2019 NFL Offseason: Houston Texans

Houston Texans (Last Year: 11-5)

2019 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB A.J. McCarron, TE Darren Fells, OT Matt Kalil, CB Bradley Roby, CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun, S Tashaun Gipson, S Jahleel Addae.
Early Draft Picks:
OT Tytus Howard, CB Lonnie Johnson, G/OT Max Scharping, TE Kahale Warring. Texans Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Alfred Blue, WR Demaryius Thomas, TE Ryan Griffin, OT Kendall Lamm, DT Christian Covington, CB Kareem Jackson, CB Kevin Johnson, CB Kayvon Webster, S Tyrann Mathieu.

2019 Houston Texans Offense:
Houston’s scoring unit looked like it was going to be incredibly potent heading into 2018, based on how Deshaun Watson performed prior to suffering an injury in practice during his rookie campaign. Houston won 11 games and averaged 24.1 points per contest, but it was still a disappointing outcome considering how much talent the Texans have on this side of the ball. Two things can shoulder the blame for this: Bill O’Brien’s poor coaching and the incompetence of the offensive line. Watson completed 68.3 percent of his passes and threw just nine interceptions compared to 26 touchdowns, but he was woeful in the red zone. O’Brien was responsible for this, as he had some of the most unimaginative play-calling possible. It didn’t help that the Texans couldn’t block – something that will once again be the case in 2019.

The Texans inexplicably failed to upgrade their offensive line. They appeared to have Washington State’s Andre Dillard in their sights with the 23rd-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Eagles, however, traded up ahead of Houston to claim Dillard. Lacking any sort of plan B, the Texans panicked and used the No. 23 overall choice on second-/third-round prospect Tytus Howard. There’s a chance Howard will be a solid blocker in the future, but he’s too raw to have a positive impact as a rookie. O’Brien was responsible for this gaffe as well, given that he fired all of the talented personnel people Houston had employed previously because he wanted to be surrounded by “yes men.” Replacing those who discovered diamonds in the rough like Arian Foster and Christian Covington, O’Brien brought in those who didn’t think to come up with a plan B in the first round of the draft, just so those individuals could tell O’Brien how great he is.

If Howard struggles in 2018, he’ll match the play of the other Houston offensive linemen. Right tackle Julie’n Davenport, guards Senio Kelemete and Zach Fulton, and center Nick Martin all struggled last year. Davenport is athletic and has some upside, while Martin is also young, so perhaps they’d be able to improve with good coaching, which the Texans sorely lack. Aside from Howard, the only new lineman the Texans acquired was Matt Kalil, who has been one of the worst blockers in the NFL this decade.

Houston was also expected to upgrade its running back situation, but that position remained untouched this offseason. The coaching staff doesn’t believe Lamar Miller can handle a full workload for the entire season, so it wasn’t a surprise that he regressed at the end of the year. Miller had some nice performances to start the season, but failed to average better than 3.6 yards per carry in his final five games, including a playoff loss to the Colts in which he mustered just 18 rushing yards. Houston will be hoping that D’Onta Foreman, a 2017 third-round pick, will be fully recovered from an Achilles tear that forced him to miss most of 2018.

With major questions on the offensive line and in the running back corps, the strength of Houston’s scoring unit remains its aerial attack. Watson has a couple of dynamic threats at his disposal, including DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best receivers in the NFL. Will Fuller, the No. 2 wideout, was enjoying a breakout 2018 campaign until he tore his ACL in October. He should be ready for the start of the upcoming season. His absence late last year allowed rookie slot receiver Keke Coutee to shine, so he’s expected to have an even better year now that he has some experience. Third-round rookie tight end Kahale Warring will also be in the mix.

2019 Houston Texans Defense:
It was hardly a surprise that Houston’s defense surrendered far fewer points in 2018 (19.8) compared to 2017 (27.2). The 2017 campaign saw most of the team’s top defenders suffer injuries, including J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, both of whom were lost for the year during the same game. The core of the Texans’ stop unit remained intact last year, which would explain the superior results.

The Texans still have Watt, Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney to overwhelm opposing offensive lines, so they should still rank as one of the better defenses in the NFL. Watt was absolutely dominant last year, racking up 16 sacks. It remains to be seen how much longer he can keep playing like this, given his extensive injury history and age (just turned 30), but it would be a surprise if Watt remained healthy and didn’t have yet another stellar season. The same goes for Clowney, who notched nine sacks in 2018. Mercilus, on the other hand, didn’t look quite right this past year. Perhaps having more time to recover from his 2017 injury will do the trick.

