As the Astros get ready to make a run at back-to-back World Series championships and the Houston Cougars strive to play their way to a Final Four in Houston, the Houston Texans near term ambitions are much lower. The Texans merely hope to end their status as a three years running dumpster fire of nearly relentless ineptitude. As a follow-up to the energy jolt of the hire of DeMeco Ryans as head coach, the first days of the new NFL year resulted in a word rarely useable since Nick Caserio became general manager: progress!
Specifically, acquiring solid guard Shaq Mason from the cap-strapped Buccaneers for basically nothing was excellent, the addition of defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins should be a legitimate upgrade for the Texans’ d-line that was regularly trampled last season, and a deal with defensive back Jimmie Ward should add veteran savvy to the secondary provided he isn’t poised to tumble over the hill at 32 years old. Ed Reed anyone? Reed was 35. Big difference. Or better be.
The Texans organizationally weren’t really trying to win the last two years but, Caserio didn’t do much to impress in pouring some foundation for the next era of winning Texans football. Year one he was hamstrung by not having a first or second round pick, but his first selection (third round pick) was the failed flyer on quarterback Davis Mills. That leaves wide receiver Nico Collins as the biggest hope of the Texans’ Class of ’21. Collins shows promise of number two wideout upside, but has had health issues each of his first two seasons. It is fine to judge a rookie class on its rookie production, it is foolish to pass final judgment on that class for at least another year or two.
Caserio’s most important 2022 draftees collectively underwhelmed. Third overall pick Cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. played okay, before having injury problems as he did in his final two seasons at LSU. The Jets grabbed corner Sauce Gardner with the selection immediately after the Texans took Stingley. Gardner played every game and was spectacular in becoming the first rookie CB named first team All-Pro since Ronnie Lott 41 years earlier. Caserio’s second first round pick, guard Kenyon Green out of A&M, struggled frequently. A whole bunch of rookies taken after Green were better in their first seasons, including guard Zion Johnson who went to the Chargers two spots after Caserio picked Green. Again, no final verdicts, but anyone wanting to gush over Caserio tabbing running Dameon Pierce in the fourth round needs to acknowledge his top two picks weren’t all that.
Fortunately, one of the many rookies better than Green was Texans’ first second round pick Jalen Pitre. On both the human level and football level hopefully their second second rounder last year, wide receiver John Metchie, shows well after having his rookie season delayed so he could conquer leukemia.
Ultimately, nothing the Texans do with their roster amounts to much until they next have quality quarterback play. Hence, the defining move of Caserio’s tenure is the QB the Texans take number two overall in the upcoming draft. It’s basically 50-50 that the Texans will be full of crap when they say “we got our guy” at number two. Moronically winning the season finale against the Colts cost the Texans the first pick, which the Panthers now have via trade with the Bears. Whichever QB left for the Texans between C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young could turn out to be the better player. Maybe they’re both great, maybe they’re both busts. There is no disputing that the only way to definitely get your preferred dart at the board was by picking first instead of second, and the Texans blew that control.
The Texans are in the obviously weakest division in the AFC. Right now the Jaguars look to be the team of the present and future, but far from a juggernaut. The Titans are coming off a collapse and like the Colts are very unsettled at quarterback. Well, unless the Colts pull off a huge signing of Lamar Jackson. Last place to first place year-to-year division flips are not extreme rarities in the NFL. The Jaguars did it last year, the Bengals the year before. There is no reason to expect that from the Texans in 2023 but in their division it wouldn’t be a complete miracle if they nail the QB selection. If the Texans’ Caserio-Ryans one-two punch isn’t at minimum legitimately competing to win the division in 2024, then four seasons into his tenure, Caserio will be failing at roster building.
Astros baseball is right around the corner!
Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as: