2014 Record – 9-7
QB Brian Hoyer, DT Vince Wilfork, WR Nate Washington, WR Cecil Shorts III, S Stevie Brown, S Rahim Moore, RB Chris Polk
WR Andre Johnson, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, C Chris Myers, QB Case Keenum
What is there to say about the 2015 version of the Houston Texans? The offense and the defense are two different stories, one with a wealth of new talent and veteran stability and the other littered with question marks. The opposite has been true for at least the past 5 seasons that the Texans entered the stratosphere of respectable teams. Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson both had unhappy endings with the team, although Johnson’s recent dismissal was not due to performance on the field. Two years removed from a 2-14 season, the Texans took a step forward in 2014 from steady production out of stud tailback Arian Foster. With Foster out for at least the first six weeks after sustaining an injury in camp, production on the offensive side of the ball will be an absolute problem.
Although the Texans face problems at the quarterback position and lack of the depth on the offensive line, they will get the most out of team reps against a more than formidable defensive front. The 2014 first overall pick in the draft returns after a non-existent first season with the club. With Clowney coming off the outside in a 3-4 scheme, he is expected to drop back and fill the middle of the field. With the likes of Watt, Wilfork, and Cushing to stunt any running game that an opponent may have, the DBs will be critical to the success in a pass happy league. Luckily, the AFC South only has one surefire passer to face in Andrew Luck.
X-Factor – Ryan Mallett
I was watching the Redskins-Lions preseason game last night and Colt McCoy entered the game after RGIII had been hit for the (what seemed like) the 20th time. Griffin is a fragile player, yet McCoy came in and had no problem with an offensive line that seemed to be struggling because he’s be built like a train. This isn’t a Redskins preview, but I couldn’t help but think of Brian Hoyer in the same situation. Hoyer is listed first on the depth chart and may start the season, but he has bounced around the league for a reason. McCoy and Hoyer both are limited in size and the ability to make big or even exciting plays. Mallett had been touted as the possible successor to Tom Brady. Expect him to start by Week 6 after an indifferent start to the season by Hoyer.
2015 Breakout Player – Brian Cushing
How about resurrected player? Cushing was the first standout on this defense that turned the page in 2009 and realized potential in 2011. With a full slate of games in both seasons, Cushing recorded a combined 248 tackles and 6 interceptions. Since 2011, he hasn’t played a full schedule and his production is down – possibly with JJ Watt swallowing up all the space. The Texans have maximized their pass rushing core with the addition of Wilfork, so Cushing will have a big impact on pass breakups.
8 wins. Defense doesn’t win championships in the NFL, as much as sports movies want to tell us that (and Seattle tricks us). It will win the Texans quite a few games though. The QB situation is an absolute mess. Deandre Hopkins will have to fill the void that Andre Johnson has left, especially on the leadership side even if its early in his career. He will catch enough touchdowns to win games as low as in the teens.
4 wins. I want to say the threshold for how bad this could be is 1 win. But the division is still weak and Bill O’Brien is coming of age as an NFL head coach. The Texans under-perform even with an offense that is expected to do nothing.