2021 NFL Offseason: Houston Texans

Houston Texans (Last Year: 4-12)

2021 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Tyrod Taylor, QB Ryan Finley, RB Phillip Lindsay, RB Mark Ingram, RB Rex Burkhead, WR Anthony Miller, WR Chris Conley, WR Alex Erickson, WR Chris Moore, TE Ryan Izzo, OT Marcus Cannon, G Lane Taylor, G Cole Toner, C Justin Britt, DE Shaq Lawson, DT DeMarcus Walker, DT Maliek Collins, DT Vincent Taylor, DT Jaleel Johnson, OLB Jordan Jenkins, LB Christian Kirksey, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, LB Neville Hewitt, LB Joe Thomas, LB Tae Davis, CB Terrance Mitchell, S Desmond King, S Terrence Brooks, P Cameron Johnston, KR Andre Roberts.
Early Draft Picks:
QB Davis Mills, WR Nico Collins, TE Brevin Jordan. Texans Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Duke Johnson, WR Will Fuller, WR Randall Cobb, G Zach Fulton, C Nick Martin, DT J.J. Watt, DT Carlos Watkins, OLB Brennan Scarlett, CB Gareon Conley, P Bryan Anger.

2021 Houston Texans Offense:
The Texans won just four games in 2020, and that was with Deshaun Watson. Granted, they had an impossible schedule to begin the year, but they ultimately prevailed in just four contests despite having one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. Now, imagine what’ll happen to the Texans without Watson.

Projecting this scenario will be unnecessary soon enough because the Texans will have to navigate the 2021 season and beyond without Watson. The All-Pro quarterback, who already requested a trade, has been involved in countless sexual assault allegations. There are so many that it doesn’t seem possible that he’ll see the field anytime soon. With that in mind, Tyrod Taylor and Davis Mills will compete for the starting job. Taylor is a pedestrian talent, while Mills lacks upside or experience. Taylor will likely get the nod to start the season, and he’ll get yanked once the Texans begin losing or a team medical staff member mistreats him.

The winner of the quarterback battle won’t have the same talent at receiver that Watson enjoyed in 2020. Will Fuller exited one year after DeAndre Hopkins departed, leaving Houston with the oft-injured Brandin Cooks, decrepit Randall Cobb and slot receiver Keke Coutee. Cooks and Coutee posted good numbers with the Texans, but that occurred with Watson under center. Third-round rookie Nico Collins will compete for snaps. Fellow rookie Brevin Jordan will try to displace the drop-prone Jordan Akins at tight end.

With the passing game so limited, opposing defenses will be able to key in on the rushing attack. David Johnson is the current favorite to start, but he’s a mere shell of his former self. It’s unlikely he’ll be able to last the entire season anyway, which could allow Phillip Lindsay to lead the team in rushing. Lindsay is a solid back, but isn’t built to handle a full workload. The carcass of Mark Ingram is the other runner of significance on the roster.

Lindsay’s blocking may not be terrible, as the one area in which the Texans actually improved on this side of the ball is the offensive line. They acquired two offensive linemen this offseason, trading for Marcus Cannon and signing Lane Taylor. Cannon blocked very well in New England in the past, but is currently a 33-year-old coming off a missed season of football. Cannon also played for a legendary Hall of Fame offensive line coach, Dante Scarnecchia, so it’s unlikely that he’ll be as good without him. Meanwhile, Taylor was sorely missed in Green Bay after being absent most of 2020 with an injury. Taylor is a terrific blocker when healthy, but he has played just three games in the past two seasons.

The rest of the offensive line is comprised of tackles Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard, and center Justin Britt. Tunsil is one of the better left tackles in the NFL, but Howard has not been a good bookend for him. Britt, signed over from Seattle, is another lineman with severe injury issues. He has played just eight games the past two seasons, and he missed all of 2020 with a knee issue.

2021 Houston Texans Defense:
No one really knew how bad Houston’s defense was in the 2020 opener when Clyde Edwards-Helaire ripped right through their “stop” unit. Everyone believed Edwards-Helaire was the next Marshall Faulk, but it quickly became apparent how dreadful Houston was on this side of the ball. The Texans finished with the worst run defense in the NFL, ranking 27th in points allowed and 30th in yardage surrendered.

Keep in mind that this transpired with J.J. Watt on the field. Watt performed on a Pro Bowl level last year, but is no longer with the team. With Watt gone, the Texans may sport the worst defensive line anyone has seen in a very long time. The starters project to be Charles Omenihu, Ross Blacklock and Maliek Collins. All three were horrific performers last year. Blacklock has the most potential as a 2020 second-round pick, but he certainly didn’t play like one as a rookie.