While the core of Houston’s defense is still intact, the team lost some important pieces that could downgrade the stop unit as a whole in 2019. Most of the departures came in the secondary, as the Texans saw Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson both leave. Both were exceptional last year, so they’ll be missed. The Texans compensated for Mathieu’s departure by signing Tashaun Gipson. The former Jaguar is a solid player, but he’s not nearly the play-maker Mathieu happens to be. Gipson will start next to Justin Reid, who is coming off an excellent campaign as a third-round rookie. Reid should be even better in 2019.

As for the cornerbacks, Jackson’s departure will be felt, especially if Johnathan Joseph, now 35, begins to regress. The Texans signed former Bronco Bradley Roby and spent a second-round pick on Lonnie Johnson to compensate for the loss. However, Roby has been wildly inconsistent throughout his career, while Johnson produced some poor tape at Kentucky.

Another departure that will hurt was Christian Covington’s decision to sign with the in-state rival Cowboys. Covington may not be a big name, but he’s one of the premier run stuffers in the NFL, all while not being completely lost as a pass rusher. At just 25, Covington was expected to make a big leap in 2019, but now will be doing so with the Cowboys. The Texans won’t be as good versus ground attacks without Covington, but nose tackle D.J. Reader will be able to clog running lanes rather well.

There were no changes made to the linebacking corps, which is perfectly fine. The Texans didn’t need to make a move because they have a solid tandem in Benardrick McKinney and Zach Cunningham. McKinney was exceptional in 2018, while the young Cunningham has plenty of room for growth.

2019 Houston Texans Schedule and Intangibles:
The Texans have developed a pretty strong home-field advantage at Reliant Stadium in recent years. They’ve been 37-16 as hosts in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018. The 2013 and 2017 seasons should be discarded because of countless injuries.

No touchdowns were scored for or against the Texans’ special teams, but they outgained the opposition on both punts and kickoffs.

Ka’imi Fairbairn did a better kicking job last year than he did the season before as a rookie. He was 37-of-42 in 2018, including 4-of-6 from 50-plus.

New punter Trevor Daniel was just 23rd in net average in 2018, but he did a great job of pinning the opposition inside the 20.

The Texans built some wins last year on the back of an easy schedule. Things won’t be so easy this time, as their first five road games are at the Saints, Chargers, Chiefs, Colts and Jaguars. They also have to battle the Patriots late in the season.

2019 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.

2019 Houston Texans Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2019 Houston Texans Analysis: The Texans lucked into some wins last year. They prevailed in a pair of early-season overtime battles because of opposing coaching gaffes, and they were able to take advantage of an easy schedule. Given that they lost some important defensive personnel this offseason, they needed to compensate for this by improving the offensive line, but that did not happen. The blocking will once again be dreadful, which will make it likely that Deshaun Watson will suffer another injury. Plus, given that all of the other teams in the division have seemingly improved, it’ll be difficult for Houston to reach the playoffs once again.

Projection: 8-8 (2nd in AFC South)

2018 Projection: 12-4. 2018 Actual Result: 11-5.
2017 Projection: 8-8. 2017 Actual Result: 4-12.
2016 Projection: 11-5. 2016 Actual Result: 9-7.

NFL Draft Team Grade: F Grade

Goals Entering the 2019 NFL Draft: The Texans have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. They may actually have the worst blocking unit in the league if whatever abomination the Dolphins have is excluded. This must change, as Deshaun Watson will suffer more brutal hits if the blocking doesn’t improve. Elsewhere, the Texans must find help at running back, tight end and cornerback.

2019 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Texans once had one of the best front offices in the NFL. They’d routinely find steals like Christian Covington or Arian Foster. That’s no longer the case, as Bill O’Brien decided to gut his entire personnel department because he wanted to be surrounded by nothing but “yes men.” The results of this were quite apparent in the 2019 NFL Draft, as the Texans came away with arguably the worst draft class this year.

I have to wonder if Houston had any sort of Plan B at No. 23 overall. It seemed like Andre Dillard would fall to them, but the Eagles traded up and snatched the Washington State tackle off the board. With Dillard gone, the Texans panicked and made a major reach, selecting Alabama State tackle Tytus Howard, who easily could’ve slipped to the third round. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the Texans followed that up with two horrible reaches in the second frame, taking cornerback Lonnie Johnson and guard Max Scharping too early as well.

