COUNTDOWN TO THE SEASON

Cody Stoots: The 11 most important Texans not named Deshaun Watson

DeAndre Hopkins might be the most important Texan not named Watson. Tim Warner/Getty Images

Obviously, Deshaun Watson is the most important player on this team. There won't be any debate. They're sunk without him. So these Texans players find themselves as the most important Texans players after QB1:

1) DeAndre Hopkins

Hopkins is the most important Texans player behind Deshaun Watson. His 94 receptions, 1,370 yards, and 10 touchdowns is the Hopkins average if you take out the year he couldn't get on the same page with Brock Osweiler. He is QB-proof, again except for Brock, having had success with every quarterback he has ever played with. He was amazing with Watson last year and should be even better this year. He could put up numbers as impressive or more than last year's figures. The offense is built around Watson but the passing attack is built around Hopkins. The defense though will need their own Mr. Consistent...

2) Jadeveon Clowney

Clowney finds himself constantly one step away from a game-breaking play. Those other times he is terrorizing the rushing attacks of other teams. The pass rushing is almost to an elite level for him. The new deal lingers and if for some reason the money isn't on the table making it hurt at the next negotiation will be Clowney's goal. If the new deal is in place then a happy Clowney loves football and is ready to dominate. 

3) Whitney Mercilus

Him being this high on this list might surprise some but it shouldn't. Two seasons ago in J.J. Watt's absence, the defense found themselves as one of the best in football and Mercilus was one of the main reasons. With 2018 being the next to last year on his contract think of this upcoming season as a contract year for Mercilus. His current deal has been a steal for the Texans. A huge year could see Mercilus head to the negotiating table with a chance to make sure he finishes his career well paid and as a member of the Texans. 

4) Will Fuller 

Fuller has to have a full and competitive season for the Texans to be one of the best teams in the AFC. He was fantastic in his limited work with Watson totaling all seven of his touchdowns and 125 more yards working with Watson than after the quarterback's season ended. He is there to create a matchup problem for defenses and take some pressure off Hopkins but he will need to evolve. Fuller can't be a one trick pony and will need to be a complete wideout to help the Texans establish their offense. 

5) Aaron Colvin 

Colvin and his role with the team will help determine how the secondary is going to approach most opponents. He has been one of the best slot corners in the game but he wasn't brought over to be just a slot corner for the Texans. Colvin will need to be a consistent playmaker, on and off the box score, to make sure the Texans can stymie opposing offense for just that one extra moment to allow a hopefully healthy pass rush to earn sacks and disrupt pass catchers. He's easily the most talented cornerback on the roster. 

6) Tyrann Mathieu

The Honey Badger has played safety the most of all the safeties on the Texans. Let that sink in. Now realize as far as starting safety experience he will outrank the next few names combined. Kareem Jackson is now at safety as is Treston Decoud. Corey Moore was demoted last season after the New England game. Justin Reid is a rookie. The constant comments that Mathieu would focus heavily on safety now make more sense. Mathieu will have to be an immediate impact player for Romeo Crennel's defense. 

7) Lamar Miller

The No. 1 RB had no 100-yard rushing games last season. He also checked in with a career-low 3.7 yards per attempt. The offensive line was not effective last year so that has to contribute to it but Miller is also quickly approaching the time in his career when most running backs break or lose a step. The heaviest workload of his career what his first with Houston and last year wasn't good. Foreman is injured and the rest of the running backs are unremarkable. It is on Miller's shoulders to get this rushing attack going. 

8) Ryan Griffin

He is really important and don't you dare laugh at this. The Texans face a premier corner in six of their first nine games. Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Janoris Jenkins, Tre'davious White, and the Jaguars duo all show up in the first two months of the season. With those guys slowing down DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller the focus of the other secondary members the Texans will have to make sure Griffin gets going. He has played five seasons and the next three guys on the depth chart combine for two, with Stepehen Anderson having those two and the two rookies Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas behind him. If Griffin isn't good it will be hard for Watson to get going early in the season. 

9) J.J. Watt

Watt is of course very important. If he is good, the Texans should dominate people on defense. If he isn't good then the looming cloud of a forgotten Watt will be there all season. Watt and his teammates will answer questions of why the old Watt isn't on the field. Also, there isn't a lot of good depth behind him. He needs to be good, take up some of the important snaps on defense, and not be the Watt of old but be a good player. 