Houston’s defensive line will offer no protection for the linebackers, who will struggle as a consequence. The talent at the position will be worse this year as well. Zach Cunningham is a good player, but the Texans jettisoned their other starter, Benardrick McKinney. His replacement is Christian Kirksey, who has been one of the worst starting linebackers in the NFL over the past several seasons.

The Texans will definitely be better against the pass than the run, but mostly by default. Whitney Mercilus, Jordan Jenkins and Shaq Lawson at least give them some hope of getting to the quarterback. Mercilus once recorded 12 sacks in a single season, though he hasn’t quite been the same since some of the talent around him disappeared. He struggled last year, and that was with Watt drawing attention away from him. Meanwhile, Jenkins has been a solid edge threat for the Jets, recording 15 combined sacks in 2018 and 2019. Lawson, a former first-round pick, was a fine rotational player for Miami last year.

The pass-rushing trio will need to aid a secondary that has some glaring holes. To be fair, the Texans have some solid players in their defensive backfield as well. For example, Terrance Mitchell is coming off a decent year, while Desmond King figures to perform well in the slot. Justin Reid is a very skilled safety, while Bradley Roby does a good job of covering one side when available (he has missed 12 games in the past two seasons.)

The positives end there, however. The Texans have little else besides Mitchell and the unreliable Roby at outside cornerback. Mega bust Vernon Hargreaves may have to start, which could prove to be a disaster. Meanwhile, the other safety projects to be Lonnie Johnson, who covered well, but missed many tackles in 2020.

2021 Houston Texans Schedule and Intangibles:
Ka’imi Fairbairn was 27-of-31 in 2020, including 4-of-6 from 50-plus. He missed three extra points.

Cameron Johnston finished 14th in net punting average this past season.

No touchdowns were scored for or against the Texans’ special teams.

The Texans have just a couple of winnable non-divisional opponents on their schedule: Panthers (road), Jets (home).

2021 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.

2021 Houston Texans Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2021 Houston Texans Analysis: The Texans won four games last year with Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt. Watson is extremely unlikely to play this upcoming season, while Watt is gone. Thus, it seems unlikely that Houston will come close to matching last season’s win total. In fact, there’s a very real chance that the Texans will become the first team in NFL history to go 0-17.

Projection: 0-17 (4th in AFC South)

2020 Projection: 7-9. 2020 Actual Result: 4-12.
2019 Projection: 8-8. 2019 Actual Result: 10-6.
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 2021 NFL Draft: The Texans are the worst team in the NFL, and they barely have any draft picks to fill their many needs. At this point, their only goal is not to draft busts. They just need talent.

2021 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Houston was instructed not to draft busts, yet its first two picks were rather lackluster. Nico Collins was a reach, while Davis Mills was a waste. If Deshaun Watson is done in Houston, which sounds to be the case, then the Mills selection will be meaningless because an almost-ensured 0-17 or 1-16 season will allow the Texans to secure the No. 1 pick next April (go here for my 2022 NFL Mock Draft.) If so, the Texans will draft a quarterback, rendering Mills irrelevant.

I liked some of the Texans’ third-day picks, but that won’t save this grade from being a failure. The Texans didn’t seem to make any strides toward improving their team over the long haul. Instead, they wasted picks and squandered resources by trading up nonsensically.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

67. Davis Mills, QB, Stanford – C- Grade
Imagine going from Deshaun Watson to Davis Mills. Yuck. Davis Mills is as mediocre as they come in regard to arm strength and accuracy, and he lacks experience. He’s not ready to play right away, so the Texans will have to start Tyrod Taylor in 2021. There’s legitimate 0-17 potential for the Texans, so they should’ve just waited for a quarterback atop the 2022 NFL Draft (go here for my 2022 NFL Mock Draft.)

89. Nico Collins, WR, Michigan – F Grade
The Texans are not good at this putting talent together to form a team thing. I didn’t have Nico Collins in the final version of my mock draft, though I definitely considered him in the late rounds. Still, I guess it would make sense for the Texans to trade up for a pedestrian receiver to catch passes from their pedestrian quarterback.

147. Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami – A+ Grade
I can’t believe the Texans made a great pick! Brevin Jordan is someone I consistently slotted in the second or third round, so this is tremendous value. Jordan isn’t the best athlete, but he’ll likely be a better player than Jordan Akins, who can’t stop dropping passes.

170. Garrett Wallow, LB, TCU – B+ Grade
Another good pick for the Texans! What is happening? Garrett Wallow is an athletic, albeit undersized linebacker. The upside is there, however, and I had him in the fourth round, so I like this value.

195. Roy Lopez, DT, Arizona – C- Grade
The fun is over. The Texans made some great picks earlier, but that has changed. I never once considered mocking Roy Lopez anywhere, so I don’t know what this is all about. However, we’re in the sixth round, so the “D” and “F” grades are down unless there’s a nonsensical trade involved.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Texans had a miserable season following a 2019 playoff appearance. Things will only get worse, however. The Texans have no draft capital, and Deshaun Watson announced that he doesn’t want to play for the organization anymore.

