Falcon Points

It's time for the Texans to push all their chips in the middle for 2019

The Texans finished 11-5 last season and won the AFC South before getting bounced by Indy in the first round of the playoffs. There were a lot of close wins and a soft schedule that certainly contributed to their success.

So the question is how close are they really? They are set at quarterback for the foreseeable future. They have a legitimate No. 1 receiver. They have talent on defense, but at times they did not play to their abilities.

Realistically, as of today, they are behind at least Kansas City, New England and Indianapolis in the AFC pecking order. Depending on what happens in Pittsburgh, they might be behind the Steelers and Ravens, too. If Jacksonville adds a Nick Foles and a couple offensive playmakers, the Jags could be back in the mix as well.

That is if the Texans trot out the same group we saw last season. They might even be a better team and have a worse record, because the schedule on paper looks much tougher.

But they should also take their shot now. How many years does J.J. Watt have in him to play at an elite level? Two years ago, the Jaguars won free agency, then made it to the AFC Championship. The Astros were close in 2017, went all in on Justin Verlander and won a World Series. The Rams did it last year and made it to a Super Bowl.

It's time for the Texans to follow suit. They can't fill all their holes in the draft, and free agency is always a crap shoot; you are paying players more for what they have done than what they will do in most cases. But if they want to take the next step, free agency is a must.

The obvious needs

The offensive line was a complete joke last season. Anyone can see there needs to be upgrades at tackle and guard. The problem is most teams don't let go of quality tackles. Trent Brown will be the best name likely available. They will have to overpay, and Brown would be going from a legendary line coach and superior coaching staff to...well, the Texans. It's rare when a player leaves the Patriots and performs at the same level. But he would be an upgrade. Guard Roger Saffold or center Matt Paradis would instantly upgrade the interior. Ja'Waun James or Daryl Williams would instantly upgrade the right side. The Texans will have plenty of cap room to add at least two and maybe three players here and still fix some other issues. There is no guarantee they will all be available, but the Texans should be pursuing every one that is on the market.

Cornerback also needs an upgrade. Aaron Colvin was a free agent failure last season, but maybe if healthy he can contribute. But there is no shortage of decent CBs that would not break the bank. This needs to be addressed with at least one signing, possibly two.

The players to bring back

Jadeveon Clowney will be franchised tagged. You can do worse than to let him play it out and make your run in 2019. But if there is a big time package on the table, exploring a trade is not the worst idea, either. Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson are free agents. One needs to be brought back to play alongside Justin Reid. Mathieu will cost more but is younger and has more upside.

The other needs

The Texans have been linked to Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, which would be a massive upgrade. But he will command a massive deal. The Texans have the cap room to do it, but it might limit what they do elsewhere. Lamar Miller is functional and might be better with an improved line. The Texans could also use another wide receiver. If everyone is healthy, they are fine, but Will Fuller has never been healthy. Keke Coutee missed much of last season. A reliable fill-in is a must. They also could use an upgrade at backup quarterback. If they were to trade Clowney, pass rusher would be a need as well. But if the team spends some money in free agency at these positions, they could draft the best available players and not have to force a need.

The cap impact

According to overthecap.com, the Texans have over $77 million available in cap space. They could add another $15 million by cutting Kevin Johnson and Whitney Merclius. If they did make a splash with Bell, cutting Miller would add another $6 million.

So the money is there. The players are there. The needs are there. The Texans could stay the course and try to upgrade a little at a time. But will that close the gap on the Chiefs, Patriots, Colts and Chargers?

No. It's time to push all the chips in the middle. It might not work, but if it does, the team might finally take a big step. Could it set them back a couple years? Absolutely. But that's why they call it gambling.

And it is time for the Texans to ante up in a big way.

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Another tough loss for the Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans started fast but faltered late as the New York Jets hand Houston their ninth loss of the season 21-14. Here are 11 observations from the game.

1. Starting safety Justin Reid was benched for the game. David Culley said after the game it was his decision as head coach and he would keep the matter internal with Reid.

2. This is the third defender benched for disciplinary reasons this season. Reid joins Zach Cunningham and Desmond King as players who missed time for discipline.

3. Justin Reid told Fox 26 he was benched because he had a disagreement with the coaching staff. He also said he was shocked the Texans benched him. You have to wonder if the “culture” the team is building is right when one of the more likable and personable players falls victim to their rules. Reid, who is a free agent this offseason, could leave the Texans.

4. Tyrod Taylor had a couple of nice plays early on for the Texans. His willingness to take some shots downfield was refreshing and led to a touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

5. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan found the end zone. He has played well in recent weeks after finally getting on the field. Jordan is playing over Jordan Akins as Akins was a healthy scratch again this week.

6. Tytus Howard started at left tackle with mixed results. Howard has struggled to find his way at guard but could be a long-term option at tackle if given the chance.

7. The offensive line overall played poorly after some early success. The pass rush of the Jets got going and the run blocking was poor again. Lane Taylor played at left guard some, with Max Scharping also playing some at that spot.

8. The offense was horrendous after the two scoring drives. The Texans amassed 202 net yards with 91 yards coming on those two scoring drives. Houston gained just 49 net yards after their opening three drives.

9. After the game, I asked David Culley if he would be making a change with his play-caller. Culley stood behind offensive coordinator Tim Kelly and said he would remain the team’s play-caller.

10. Second-year defensive lineman Ross Blacklock had two horrible errors that handed the Jets a chance to turn three points into seven points. Blacklock got a personal foul on a field goal attempt giving the Jets a first down. The very next play his offsides penalty erased a sack. Each week Blacklock falls even more behind a bevy of players drafted after him who contribute positively on a regular basis.

11. The loss to another bottom-dweller has the Texans back in the second spot in the 2022 NFL Draft order. It also feels like the deflating nature of this loss erased some of the good feelings after the victory over the Titans. The Indianapolis Colts come to Houston next week to begin December’s portion of the schedule.

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