Of Houston’s seven picks, only two were graded above a “C.” This is the sort of thing that happens when a power-hungry individual dismisses all of his talented personnel men. The sooner the Texans fire O’Brien, the better off they’ll be.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

Panic move alert! Panic move alert! The Texans clearly wanted Andre Dillard, so I can understand why they’d panic a little bit, but this is unbelievable. Tytus Howard in the first round? He’s a third-round prospect! He would’ve been a reach in Round 2! I had Howard going 82nd in my 2019 NFL Mock Draft. You may have just heard Daniel Jeremiah say Howard was his 50th-ranked player, but I think that’s a tad too high. Couldn’t the Texans have traded down like the Seahawks and Ravens just did? Why not move down 8-12 spots and then select Howard? There’s absolutely no reason to take him at No. 23, when there’s a 100-percent chance he would be there at No. 33, and also No. 43!

54. Lonnie Johnson, CB, Kentucky D+ Grade
It’s not a surprise that the Texans’ gutted front office continues to draft poorly, ignoring all sense of value. Lonnie Johnson is a great physical specimen, and he had a terrific pro day. However, Johnson’s tape at Kentucky was awful. He was frequently lost in coverage and appeared to lack any sort of awareness. I thought Johnson should go in the fourth round, so this is a reach, though it does potentially fill a need.

55. Max Scharping, G/OT, Northern Illinois C Grade
This is Houston’s best pick so far, and yet it earns only a “C” grade. Perhaps the franchise shouldn’t have fired all of their smart personnel people because Bill O’Brien wanted “yes men.” At any rate, Max Scharping was introduced as a tackle, but he’s going to have to move to guard in the NFL. He’ll get smoked if he plays tackle. Scharping could be a decent guard, but he’s a slight reach in the second round.

86. Kahale Warring, TE, San Diego State B+ Grade
Kahale Warring started just five games at San Diego State because he played other sports. However, he’s extremely physically gifted and possesses unreal upside. The Texans will need to coach him up very well to develop him, but Warring has Pro Bowl potential down the road. Perhaps he’ll be able to develop into Houston’s first potent tight end since Owen Daniels.

161. Charles Omenihu, DE/DT, Texas B Grade
Charles Omenihu has immense potential to fill out his large frame (6-5, 280). He was highly productive in 2018, so we’ll see if that continues. The Texans needed another defensive lineman, and Omenihu makes sense at the range.

195. Xavier Crawford, CB, Central Michigan C Grade
This is a bit early for Xavier Crawford, who was a Round 7-UDFA prospect heading into the draft. Crawford lacks size and athleticism, and he’s not a very good tackler. I would be surprised if he made the 53-man roster.

220. Cullen Gillaspia, FB, Texas A&M-Commerce C Grade
Cullen Gullaspia was a team captain in school and figures to be a career special teamer in the NFL, if he actually happens to stick in the pros. This isn’t a very good pick, as Houston could’ve obtained someone with more upside.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Texans began the year 0-3, but were able to put together a lengthy winning streak to reach the playoffs. It was all a mirage, however, as Houston was stricken by poor coaching and awful offensive line play. Bill O’Brien will need to be replaced if the Texans want to take the next step, as he’s incapable of helping Deshaun Watson reach his full potential.

Offseason Moves:
  • Texans cut TE Ryan Griffin
  • Texans sign S Jahleel Addae
  • Texans sign S Tashaun Gipson
  • Texans sign OT Matt Kalil
  • Texans sign QB A.J. McCarron
  • Texans sign TE Darren Fells
  • Texans sign CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun
  • Texans sign CB Bradley Roby

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Offensive Tackles: The Texans must upgrade their offensive line before they get Deshaun Watson killed. They are at their worst protecting on the edge. Two brand new tackles are needed. One could be obtained in the opening round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Signed Matt Kalil

    2. Guard: Greg Mancz and Nick Martin are passable starting interior offensive linemen. The Texans need another guard to join Mancz, as this is a major position of weakness as well.

    3. Two Cornerbacks: Once the Texans are done upgrading the offensive line, they must look toward the secondary, which never stood a chance against Andrew Luck. Two new cornerbacks are needed if the front office can’t retain free agent-to-be Kareem Jackson. Signed Bradley Roby

    4. Running Back: The Houston coaching staff doesn’t trust Lamar Miller to handle a full workload the entire year. D’Onta Foreman is a question mark. The Texans might pursue a running back early in the 2019 NFL Draft.

    5. Edge Rusher: Re-signing Jadeveon Clowney is a priority. At the very least, Clowney could be franchised. Franchised Jadeveon Clowney

    6. Wide Receiver Depth: Will Fuller will be back next year, giving the Texans a solid trio in DeAndre Hopkins, Fuller and Keke Coutee. However, the front office needs to add another receiver just in case there are numerous injuries at the position again.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2019 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Tashaun Gipson, S, Jaguars. Age: 29.
      Signed with Texans (3 years, $22 million)

      Tashaun Gipson has played very well for the Jaguars for the past three seasons, but counted $9.1 million against the cap. That money was needed to sign Nick Foles. Gipson should bounce back with his next team. He turns 29 this summer, so he’ll be able to play at a high level for two or three more years.

