2016 NFL Offseason: Houston Texans

Houston Texans (Last Year: 9-7)

2016 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Brock Osweiler, RB Lamar Miller, G Jeff Allen, G/C Tony Bergstrom.
Early Draft Picks:
WR William Fuller, C Nick Martin, WR Braxton Miller, RB Tyler Ervin. Texans Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Brian Hoyer, RB Arian Foster, WR Nate Washington, TE Garrett Graham, G Brandon Brooks, C Ben Jones, DE/DTJared Crick, S Rahim Moore.

2016 Houston Texans Offense:
It’s very uncommon to see a potential franchise quarterback reach free agency, but that’s exactly what happened this spring when the cap-strapped Broncos couldn’t re-sign Brock Osweiler. They offered Osweiler a contract, but it wasn’t enough. The quarterback-hungry Texans gave Osweiler a much more favorable deal, and as a result, they were able to obtain him.

Of all the teams in the playoffs last year, the Texans had the worst quarterbacking situation, and it wasn’t even close. Brian Hoyer proved that he was incapable of leading the team, looking utterly shell shocked in a humiliating 30-0 loss to the Chiefs. He was so bad that DeAndre Hopkins was even caught shouting to the sidelines, begging the coaches to yank Hoyer off the field.

Osweiler will obviously be a massive upgrade, even if he doesn’t live up to expectations. It’s just simply impossible that he’ll be as bad as Hoyer was. Osweiler was solid in relief of Peyton Manning last year, throwing 10 touchdowns to six interceptions. His completion percentage (61.8) and YPA (7.2) weren’t great, but they were still better than the figures Hoyer posted (60.7, 7.1). Osweiler, who has a much more impressive skill set, will also be playing under Bill O’Brien, who has gotten the most out of the quarterbacks he has coached over the years.

Osweiler had a couple of great weapons in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to work with in Denver, but he’ll likely enjoy throwing to Houston’s receivers just as much. Hopkins has evolved into one of the top receivers in the NFL, logging 111 catches for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015. Hopkins added on some muscle this offseason, so he could be even better going forward. Meanwhile, Houston spent its first- and third-round choices on William Fuller and Braxton Miller, two speedy receivers who seem like great potential complements to Hopkins. When the draft picks occurred, Hopkins actually tweeted that he was pleased with the results because it would mean fewer double teams.

Something that helped Osweiler in Denver was a strong running game, as C.J. Anderson was terrific down the stretch following a slow start. The Texans made sure to address the running back position after Arian Foster frustrated them with countless injury-plagued seasons. Lamar Miller was signed away from the Dolphins, a potentially great move, as Miller has just 638 career carries under his belt. Miller will be fresh, unlike Foster, who was constantly worn down.

The Texans also made some moves this offseason to bolster their offensive line. They spent their second-round choice on Notre Dame center Nick Martin, brother of Dallas’ Pro Bowl guard. Martin figures to be an improvement over the disappointing Ben Jones, and he’ll start next to another new player, Jeff Allen. Of all the transactions in free agency, the Allen signing might have been the most underrated. He’s one of the top guards in the NFL, so he’ll be a huge upgrade over what Houston had at the position last year. Xavier Su’a-Filo, a 2014 second-rounder, rounds out the interior of the offensive line. Su’a-Filo needs to improve after struggling in 2015.

Houston is mixed on the edge of the offensive line as well. Left tackle Duane Brown is an extremely talented, but Derek Newton, slotted on the right side, resembled a human turnstile last year. This had to be disheartening for the front office, given that it gave him a $26.5 million contract last spring.

2016 Houston Texans Defense:
Houston’s offense barely did anything in terms of getting the team to the playoffs. The defense led the way, claiming an epically bad AFC South, thanks mostly to Andrew Luck’s injury. With the scoring unit bound to establish more leads this upcoming season, the defense will have a chance to be even more dominant.

The Texans’ stop unit is led, of course, by J.J. Watt, arguably the best player in the NFL. Watt is a terror, fully capable of breaking the single-season sack record. For that to happen, he’ll need some help from the rest of his pass-rushers, but he won’t get that on the defensive line. The Texans have nothing at defensive end besides Watt. They even lost Jared Crick this offseason. Crick wasn’t very good, but he’s better than what they have now. It appears as though Brandon Dunn will start there, and he was just mediocre at best in limited action this past season. Vince Wilfork will reprise his role as the team’s nose tackle, but at 34, he could decline. Wilfork stuffed the run effectively in his first year with Houston, but offered absolutely nothing in terms of a pass rush.