Offseason Moves:
  • Texans sign RB Rex Burkhead
  • Texans sign LB Neville Hewitt
  • Texans sign G Lane Taylor
  • Texans sign DT DeMarcus Walker
  • Texans sign DT Jaleel Johnson
  • Texans sign WR Chris Conley
  • Texans sign DE/OLB Jordan Jenkins
  • Texans sign RB Phillip Lindsay
  • Texans acquire QB Ryan Finley from Bengals
  • Texans sign G Cole Toner
  • Texans sign P Cameron Johnston
  • Texans sign WR Alex Erickson
  • Texans sign S/CB Desmond King
  • Texans acquire TE Ryan Izzo from Patriots
  • Texans sign LB Tae Davis
  • Texans sign CB Terrance Mitchell
  • Texans sign QB Tyrod Taylor
  • Texans sign WR Chris Moore
  • Texans sign LB Kevin Pierre-Louis
  • Texans sign LB Joe Thomas
  • Texans sign DT Vincent Taylor
  • Texans sign S Terrence Brooks
  • Texans sign DT Maliek Collins
  • Texans sign LB Kamu Grugier-Hill
  • Texans sign KR Andre Roberts
  • Texans acquire OT Marcus Cannon from Patriots
  • Texans acquire DE Shaq Lawson from Dolphins for LB Benardrick McKinney
  • Texans sign LB Christian Kirksey
  • Texans sign RB Mark Ingram
  • Texans sign C Justin Britt

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Defensive Linemen: The Texans had the worst run defense in the NFL last year. They sorely missed D.J. Reader. A replacement for him is needed, as is another upgrade on the defensive line. Signed Maliek Collins

    2. Two Guards: Protecting Deshaun Watson is paramount, yet the Texans have some very dubious interior blocking. Traded for Marcus Cannon; signed Lane Taylor

    3. Two Cornerbacks: While the Texans were atrocious at defending the run, they were also poor versus the pass. Gareon Conley can’t be trusted to stay healthy, and he’s an impending free agent anyway. Two new corners must be obtained. Signed Terrance Mitchell and Alex Erickson

    4. Center: Nick Martin has been released, so a replacement is needed. Signed Justin Britt

    5. Edge Rusher: Houston has missed Jadeveon Clowney. A better edge-rushing presence across from Whitney Mercilus is needed. Mercilus must improve as well. Signed Jordan Jenkins; traded for Shaq Lawson

    6. Wide Receiver: Are the Texans willing to pay Will Fuller top dollar? Even if so, the argument could be made that Houston needs a top option. Signed Chris Conley

    7. Safety: Help at safety should be obtained to complement Justin Reid. Signed Desmond King and Terrence Brooks

    8. Tight End: Jordan Akins has upside, but he’s done nothing but drop passes thus far in his career. Traded for Ryan Izzo

    9. Running Back Depth: Help is needed behind the injury-prone David Johnson. Signed Phillip Lindsay and Mark Ingram

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2021 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Desmond King, S/CB, Titans. Age: 26.
      Signed with Texans (1 year)

      Desmond King is a talented player who can literally play everywhere in the secondary. He’s also a good return specialist. He’s a valuable player to have on a roster because of his flexibility.

    2. Phillip Lindsay, RB, Broncos. Age: 27.
      Signed with Broncos (1 year, $3.25 million)

      A virtual unknown entering the NFL, Phillip Lindsay would be one of the top running backs on the market this spring if he were unrestricted.

    3. Lane Taylor, G, Packers. Age: 31.
      Signed with Texans (1 year)

      Lane Taylor is a very talented guard, but he’s also a 31-year-old coming off a knee injury, so there is definitely major risk involved.

    4. Cameron Johnston (RFA), P, Eagles. Age: 29.
      Signed with Texans (3 years, $8 million)

      Cameron Johnston has ranked 11th and ninth in net punting over the past two seasons.

    5. Terrance Marshall, CB, Browns. Age: 29.
      Signed with Texans (2 years)

      Terrance Marshall was thrust into the starting lineup because of an injury to Greedy Williams. Marshall performed well, tackling particularly well.

    6. Jordan Jenkins, DE/OLB, Jets. Age: 27.
      Signed with Texans (2 years, $6 million)

      Jordan Jenkins logged 15 sacks in two years heading into 2020, but saw that figure drop to two this past season. He’ll be better off as a second pass rusher.

    7. Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB, Redskins. Age: 29.
      Signed with Texans (2 years)

      Kevin Pierre-Louis did well for the Redskins this past season, particularly in coverage.