10) Benardrick McKinney

He played better in 2016 than he did last season but he still earned a huger contract this offseason. He can't be just good enough for the Texans anymore. Yes, Zach Cunningham and Dylan Cole compose a decent amount of talent behind him, but McKinney has the significant experience. He is reliable but the Texans didn't pay for their middle linebacker to be reliable. If McKinney isn't better than 2017 the Texans and the fans watching him might be thinking buyer's remorse. 

11) Julién Davenport

He makes the list because he is the only member of this turned over offensive line without some significant experience. There isn't a backup plan for left tackle. The Texans have focused on him and with or without earning it he takes over at left tackle for better or worse. The leash won't be short either. The positive for him is no elite pass rushers show up early on the schedule. He has six weeks to get comfortable before the Jaguars terrifying defense shows up.

So there you have it. The most important Texans after Deshaun Watson. Watson's injury would be devastating and sink the team but the Texans don't have the talent to afford one of these key players to miss significant time. 

Cheerleaders are supposed to be hot. Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

In this age of safe spaces and emotional support animals I understand the plight of the modern day cheerleader and power dancer. They shouldn't have to hear hurtful words.

Longtime Texans cheerleader director Alto Gary was accused of calling her cheerleaders crack whores and porn stars when they wore too much makeup. This week a MIlwaukee Bucks cheerleader said she was locked in a dark closet and had to endure jiggle tests and fat grabbing.

These methods are probably unnecessary. Are they lawsuit worthy? That's for smarter people to decide. The Bucks did settle a suit for $250,000 because they underpaid their cheerleaders. That's something I can get behind. But that's arguable as well.

Exactly what are we looking for in our cheerleaders as 2018 comes to a close?

There are two main priorities in the cheer game: looks and dance-ability. We've gotten away from the gymnastics aspect. In high school competition it's still important but in the pro game we've gone to more synchronized dancing.

What we haven't gotten away from is how important it is to look good. As politically incorrect as that might be, it isn't going away anytime soon, maybe ever. We want our cheerleaders to look good. Sorry. Call me a neanderthal. Political correctness will never overcome a guy's pentiant to look at pretty girls. It just won't.

What we have here is the issue of how the cheerleaders are being treated and paid. Are the hurtful words necessary? No. But guess what. Stuff happens when livelihoods are on the line. You know what coaches call their players when they gain weight and get out of shape? You don't want to know. It's ugly. Body shaming? You bet. Happens every day in locker rooms all across the country at every level.

Some coaches are just mean and will pick at any inadequacy. Others use it as a motivational tactic. Who wants to be shamed publicly? No one but if I stay in shape I won't catch the coach's wrath so I stay in shape.

Let me make this perfectly clear though. I am anti-eating disorder. I like a little meat on the bones. That cheerleaders have to be Victoria Secret models is a thing of the past. Nothing wrong with some muffin tops in my book. I would be a great cheerleader director. After practice we'd order a few pizzas.

I'd be the only one who would do that but OK. Maybe I would change the game. Probably not but maybe.

As far as the inferior pay goes, I'm not sure that will change anytime soon. I don't want to be mean but let's be real. Cheerleaders are part of the game. They are not the game. Unless you are extremely perverted (and there are much better ways to get your perv on) the only people that are there just for the cheerleaders are their family and boyfriends/husbands.

The players are the product and they're expensive. Periphery attractions have to be affordable or the business plan doesn't work. Cheerleaders can and should make more than the miserly owners have been paying them but they're never going to get rich cheering. They're just not.

My cousin was a Honey Bear back in the day. She didn't make squat but she loved what she did and no one can ever take that away from her. There's a certain pride that goes along with it, not only for her but for the whole family. My cousin was hot enough to be a Bear's cheerleader. None of my friends had family that hot. I lauded that over them.

Let's not relent to political correctness on this. We just can't. Should directors lock cheerleaders in closets? Grab their fat? Wrap them in cellophane? Probably not. Should they at least make minimum wage and maybe more? Sure.

But we can't lower our hotness standards. They have to be smokin' hot and dance well.

I want my mechanic to know engines and fix my problem. I want my doctor to diagnose and cure my ills. I want my pilot to take off and land without incident and I want my cheerleaders and/or power dancers to be hot and dance well. That's the job. Period.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome