The Houston Texans have become the Indianapolis Colts
I think we have seen enough of the Texans’ 2017 season to make some comparisons. My first thought is the Texans have become the Colts of the last several years. What do they have in common you ask? A superstar injured QB, a leaky (terrible) defense, one of the worst o-lines in the NFL, a coach that's on the hot seat, one elite playmaking wide receiver. I think you get my point. Let's break this premise down position-by-position.
We'll start with the QBs. Both teams have an injury-prone franchise QB that hasn’t been able to stay on the field. Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson have shown the ability to win at a high level throwing from the pocket, and both possess the escape-ability to buy some time to complete passes when the pocket breaks down. I would say both players will be ready for next season most likely, but a new report suggest Luck might have to undergo bicep tendon surgery (more injuries), so we’ll have to see how that plays out over the offseason. Both guys, when available, look like they can elevate a team to greatness with the right pieces around them.
Next, both the Texans and the Colts have two of the worst offensive lines in all of football, and after the injury to Nick Martin on Sunday, the Texans may legitimately need five new starters next season. To be fair, Martin should be a serviceable option if he can overcome the two ankle/leg injuries he’s suffered the last couple years. I sense a theme because Colts' center Ryan Kelly has dealt with ankle and foot problems early in his career as well.
Texans' rookie tackle Julien Davenport will have an opportunity to start next season, but he’s raw and still may not be ready even after another offseason. The Colts have addressed their line in the draft the last two seasons, but they have dealt with a ton of injuries too. The days of the Colts rolling into camp without adding any key pieces to their line are over. They've selected three offensive linemen early in the draft, two in 2016, and one in 2017. This is where the Colts have learned their lesson, but the Texans may just now understand the severity of the problem on their hands. This will be the second year the Texans have truly ignored the o-line and the results have been awful after just one season of neglect. Hopefully, they will try to improve the line through free agency, but quality tackles typically get signed to long-term deals by the teams that drafted them. Maybe they can add some talent at guard to improve the interior of the line.
Both coaches may not be around for much longer. Colts' GM Chris Ballard may be ready to find a new coach to replace Chuck Pagano, and I can’t say I blame him. I’m sure Ballard wants to get his own hire into the organization, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Bill O’Brien isn’t back with the Texans next season. O’Brien sees what a mess Rick Smith has left for him to coach, and it feels like the right time for a change. I don't think Billy O will quit, but I do believe his days are coming to an end in Houston. If I was O'Brien, I would be looking at the Colts as an upgrade over the Texans' front office. I bet it would feel pretty good for O'Brien to stick it to Rick Smith twice a year as the Colts' new head coach. I hope O'Brien stays with the Texans, but I think he'll leave after next year if not sooner.
The Colts and the Texans have one elite wide receiver each, and not a lot else in the passing game. Hopkins and Hilton are dominant number one receivers, especially when they have their QBs available to them. Will Fuller could end up being a nice player, but so far he has been injured multiple times, and the same can be said for Colts WR Donte Moncrief. Finally, I know Hopkins is clearly outplaying T.Y. Hilton this year, but Hilton can be the most dangerous deep threat in the league when he has someone that can get him the ball.
Previous Texans teams could always count on the defense, but that’s definitely not the case anymore. The Texans are dead last in overall team defense according to Profootballreference.com, and the Colts are second to last. If you watch the Texans every week, you can’t be surprised by their rank on defense, but how are you going to rebuild the secondary and the offensive line without any top draft picks? You’re not, and you can only do so much in free agency. The secondary needs a complete overhaul. Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson can’t be your starters at corner anymore, and Kevin Johnson is looking more like a bust after every game. The Colts need an infusion of talent in the secondary just as much as the Texans. They took safety Malik Hooker in the first round, but he tore his ACL and is no lock to be ready when the season starts.
Houston's lack of depth on defense is catching up with them. This is why their special teams are so bad; anybody decent has to play on defense regularly.
The Jags are now the Texans of old
We can also point to the Colts' and Texans’ running games being extremely average as well, but the one thing that should concern Texans fans the most is the juggernaut the Jacksonville Jaguars have built. While the roster has been run into the ground in Houston, the Jaguars have become what the Texans used to be every year, a great defense with a strong running game. For years, Texans fans have been waiting to acquire a franchise QB to lead them deep into the playoffs, but it looks like their old formula of defense and a strong running game might be what does the trick. The only problem is, it’s working for the Jaguars, not the Texans. We’ll see how the Jags perform in the playoffs, but a good defense and a strong running game usually does very well in the months of January and February. It took a few years for all of this talent to develop in Jacksonville, but the Jags went from worst to first which should give Texans fans some hope. But a few more terrible drafts and that won't be the case. This should be a wake-up call for Rick Smith. The team and the roster are both clearly backsliding.