Scouting the South: Houston Texans Preview

Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports

We begin our look at the Titans' division rivals with a team that went from first to worst in one quick season.

2013 Recap: The Texans won their opening two games, including a Week 2 matchup against the Titans, before promptly having their season fall apart.  The Ravens, Seahawks and Niners sent Houston below 0.500 with three straight losses and it only got worse from there.  The team did not win another game and their season ended with a streak of 14 straight losses.  As expected the collapse cost both Gary Kubiak (fired in-season) and his QB, Matt Schaub, their jobs.  General Manager Rick Smith survived and hired Bill O'Brien to be the team's new head coach.

Free Agency Review: The biggest addition to the team was Ryan Fitzpatrick.  He was an easy target for criticism in Tennessee and it says here he'll do alright in Houston.  O'Brien should be able to maximize his ability and keep turnovers at a minimum.  The Texans are banking on Fitzpatrick sliding into a game-manager role this season.  Running back Ben Tate left for the Cleveland and that loss may wind up hurting Houston quite a lot if Arian Foster misses any substantial time.  Behind Foster is free agent addition Andre Brown and late-round draft choice Alfred Blue.  Defensively the roster has seen a lot of change - Danieal Manning, Brice McCain, Terrell McClain and Joe Mays are all no longer with the team.  With a switch to Romeo Crennel's defense, it is not a surprise to see an influx of players and that is likely beneficial.

Draft Review: When you're picking first in the draft its expected you'll come away with some big-time talent.  Houston avoided quarterbacks early, by nabbing Jadeveon Clowney and Xavier Su'a-Filo (have fun spelling that) to beef up the defensive and offensive lines, respectively.  Clowney should have a huge impact playing as part of a talented front-seven.  Some media members were very high on NT Louis Nix, selected with Houston's second third-round selection (TE CJ Fiedorowicz with the first one).  He failed to really stand out on film in my opinion.  The main talking point for the Texans though was at QB, a position they did not draft until Tom Savage in the fourth round.  His college film was decent, but its hard to see him as a long-term option.  It looks unlikely he'll develop into a top-tier passer.

Most Dangerous Player to the Titans: JJ Watt gets the obvious nod in this category.  He's simply one of the best players in the league.  It will be interesting to see if or how his role changes under Crennel.

Underrated Player: I loved DeAndre Hopkins coming out of the draft and after one year my stance hasn't changed.  He's going to be a really, really good player.  With Andre Johnson aging (and perhaps on his way out?) Hopkins is set for a much larger number of targets.  Watch for his production to take a big jump.

Overrated Player: Arian Foster is a tremendous running back, but like most at the position, could be considered a product of the system.  Will his numbers remain high with a new offense?

2014 Outlook: If the Texans had selected a talented quarterback in the draft then I would have expected a quick turnaround this season.  With Fitzpatrick as a bridge to their next long-term quarterback it looks like they will rely on the ground game and defense to carry them to some close victories.  That model isn't likely to succeed often as the roster stands currently, so Houston should be in for some small improvements and moral victories this season.

A 5-11 or 6-10 season seems reasonable to me.  What do you think, MCM?

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