The Houston Texans' offseason ranked 25th. Composite image by Brandon Strange.
The NFL no longer has a true "offseason" anymore. Instead, we transition from the season to offseason activities like we used to move from class to class in our school days. You go from watching games to watching how teams reshape and rebuild their rosters. Any news that comes out is a big deal. Hell, the releasing of the schedule is damn near a holiday the way the league and TV execs treat it. Social media gets flooded with supposed schedule leaks. Teams have even posted prank videos telling players about a jacked up schedule. Guys who are free agents get their every move reported. God forbid a player in a contract dispute removes any mentions of his current team from his social media, that could get about three to four days' worth of stories in itself.
Bill Barnwell wrote an article about how teams fared this offseason. To say he was critical of the Texans' offseason would be an understatement. He made it seem as if there was a plan, but he's not sure of those plans. When he talked about what went right, he mentions picking up draft picks for Deshaun Watson. I agree, it was a good move. Where we disagree is his backhanded compliments. He said Nick Caserio has a "coherent plan toward filling out the roster," but then asks why the short-term deals for veterans? He did like the Kenyon Green pick as a smart investment, but why trash the short-term deals? Those are guys who might stick around if they prove worthy. Bare minimum, those vets can come in and help the younger guys learn how to be pros.
As I keep reading, he talks about trading up for John Metchie III as being a bad move. His reasoning is that "the Texans valued Metchie as if he were worth the 18th pick in a typical draft." Now what now?!? What draft chart shows that Bill? Using the points valued at each pick would yield a 1st rounder, but NOBODY would trade a high 3rd/4th/late 4th for a 1st (except that one dude who used to coach here)! Clearly, this was a reach of Inspector Gadget proportions. He took exception again with adding aging vets along the defensive line. I don't see the problem as they can help younger guys learn the pro game, or they can be shipped off midseason for low round picks or cut and not waste a spot or cap space. I do agree with his assessment about signing veteran running backs. Bringing in a bunch of young running backs means you could stumble upon your next star at the position. They're a dime a dozen, unless you find a special one.
When he spoke on the coaching hire this offseason being another lame duck hire, I laughed. I look at Lovie's hire the same way I look at Davis Mills getting a shot: see what he can do, and we may have something. I truly believe Brian Flores was their target, but his pending lawsuit made him undesirable (check the timeline of David Culley's firing against Flores' firing and lawsuit). Speaking of Mills, he thought not providing a suitable backup for Mills could've been handled better, and Jimmy Garoppolo should still be on their radar. Why? Let Mills enjoy a full offseason/season as the guy to see what he can do without looking over his shoulder at the guy who may replace him. If he works out, great. If not, draft his replacement in the upcoming draft where the talent pool is way better.
Overall, his article smells like a national writer who didn't take the time to truly look into things but had a deadline and recycled some tired old tropes others in his position have done previously. Did they have a lights-out offseason? No. But they damn sure have a focus and direction that isn't that hard to see if you look closely. Caserio came from an organization that played chess, not checkers. He's willing to endure at least one more season of bad to mediocre football in order to build this thing into what he envisions. With ownership firmly behind him, he's got the green light. I wonder if Barnwell will eat this article if he's proven wrong? There's a local football writer who recently retired that can tell him what sauce to put on it.
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.