Roster building

Fred Faour: A look at free agency so far and what still needs to be done for the Texans

Bill O'Brien and Deshaun Watson should have a lot more help on the offensive line this season, but Watson still needs a backup at QB. Getty Images

Until Friday night, the Texans had been relatively quiet in free agency, making solid, under the radar signings to bolster a squad that had a lot of holes. Then they made the big splash, signing safety Tyrann Mathieu.

While this is the kind of high-profile, big-name move that gets fans excited, the team has quietly plugged some major holes in addition to adding the playmaking safety. Entering free agency, the Texans had two major needs: Offensive line help and secondary. They filled most of those, but there is still work to be done. A look at what they have done at each position group so far and what still needs to be done:

Offensive line

Additions: Senio Kelemete, G; Seantrel Henderson, T; Zach Fulton, G. The Texans essentially added three new starters to their line, which needed four. Henderson should compete for the starting right tackle position. Fulton and Kelemete should join Nick Martin or Greg Mancz on the interior of the line. Veteran Jeff Allen, a free-agent failure, is still on the roster for now, but he might not survive. The same goes for Derek Newton, who has not played in two years. Neither should be counted on for depth, but Kyle Fuller and Chris Slade showed some promise in late-season appearances and a draft pick should be added as well. The gaping hole remains at left tackle, where the Texans -- who struck out on Nate Solder -- have no one. It will be hard to get a starter in the draft without a first or second round pick, so the Texans made need to go the trade route or hope for a veteran cut after the draft.

They have improved the line significantly this offseason, which was a major goal. Kelemete and Fulton are serious upgrades over Allen and Xavier S’ua-Filo. If they can find a left tackle between now and the start of the season, this could be the most improved unit on the team.

Tight end

Additions: None. C.J. Fiedorowicz retired due to multiple concussions, leaving the Texans with just Ryan Griffin and Stephen Anderson at the position. Neither is a longterm answer, but then this has not been a position of strength in a while. The Texans will need to draft or sign another TE to give Deshaun Watson another weapon.

Wide receiver

Additions: Sammie Coates. The team also brought back Bruce Ellington, so there is some OK depth here. DeAndre Hopkins is a clear No. 1, but it is time for Will Fuller or Braxton Miller to emerge. Coates still has some upside and Ellington was solid for the Texans last year. Another draft pick would not hurt, but not an area of need.

Running backs

Additions: None. With D’Onta Foreman a question mark after blowing his Achilles and Alfred Blue a free agent, the Texans need help behind Lamar Miller. Tyler Ervin has yet to develop and is also coming off an injury. Expect the Texans to invest at least one draft pick at this position.

Quarterback

Additions: None. Deshaun Watson is the man now, but we saw what the Texans were without him last season. Taylor Heinicke is the only other QB on the roster. The good news is whoever they bring in as a backup will be an upgrade over Tom Savage, but they still need a No. 2 QB, either through free agency or the draft. They might wait until after the draft, when other teams might dump veteran QBs.

Defensive line

Additions: None. The Texans were pretty solid here, but another big nose tackle would not hurt. The Texans should get J.J. Watt back healthy next season and if so will be strong again on the D line.

Linebackers

Additions: None. Another area where the Texans really do not need help. Whitney Mercilus should return healthy, and Zach Cunningham and Bernardrick McKinney are solid if used correctly, which they should be with Romeo Crennel returning as DC. Depth players like Brennan Scarlet and Dylan Cole should contribute as well.

Secondary

Additions: Tyrann Mathieu, S, Aaron Colvin, CB, Johnson Bademosi, CB. Like the OL, this was the biggest area that needed to be addressed. Mathieu is a legitimate star and a playmaker at three levels and will make a huge impact if healthy. Colvin will be a strong slot cover corner. Bademosi adds depth and is a special teams star. The team also brought back Jonathan Joseph, who has slowed with age but is still solid. They still lack a true No. 1 corner, and must get much better play out of former first-round pick Kevin Johnson, but overall this group should be much improved.

Special teams

This has been a mess for years. They re-signed veteran punter Shane Lechler and special teams contributor Brian Peters. Johnson can play some corner, but his primary value is on special teams coverage. They still need a decent return man and more help in this area.

The bottom line

The Texans improved their two weakest position groups with the offensive line and secondary. They were not going to be able to fix everything at once, but they did about as well as expected. Now they need to find a starting left tackle, a backup QB, another tight end and a running back. The good news is other than the tackle, they can address those needs in the draft, even without a first or second round pick.

It has been a productive free agency period for the Texans, who now are at least close to having a complete roster.

 

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RAVENS 33, TEXANS 16

5 observations from the Ravens win over the Texans

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Let's be honest; the Texans were not going to beat the Ravens. Baltimore has better players, a better quarterback and a better coaching staff. (And oh, a better kicker). All of that was on display in the Ravens' 33-16 win.

The Ravens move to 2-0, while the Texans dropped to 0-2 after facing the AFC's two best teams.

The Texans will still likely contend for a playoff spot, but nothing the last two weeks indicates they are anywhere near contending in the AFC. A look at five things from the Ravens win:

1) Oh, Brien...It did not take long for Bill O'Brien's goofy coaching to rear its ugly head. Down 3-0 at their own 34 as the first quarter was running out, O'Brien chose to go for it on fourth and one. The play was predictably blown up, the Ravens quickly scored to make it 10-0, and the Texans were instantly in a hole against a superior opponent. You can't give points away against the Ravens. They might have scored anyway with a punt, but there was no stopping them with a short field.

2) Some positives on defense. Despite the score, The Texans looked much better on that side of the ball against an explosive offense. J.J. Watt had two sacks, the team had four total, and they kept Lamar Jackson from destroying them. Seven of the points were scored by the Ravens defense, and O'Brien's gaffe led to seven more. The Ravens wore them down in the fourth quarter, but they played well enough until then to keep the team in the game had the offense been better. They did not force any turnovers, however, and that was one of the differences in the game. They were also blown off the ball on a fourth and one in the fourth quarter that led to the Ravens' 30th points and could not stop the run at all in the fourth quarter. But that's what the Ravens do with a lead, and the Texans offense gave them no breaks by being unable to stay on the field.

3) The difference between real contenders...The Ravens were just so much more skilled on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they focused on taking away the run. David Johnson averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Will Fuller had as many catches as you did. The Ravens forced two turnovers on just really good football plays. The Texans don't make plays like that. They might against lesser teams, but if your goal is to compete with the best, it's just not good enough.

4) Deshaun Watson needs to be better. His numbers looked so so on the surface (25 of 36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception). He was sacked four times and added 17 rushing yards on five carries. He did not make plays late when they needed one here or there to maybe get back in the game. With his big contract, it's time for Watson to stop being close to elite and take the next step. His interception was more of being fooled by Marcus Peters than throwing a bad ball, but the Texans were just 3 of 9 on third downs. Throw in the ill-advised fourth down play, and they were just 3 of 10 extending drives. Give the Ravens a lot of credit, but again, to compete with the best, you have to be better than that.

5) Now what? The Texans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who have not been impressive in their two wins. Still, it's hard to see Houston as anything but serious underdogs. They are last in the AFC South, and have a lot of work to do. The defense showed some promise at times, but will have to continue to improve. The offense has a long way to go. They match up better with the Steelers than they do the Ravens and Chiefs, but that does not mean they can win. If you were hoping they would give you some indication they can be more than just also-rans, they failed to do that on any level against either the Chiefs or Ravens.

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