BANKING ON WATSON

John Granato: Hoping Pro Football Focus is wrong about the Texans

John Granato: Hoping Pro Football Focus is wrong about the Texans
Pro Football Focus thinks Deshaun Watson is an average quarterback. Tim Warner/Getty Images

If it wasn’t bad enough watching the Texans muddle through another dismal season after Deshaun Watson went down, Pro Football Focus doesn’t think it will be much better this year - not if you look at their NFL roster rankings.

Of the 32 NFL teams, the Texans roster came in 31st. There is no way to spin that. It’s bad. It’s why Rick Smith is no longer working for the organization. There were way too many swings and misses draft after draft.

According to PFF the Texans have one exceptional player in DeAndre Hopkins, a couple just behind him in J.J. Watt and J.D. Clowney and three above average players in D.J. Reader, Zach Cunningham and Aaron Colvin. That’s it. The rest of the roster is a bunch of guys.  

That’s where PFF and I disagree.

PFF gave Deshaun a grade of 75.1 which makes him an average NFL quarterback.

My undying love for Deshaun is well documented. I’m biased on this but by what measure can you say that Deshaun Watson was an average NFL quarterback last year? Certainly not by his play. When he got injured he was leading the league in touchdown passes and the Texans had the No. 1 scoring offense. His QB rating of 103 finished just ahead of Tom Brady, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff. How in the world is that average?

Maybe they’re penalizing Deshaun for being injured. That’s about the only explanation. That can’t be though because Aaron Rogers had an 84.4 PFF rating last year and he was injured too.  

I’m not saying he’s Aaron Rogers but these ratings shouldn’t take into account your past. They’re based solely on last year’s performance and last year Deshaun was better than Rogers.

Rogers threw more passes and completed more with a better completion percentage but Deshaun threw for more yards, more yards per pass, more touchdowns, made more big plays and had a higher qb rating.

It doesn’t make sense.

But that’s about all I can disagree with. It’s no secret that the Texans have average to below average players everywhere else. It’s why I think they have been so bad on special teams for so long. If your starters aren’t that good how good can your special teams players be any good?

But 31st in the league is a lot lower than I would have thought the Texans roster would be. The only team worse is the Browns but they’re completely overhauling that roster and will be better this year.

The Jets have a better roster than the Texans? Really? The Colts? The Giants? Man.

Objectively looking at the Texans it’s hard to think that this team will win. The offensive line collectively is one of the worst units in the league. Outside of DeAndre Hopkins the receivers are average at best. The running backs are just guys.

Defensively, Kevin Johnson was PFF’s worst corner last year. J-Jo is another year older. Kareem Jackson has to move to safety. The inside linebackers are good but struggle some in pass coverage. We’ll see if Whitney Mercilus returns to All-Pro form. Clowney, J.J. and Reader are among the best when healthy but that’s a big if especially with JJ. It can be a great front 7 but, but, but.

There is one X-factor this season. Deshaun. Number 4 made everyone better last year. He took a crappy offense to the top of the league. Took the worst line in the league and made it serviceable. Took average playmakers and made them special and took Deandre Hopkins to elite status.

He couldn’t make the defense any better though. His 3-3 record as a starter was in large part due to a defense that couldn’t stop anyone late in games. Seattle and New England both drove right down the field to beat the Texans in the final minutes. The other factor was questionably conservative play calls that put the defense back on the field. Hopefully both the defense and the play caller learned some lessons last year.

But the fact of the matter is that with no first or second round picks the Texans could only marginally improve their roster. The offensive line picked up a couple of free agents but no one that moved the needle. The defense grabbed a nice free agent in Aaron Colvin and if Tyrann Mathieu plays like he did early in his career he will be a huge plus. Third round pick Justin Reid has to grow up in a hurry because they’re going to need him with Andre Hal sidelined with lymphoma.

The biggest additions though will be Watt and Whitney Mercilus. PFF gave JJ an 89.3 rating but that was all on past performance. He only played in five games last year with no sacks and 15 total tackles. How that rates so high I can’t tell you. We all know what J.J. can be though and he has to be if the Texans are going to move up from their present status as a bottom dweller.

Everywhere I look the Texans are thought to be a 6 to 9 win team, usually closer to the 6 than the 9. Every preseason preview begins and ends with Deshaun’s health. Everyone is waiting for J.J. to get back to doing J.J. stuff.

Call me an optimist or just plain stupid (many people have), I think they’re going to be the division champ and a scary playoff team.

I’m a homer. I’ll admit it. But I’m not going to dismiss what I saw from Deshaun Watson the past three years. He’s special and when you have that under center you’ve always got a chance to do special things.   

Maybe Pro Football focus is right. Maybe their roster just isn’t good enough but the great players make everybody around them better including the head coach. Deshaun did that last year and will do it again this year.

Book it… but not with money. I don’t need that heat if they finish last.

 

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The Astros rotation looks like a strength moving forward. Composite Getty Image.

The Houston Astros are coming off a much-needed series win over the White Sox, but have a quick turnaround as they host the Orioles on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

The 'Stros dropped the first game of the series with Framber Valdez on the mound, but were able to rebound with Hunter Brown and Spencer Arrighetti starting the final two games.

Brown was brilliant once again, and Arrighetti bounced back after a disastrous start against the Tigers over the weekend. Despite all the injures to the Astros staff this season, their young pitchers are stepping up when they need them the most.

Brown has six consecutive quality starts and is beginning to show signs that he can be the top of the rotation pitcher the club always hoped he could develop into.

Arrighetti has stepped in and shown that he belongs in the big leagues, and has provided innings Houston desperately requires with so many pitchers on the injured list.

Speaking of which, with Justin Verlander on the IL, Double A prospect Jake Bloss will make the start for Houston on Friday night. Bloss has quickly progressed through the farm system, having been drafted just a year ago.

We'll see how he performs in his MLB debut, but the club seems to have a lot of quality pitching options moving forward, especially with Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers scheduled to return in late July and early August respectively.

And as we look at the Astros rotation moving forward, perhaps they will go back to a six-man rotation during certain stretches in the second half of the season.

Which could prove to be vital to the team's success. As good as Ronel Blanco has been, he's never pitched as many innings as he'll be asked to pitch this year. Same goes for Arrighetti. And let's face it, sending Verlander out to pitch on four days rest consistently at 41 years old doesn't sound like a wise decision. He's already been on the IL twice this year.

While some see Garcia and McCullers as wild cards to help the team this season, Astros GM Dana Brown doesn't see it that way. He told the Astros flagship station this week that he's counting on those guys to make big contributions when they return. And he's counting on their postseason experience should they get there.

Keep in mind, Garcia has a 3.61 career ERA and has been durable outside the Tommy John surgery. And McCullers has always been good, it's just the health that causes concern.

Garcia is also an example of how a player can skip Double A and Triple A and have success right away in the big leagues. Hopefully, Bloss can follow in his footsteps, since he's bypassing Triple A to make his first start.

So what's the short and long-term outlook for the Astros rotation? And should we expect Verlander to return in 2025?

Be sure to watch the video above as we address those questions and much more!

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