    8. Neville Hewitt, LB, Jets. Age: 28. — Signed with Texans
    9. Kamu Grugier-Hill, DE/OLB, Dolphins. Age: 27. — Signed with Texans (1 year, $3.25 million)
    10. DeMarcus Walker, DT, Broncos. Age: 26. — Signed with Texans
    11. Christian Kirksey, LB, Packers. Age: 29. — Signed with Texans (1 year, $4.5 million)
    12. Rex Burkhead, RB, Patriots. Age: 31. — Signed with Texans
    13. Alex Erickson, WR, Bengals. Age: 28. — Signed with Texans (1 year)
    14. Mark Ingram, RB, Ravens. Age: 31. — Signed with Texans (1 year, $3 million)
    15. Terrence Brooks, S, Patriots. Age: 29. — Signed with Texans (1 year, $2 million)
    16. Joe Thomas, LB, Cowboys. Age: 30. — Signed with Texans
    17. Vincent Taylor, DT, Browns. Age: 27. — Signed with Texans (1 year)
    18. Tyrod Taylor, QB, Chargers. Age: 32. — Signed with Texans (1 year, $12.5 million)
    19. Cole Toner (RFA), G, Chargers. Age: 27. — Signed with Texans (1 year)
    20. Jaleel Johnson, DT, Vikings. Age: 27. — Signed with Texans
    21. Chris Conley, WR, Jaguars. Age: 28. — Signed with Texans (1 year)
    22. Andre Roberts, WR, Bills. Age: 33. — Signed with Texans (2 years, $6 million)
    23. Chris Moore, WR, Ravens. Age: 28. — Signed with Texans
    24. Tae Davis, LB, Browns. Age: 25. — Signed with Texans
    25. Anthony Auclair, TE, Buccaneers. Age: 28. — Signed with Texans

    Houston Texans Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. J.J. Watt, DE/DT, Texans. Age: 32.
      Signed with Cardinals

      The Texans somehow didn’t obtain any assets for J.J. Watt. This means that three of the four pillars of their franchise – Watt, DeAndre Hopkins and Jadeveon Clowney t go along with Deshaun Watson – were moved for the sum of two second-day picks, decrepit running back David Johnson and Jacob Martin. Unreal. Watt turns 32 in March, so his 20-sack days are clearly behind him, but he was still terrific last year. He’s a great short-term signing because he can help a team get over the top and win the Super Bowl with his talent and leadership.

    2. Will Fuller, WR, Texans. Age: 27.
      Signed with Dolphins (1 year)

      Will Fuller didn’t exactly look like a No. 1 receiver last year in the wake of DeAndre Hopkins’ absence. However, he still had some explosive games and is definitely worthy of a big contract. However, I can understand teams being worried about his injury history.

    3. Bryan Anger, P, Texans. Age: 32.
      Signed with Cowboys (1 year)

      Bryan Anger finished 12th in net punting last year. And the Jaguars still drafted him instead of Russell Wilson in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

    4. Gareon Conley, CB, Texans. Age: 26.
      Gareon Conley has lots of talent as a former first-round pick, but he’s never played a full season in the NFL. He missed all of 2020 with an ankle injury.

    5. Duke Johnson, RB, Texans. Age: 27.
      Bill O’Brien traded a fourth-round pick for Duke Johnson, then barely used him after that. Johnson started some games in 2020 when David Johnson got hurt, but was only mildly effective.

    6. Nick Martin, C, Texans. Age: 28.
      Signed with Raiders

      Nick Martin has been a mediocre starting center at best for the Texans over the past four years. Houston would’ve kept him if he weren’t overpaid.

    7. Brennan Scarlett, DE/OLB, Texans. Age: 28. — Signed with Dolphins
    8. Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Texans. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Texans (1 year)
    9. Zach Fulton, G, Texans. Age: 29. — Signed with Giants
    10. Tyrell Adams, LB, Texans. Age: 29. — Signed with Bills
    11. P.J. Hall (RFA), NT, Texans. Age: 26.
    12. Michael Thomas, S, Texans. Age: 31.
    13. Carlos Watkins, DT, Texans. Age: 27. — Signed with Cowboys
    14. Darren Fells, TE, Texans. Age: 35. — Signed with Lions
    15. Phillip Gaines, CB, Texans. Age: 30.
    16. Roderick Johnson, OT, Texans. Age: 25. — Re-signed with Texans
    17. Brent Qvale, OT/G, Texans. Age: 30.
    18. Senio Kelemete, G, Texans. Age: 31. — Signed with 49ers
    19. Peter Kalambayi, OLB, Texans. Age: 26.
    20. A.J. McCarron, QB, Texans. Age: 30. — Signed with Falcons
    21. Dylan Cole, LB, Texans. Age: 27.
    22. Kyle Emanuel, LB, Texans. Age: 30.

    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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