Meanwhile, Houston’s edge rushers will provide more assistance for Watt. The big name is Jadeveon Clowney, who played well down the stretch of his sophomore campaign after barely doing anything previously. Clowney was coming off injury in 2015, so he figures to be even better going forward. It’s possible that he could overtake Whitney Mercilus as the best edge rusher on the roster, but doing so will be quite difficult. Mercilus lived up to every penny of the $26 million contract he signed last spring, notching 12 sacks a year ago.

With Watt, Mercilus and Clowney putting heavy pressure on the quarterback, the secondary will have a much easier time than in normal conditions. The Texans already have some talent in the group, as the defensive backfield is led by stud cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who put together a terrific 2015 campaign. Kareem Jackson and Kevin Johnson weren’t as good across from him, but they weren’t horrible either. Johnson, the team’s 2015 first-round choice, has a pretty high ceiling.

Houston’s safety situation isn’t as good as the cornerback group, but it’s not a liability either. The team got some solid play from Andre Hal last year, as the 2014 seventh-rounder surprised by covering very well. He struggled to tackle at times, but he was definitely the top safety on the Texans’ roster. He figures to start next to the pedestrian Eddie Pleasant, unless fifth-round rookie K.J. Dillon shows well in training camp and the preseason.

Rounding out the defense, the Texans appear to have a budding star in the middle of their stop unit, as Benardrick McKinney played well as a second-round rookie this past season. He’ll need to take on a larger role soon, given that Brian Cushing is in severe decline.

2016 Houston Texans Schedule and Intangibles:
The Texans have developed a pretty strong homefield advantage at Reliant Stadium in recent years. They were 23-11 as hosts in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015 if a Week 17 loss to the Titans in which the starters sat is excluded. The 2013 season should be discarded because it was an anomaly.

This was written last year: Bill O’Brien needs to fix the special teams. For the third year in a row, the Texans were outgained on both kickoff and punt returns. That’s not acceptable.

Nick Novak proved to be an upgrade over the inconsistent Randy Bullock. He hit 18-of-21 tries in 2015, and all of those misses came from beyond 50 (2-of-5).

Shane Lechler was once known as one of the NFL’s best punters, but he was just 26th in net yardage last season. He was 22nd in 2014.

The Texans play a fairly difficult schedule. Five of their first seven opponents are the Chiefs, Patriots (though Tom Brady could be out), Vikings, Colts and Broncos. They also battle the Packers, Colts and Bengals in a four-week stretch near the end of the season.

2016 Houston Texans Rookies:
Go here for the Texans Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2016 Houston Texans Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2016 Houston Texans Analysis: The Texans were one of the winners of the offseason. They were able to actually acquire a franchise quarterback, the one key element that was missing from their roster. Even if Brock Osweiler disappoints and is just mediocre, the sky is still the limit for Houston. This team is fully capable of making a deep run into the playoffs and hoisting the Lombardi trophy when all is said and done.

Projection: 11-5 (2nd in AFC South)

NFL Draft Team Grade: A- Grade

Goals Entering the 2016 NFL Draft: Houston appears to have solved its quarterback problems in the wake of the Brock Osweiler signing. Now, the main issue is not having enough talent around Osweiler. A No. 2 receiver, a tight end and a new center all have to be obtained. On the other side of the ball, Houston needs to consider adding talent to the defensive end and safety positions.

2016 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Considering I correctly mocked William Fuller, Nick Martin and D.J. Reader to the Texans, I can’t possibly be upset about three of their six picks. And by the way, none of this was me. It’s all thanks to Charlie Campbell, who once again proved that he’s the best NFL Draft reporter on the Web.

I gave Fuller, Martin and Reader a B+, B+ and A-, respectively. All of those picks made sense for obvious reasons, and all three provided solid value for when they were chosen. I didn’t love that Houston moved up a bit for Fuller or Martin, but the team barely surrendered anything, so it’s not a big deal.

So, what about the other selections? None of them earned worse than a “B,” so pretty good as well. Third-rounder Braxton Miller may seem redundant, but adding as much speed as possible to the offense was extremely important, and he was just too good to pass up at No. 85. Meanwhile, Tyler Ervin was the sort of third-down complement Houston was looking for to combine with Lamar Miller. Safety K.J. Dillon helps fill one of the few needs on defense.

The Texans had a very good draft. I have no problem giving them a B+, with a minor deduction being made for the two minor trades. Houston would’ve earned an A- otherwise.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

21. William Fuller, WR, Notre Dame B+ Grade
The Texans wanted William Fuller this entire time, and they made sure to move up one spot to acquire him. They surrendered just a 2017 sixth-round pick to do so; thus I won’t penalize them at all for moving up.

