Falcon Points

5 things that have to happen for Bill O'Brien's bizarre offseason to pan out

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The Texans offseason has been a mess to say the least. One website had them with two of the worst five moves of the off-season. While it is hard to argue that the DeAndre Hopkins trade was anything but an unmitigated disaster, there is a chance this all works out. It's unlikely, but let's look at the possibilities.

1) Deshaun Watson takes the next step

Watson has been brilliant at times, shaky at others. He has developed into a fine starting quarterback. But he needs to take the next step and become consistently great. He will always be handcuffed by mediocre coaching, but great players overcome that. If Watson becomes great, he can make up for a lot of issues.

2) The receivers stay healthy

This is a big if, obviously. Brandin Cooks is coming off a concussion filled season. Randall Cobb is getting old. And Will Fuller is a hamstring waiting to happen. But if all of those guys can stay healthy, or even two of them, since Kenny Stills is a nice fallback, this could be a dynamic group. Would it be better with Hopkins? Of course. But at least their are weapons, speed and the potential to be a pretty good group. I certainly would not bet on them staying healthy, especially the peanut brittle mess that is Fuller, but if they do, fans might forget about Hopkins. It's not inconceivable that Cobb plus Cooks could replace his production.

3) Turn back the clock

To 2016, when running back David Johnson was not an overpaid stiff. If the Texans can get better production out of Johnson than they did last year's reclamation project, Carlos Hyde, then the running game should be pretty solid. As with all of these, it is a big if, and no matter what he does, Johnson is overpaid. But did you think Hyde would be a 1,000-yard back?

4) The OL takes a big step

Consistency in an offensive line usually leads to success. All five starters will be back, and with Laremy Tunsil locked up longterm, the tackle positions should be set. Tytus Howard was on his way to a Pro Bowl before getting hurt, and if he takes the next step, the Texans tackles could be as good as anyone. Max Scharping should improve in year two, and Nick Martin and Zach Fulton are at least middling players. Tunsil still has room to improve, but we will have to see if it happens now that he is paid. Regardless, this group should be a strength moving forward. It should be; the Texans have invested heavily. If they have invested wisely, this should be a solid group.

5) About that defense...

The defense was awful last season, generating little pash rush and the secondary was a mess. They have pretty much brought back the same group of corners, minus Johnathan Joseph, who simply can't play anymore. The hope is Lonnie Johnson takes a step forward and becomes worthy of his second-round pick status. They shuffled in some new safeties around Justin Reid, and the hope is it is an upgrade, although that seems iffy. Still, maybe they will be better on the back end. They are solid at linebacker, although Bernardrick McKinney and Whitney Mercilus are vastly overpaid. Maybe they generate some rush and improvement from Jacob Martin, Charles Omenihu, Jonathan Greenard and Duke Ejiofor. And of course, J.J. Watt has to stay healthy.

Of all the things that need to go right, this is the biggest question mark. But maybe a new defensive coordinator makes it all happen.

The bottom line

Yes, there is a lot of wishful thinking and hoping here. But that is what you do in the off-season. Even if all these things work out, the Texans are still not as good as the Chiefs or Ravens. But it could put them at the top of the rest of the conference, for whatever that's worth. Yes, the more likely scenario is they regress, maybe eke out another division title before a playoff exit. But if everything goes right and they stay relatively healthy? Maybe O'Brien's off-season does not look so bad. I wouldn't hold my breath, but hey, we all could use a little positive thinking right now.

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How much will DeMeco Ryans' background impact the draft? Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Houston Texans have their guy in head coach DeMeco Ryans.

The leader of one of the top defenses in the NFL in 2022, Ryans returning to the Texans becomes somewhat of a homecoming for the former linebacker. Drafted by the team in the second round in 2006 out of Alabama, he played with Houston until the end of the 2011 season.

Since retiring as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015, Ryans became a defensive quality control coach with the San Francisco 49ers in 2017. He was promoted to inside linebackers coach in 2018, and then, in 2021 became the defensive coordinator.

Now, when it comes to the Texans, with Ryans at the helm, how could that affect how the team approaches the draft this year?

Bryce Young more likely?

As mentioned before, Ryans was a member of the Crimson Tide before turning pro. While he never played under Nick Saban, he certainly has plenty of ties in the area that make it much more likely he can learn everything he needs to know about quarterback Bryce Young.

Young put on flashy performances on the field against Alabama’s opponents during his time in Tuscaloosa. But what coaches want to know is what is the young quarterback like off the field. Is he a playbook junky, does he spend extra hours in the training facility, how does he treat employees and staff on the team?

While all this information isn’t necessarily top secret for coaches, Ryans’ Tuscaloosa ties could give the Texans an edge in getting an extra leg up on Young. That could be enough to sway Houston one way or another with its No. 2 overall pick.

In Lance we trust?

The San Francisco 49ers started the season handing the keys of the offense to quarterback Trey Lance. With Ryans being the architect behind the team’s defense, he got a front row seat to all of Lance’s tricks and approach.

Ryans knows what makes Lance tick, what he struggles with, and in what areas he can excel in. If the Texans don’t feel like any of this year’s quarterbacks are the long-term answer, Ryans is the perfect guy to know what they could get out of Lance.

With the 49ers seeming to have found something with quarterback Brock Purdy, it will be interesting to see what the team residing in Santa Clara, California, does at that position as well. However, Purdy's elbow injury will be something to watch. If San Francisco chooses to move on from their first round pick in the 2021 draft, who better to decide whether it is worth scooping up Lance than Ryans.

Defense, defense, and defense!

Going back to the Alabama connection, the same can be said about Will Anderson Jr. The star linebacker, who shined with the Crimson Tide, accumulated 34.5 sacks and 204 tackles in three seasons with Alabama.

Anderson is expected to be a top five draft pick. Similar to Young, Ryans likely has a strong in to learn everything he wants to know about the 6-foot-4-inch edge rusher and more. If Houston does not see a must-have prospect at quarterback, Ryans would love to get a leader on the defense instead.

Ryans played linebacker for all 10 seasons in the NFL. He knows what it takes to be elite at that position group at the next level. If Anderson has the skill set to fit that description, Ryans is the guy to know it heading into the draft.

One thing is for sure, Ryans as the new head coach opens up a plethora of possibilities for the Texans.

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