    2. Bradley Roby, CB, Broncos. Age: 27.
      Signed with Texans (1 year, $10 million)

      Bradley Roby has experienced an up-and-down career thus far. He played well in 2015, struggled the year after, bounced back at a high level in 2017, then performed poorly once again this past season. Roby dealt with some injuries in 2018, so that could explain his regression. The former first-round pick is young (27 in May) and talented enough to bounce back.

    3. Jahleel Addae, S, Chargers. Age: 29.
      Signed with Texans (1 year, $1.1 million)

      Jahleel Addae has been an inconsistent player over the years. He was good enough to warrant a 4-year, $22 million contract a couple of offseasons ago and played well in 2017, but struggled last season. As a result, Addae was dumped for salary reasons.

    4. Briean Boddy-Calhoun (RFA), CB, Browns. Age: 26. — Signed with Texans
    5. Matt Kalil, OT, Panthers. Age: 30. — Signed with Texans (1 year)
    6. Darren Fells, TE, Browns. Age: 33. — Signed with Texans (1 year)
    7. A.J. McCarron, QB, Raiders. Age: 28. — Signed with Texans

    Houston Texans Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE/OLB, Texans. Age: 26.
      Franchised by Texans

      Jadeveon Clowney is one of the top edge players in the NFL. He’s a fearsome pass rusher, and he’s even better in run support. He’s also just 26, so he’ll continue to improve as long as the motivation is there.

    2. Tyrann Mathieu, S, Texans. Age: 27.
      Signed with Chiefs (3 years, $42 million)

      Tyrann Mathieu was once an other-worldly player for the Cardinals. He hasn’t been quite the same since suffering a torn ACL a few years ago. However, he played very well in 2018 and should be able to improve as he continues to be removed from his knee injury.

    3. Kareem Jackson, CB, Texans. Age: 31.
      Signed with Broncos (3 years)

      Kareem Jackson emerged as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL this past season. He’s a late bloomer for certain. Unfortunately for Jackson, he’s turning 31 in April, so he doesn’t have much time left to play on a high level.

    4. Christian Covington, DE/DT, Texans. Age: 25.
      Signed with Cowboys (1 year)

      Christian Covington is one of the top run-stuffing defensive linemen in the NFL. His pass-rushing skills need work, but he won’t turn 26 until October, so he has plenty of time to develop moves to get to the quarterback.

    5. Ka’imi Fairbairn (RFA), K, Texans. Age: 25.
      Tendered by Texans (2nd round)

      Ka’imi Fairbairn has been a solid kicker over the past couple of years. He hit 37-of-42 tries in 2018, including 4-of-6 from 50-plus. However, he has missed five extra points in the past couple of years.

    6. Kayvon Webster, CB, Texans. Age: 28.
      Kayvon Webster is a talented cornerback, but came off a torn Achilles a couple of years ago that caused him to miss most of 2018. Still, Webster is just 28, so he potentially still has some good years ahead of him.

    7. Kevin Johnson, CB, Texans. Age: 27.
      Signed with Bills

      Kevin Johnson has missed 29 games in the past three years. He’s a former first-round pick and has some potential, but he just can’t stay healthy.

    8. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Texans. Age: 31.
      Signed with Patriots (1 year)

      The Texans acquired Demaryius Thomas for a fourth-round pick, but that was a waste. Thomas didn’t do much when healthy, but eventually tore his Achilles. He did this in late December, so he’ll almost certainly be placed on the PUP list to begin the 2019 season.

    9. Alfred Blue, RB, Texans. Age: 28.
    10. Kendall Lamm, OT, Texans. Age: 27. — Signed with Browns (2 years, $7 million)
    11. Brennan Scarlett (RFA), DE/OLB, Texans. Age: 26. — Tendered by Texans (original)
    12. Shareece Wright, CB, Texans. Age: 32.
    13. Angelo Blackson, DT, Texans. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Texans (3 years, $12 million)
    14. Ryan Griffin, TE, Texans. Age: 29.
    15. Seantrel Henderson, OT, Texans. Age: 27.
    16. Joel Heath (RFA), DE/DT, Texans. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Texans
    17. Brian Peters, LB, Texans. Age: 30.
    18. Joe Webb, QB/WR, Texans. Age: 32. — Re-signed with Texans

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

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