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Around the AFC South: A look at the offseason of the Texans

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Is there a bigger mess in all of sports than the Houston Texans? Perhaps quicker than any organization ever has, Houston went from annual AFC contender to No. 1 draft pick contender — for a couple of different reasons.

The first being the Deshaun Watson situation, which is still ongoing. The star quarterback is facing numerous sexual assault allegations, leaving the Texans with no choice but to make other arrangements under center. That has come in the form of Tyrod Taylor and draft pick Davis Mills.

The second reason comes courtesy of former head coach Bill O’Brien, who absolutely cleaned out Houston’s draft pick ammunition, leaving them handicapped in the short term as they begin a rebuild. The Texans didn’t pick this year until the third round, where they selected quarterback Davis Mills. For the first time since 2019, Houston will actually make a pick in the first round — likely in the top five of next spring’s event.

Let’s recap all the key moves of the offseason for the Texans.

Key Departures

HC/GM Bill O’Brien

DL J.J. Watt

(Likely) QB Deshaun Watson

C Nick Martin

LB Benardrick McKinney

G Zach Fulton

TE Darren Fells

WR Will Fuller

Key Additions

HC David Culley

QB Tyrod Taylor

QB Davis Mills

EDGE Shaq Lawson

LB Christian Kirksey

RT Marcus Cannon

DL Maliek Collins

RB Mark Ingram

RB Rex Burkhead

RB Phillip Lindsay

CB Terrance Mitchell

CB Vernon Hargreaves

CB Desmond King

WR Chris Conley

LB Neville Hewitt

The Houston Texans had all the makings of a potential dynasty — and now they look like an expansion team once again. J.J. Watt is gone, joining DeAndre Hopkins in Arizona. Quarterback Deshaun Watson’s situation is far from settled, but the Texans are obviously planning for life without him.

That leaves an offense featuring Tyrod Taylor, David Johnson, Mark Ingram, Phillip Lindsay, Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks. Taylor will be looking to keep Houston afloat in 2021 as the organization transitions in a new direction.

Speaking of new directions, David Culley takes over for Bill O’Brien this season. The Houston gig was pretty clearly the worst job on the board for candidate this season, and the Texans ended up hiring Culley, who served as the Ravens’ passing game coordinator last year.

Culley has a tough road ahead, especially with the Titans and Colts already established in the AFC South. The Jaguars also made some big moves this offseason and should take some steps forward in 2021.

Defensively, it can’t get too much worse for the Texans, who ranked 30th in total defense last season. You can hardly recognize this group anymore, just a few years removed from being one of the better units in the league. J.J. Watt is gone, and only Whitney Mercilus remains from the old group.

Zach Cunningham remains on the linebacking core, joined this year by Christian Kirksey.

Bradley Roby will return to the secondary following his suspension last season, joined by a trio of new additions at cornerback. Terrance Mitchell, Vernon Hargreaves and Desmond King will look to bolster a group that ranked 24th against the pass in 2020.

Our take on the Texans

2021 feels an awful lot like a punt for Houston, who more than likely will be in the hunt for the No. 1 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. Defensive issues remain and a Tyrod Taylor led offense doesn’t exactly scare anyone. The only intrigue here will be what the Texans do with Davis Mills, who may see a handful of starts before the season ends.

Vegas win total O/U: 5