Some may wonder why Fuller over Robert Nkemdiche or Josh Doctson. Fuller is exactly what Houston was looking for in terms of a complement for DeAndre Hopkins. He’s a good fit, and he definitely fits the range. This is a decent pick.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

50. Nick Martin, C, Notre Dame B+ Grade
The Texans apparently love the Fighting Irish! I’m sure they saw much of Nick Martin when they were scouting William Fuller, and it’s not a surprise that they fell in love with the Notre Dame center. Martin is a very skilled offensive lineman, and he figures to be an instant upgrade over departed center Ben Jones, who wasn’t as good as the money he obtained from the Titans this spring. This probably would’ve been an A- had Houston not moved up, but I can understand why it did so.

85. Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State B+ Grade
Another receiver? It’s not a surprise, considering the huge need the Texans had at the position. It’s also not a shock to see them select a speed option at the position. Braxton Miller could’ve been chosen a bit earlier than this, so I’m definitely a fan of this pick.

119. Tyler Ervin, RB, San Jose State B+ Grade
Houston’s incredible draft continues. There’s also a developing trend. The Texans have added a couple of home-run hitters thus far, and Tyler Ervin fits that theme. Ervin can go the distance any time he touches the ball, and he fills a need as a solid backup behind Lamar Miller. Ervin, who is very athletic, can be used as a gadget weapon on offense, giving the Texans a new dimension.

159. K.J. Dillon, S, West Virginia B Grade
The Texans wanted to add a safety at some point during the third day of the draft, so here we are. K.J. Dillon makes sense at this juncture as a projected fifth-round prospect. Dillon is an average athlete, but he was pretty productive at West Virginia and could eventually make some starts.

166. D.J. Reader, NT, Clemson A- Grade
It’s cool to see D.J. Reader be selected here, as we’ve mocked him to the Texans in the fifth round for months now. Houston wants Reader to become Vince Wilfork’s replacement after this upcoming season. Reader could’ve been chosen about a round earlier, so I like the value.

Season Summary:
The Texans won the worst division in the NFL, but were completely exposed in a first-round blowout loss. They can’t count on Andrew Luck being hurt every year, so Houston has to make numerous positive adjustments this offseason.

Offseason Moves:
  • Texans cut QB Brian Hoyer
  • Texans re-sign S Quintin Demps
  • Texans re-sign QB Brandon Weeden
  • Texans re-sign CB A.J. Bouye
  • Texans re-sign RB Jonathan Grimes
  • Texans sign S Antonio Allen
  • Texans sign G/C Tony Bergstrom
  • Texans sign G Jeff Allen
  • Texans sign RB Lamar Miller
  • Texans sign QB Brock Osweiler
  • Texans re-sign S Eddie Pleasant
  • Texans re-sign OT Chris Clark
  • Texans re-sign P Shane Lechler
  • Texans cut TE Garrett Graham
  • Texans cut S Rahim Moore
  • Texans cut RB Arian Foster

    Team Needs:
    1. Quarterback: This is a no-brainer. The Texans desperately need an upgrade at quarterback. They can’t go back to Brian Hoyer, who had an extreme deer-in-the-headlights look in the playoff loss. Houston could take a signal-caller at No. 22, but may have to wait until Round 2. Signed Brock Osweiler

    2. Running Back: The Texans are fed up with Arian Foster and his durability issues. He won’t be back. Houston would’ve taken Todd Gurley at No. 16 last year, so Ezekiel Elliott is in play at No. 22 overall. Signed Lamar Miller

    3. Tight End: Houston has to find a pass-catching tight end to go along with its new quarterback. One can be obtained in the second day of the draft.

    4. Two Guards: As you can see, the Texans desperately need to upgrade their offense. Line help is needed; top guard Brandon Brooks is an impending free agent, while there is a hole at the other guard slot. Signed Jeff Allen and Tony Bergstrom

    5. Wide Receiver: Jaelen Strong might emerge as a solid receiver, but he’s a question mark right now. Thus, the only sure thing Houston has at receiver is DeAndre Hopkins. A No. 2 or 3 wideout needs to be acquired.

    6. Defensive End: Finally, the stop unit. The Texans have the best five-technique in football, but J.J. Watt is their only good one. Jared Crick started in the other spot and was brutal all year.

