making some quarterbacks pull their hair out in the process. Some free fantasy football advice here – I really like Cecil Shorts as a late round sleeper, I think Bill O’Brien will get the ball in his hands a bunch, and he will be playing with the best quarterback he has ever had.
As time goes by, things change. However even with the multitude of changing faces in the Texans locker room, I don’t see a huge change in overall result. Better hope they draw Cincy in the first round again if they make it that far.
Up next on Eyes on the Competition – Baltimore.