    7. Center: Ben Jones played well in 2015, but he’s headed for the open market in March.

    8. Safety: Quintin Demps will also be a free agent, but he is just a mediocre player who could stand to be upgraded. Re-signed Quintin Demps; signed Antonio Allen

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2016 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Jeff Allen, G, Chiefs. Age: 26.
      Signed with Texans (4 years, $28 million)

      It was absolutely ridiculous that Andy Reid didn’t use Jeff Allen in the first half of the season. It was completely unprofessional on his part. Allen is one of the better guards in the NFL.

    2. Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins. Age: 25.
      Re-signed with Dolphins (4 years, $26 million; $14 million guaranteed)

      Lamar Miller is a very talented running back who can catch passes effectively out of the backfield; he logged close to 50 receptions in 2015. I don’t know why, but Miami’s coaching staff never figured out that constantly feeding the ball to Miller is a good idea. That’s part of what makes him so appealing, as Miller, just 25 in April, doesn’t have much wear and tear on his body.

    3. Brock Osweiler, QB, Broncos. Age: 26.
      Signed with Texans (4 years, $72 million)

      Brock Osweiler finally got his shot when Peyton Manning went down with an injury this year. Osweiler flashed some serious potential, but it remains to be seen if he can be developed into a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback.

    4. Tony Bergstrom, G, Raiders. Age: 30. — Signed with Texans
    5. Antonio Allen, S, Jets. Age: 27. — Signed with Texans

    Houston Texans Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Brandon Brooks, G, Texans. Age: 27.
      Signed with Eagles (5 years, $40 million)

      Brandon Brooks is a solid pass protector. He isn’t as good in terms of run blocking, but he’s a quality guard nonetheless.

    2. Ben Jones, C, Texans. Age: 27.
      Signed with Titans (4 years)

      The Texans moved Ben Jones to center from guard, and the decision panned out, as Jones blocked pretty well.

    3. Arian Foster, RB, Texans. Age: 30.
      We reported last offseason that the Texans wanted to draft Todd Gurley to replace Arian Foster because the front office deemed Foster too injury-prone. Thus, it’s no surprise Houston cut ties with its starting running back. Foster ruined his career by changing his eating habits, which is a shame because he’s great when healthy. Unfortunately, he has missed 23 games in the past three years. He’ll need to sign a 1-year “prove it” contract this offseason. That, and take a trip to Arby’s.

    4. John Simon (RFA), DE/OLB, Texans. Age: 25.
      Re-signed with Texans

      Mike Vrabel has done a great job of developing John Simon, who has transformed into a capable, all-around 3-4 edge rusher. He collected five sacks in limited snaps and played the run well.

    5. Quintin Demps, S, Texans. Age: 31.
      Re-signed with Texans

      The Texans didn’t have much at safety last year, so they ended up starting Quintin Demps by default. Demps wasn’t bad, as he was fine in coverage, but he was brutal in run support.

    6. Rahim Moore, S, Texans. Age: 26.
      Signed with Browns

      Rahim Moore used to be a solid player, but he nearly lost his leg two years ago because of lateral compartment syndrome. He hasn’t looked like the same player since. However, he’s still young (just turned 26), so he deserves one more chance. He’ll have to sign a 1-year “prove it” deal.

    7. Brian Hoyer, QB, Texans. Age: 30.
      Signed with Bears (1 year, $2 million)

      Many may remember how Brian Hoyer crapped his pants against the Chiefs in an embarrassing playoff loss and wonder why he’s listed as a two-star free agent. Well, Hoyer had some decent moments in 2015. In fact, he threw 19 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. He should’ve never been a starter, but he’s a very solid backup.

    8. Jared Crick, DE/DT, Texans. Age: 27. — Signed with Broncos
    9. Nate Washington, WR, Texans. Age: 33. — Signed with Patriots
    10. A.J. Bouye (RFA), CB, Texans. Age: 25. — Re-signed with Texans (1 year)
    11. Eddie Pleasant (RFA), S, Texans. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Texans (2 years)
    12. Chris Polk, RB, Texans. Age: 26.
    13. Chris Clark, OT, Texans. Age: 30. — Re-signed with Texans
    14. Jonathan Grimes (RFA), RB, Texans. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Texans
    15. Brandon Weeden, QB, Texans. Age: 32. — Re-signed with Texans
    16. Shane Lechler, P, Texans. Age: 40. — Re-signed with Texans
    17. Jeff Adams (RFA), OT, Texans. Age: 26.
    18. Justin Tuggle (RFA), ILB, Texans. Age: 27.
    19. Devon Still, DT, Texans. Age: 27.
    20. Garrett Graham, TE, Texans. Age: 30. — Signed with Broncos
    21. Darryl Morris (RFA), CB, Texans. Age: 25.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    Top 90 | QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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