How Texans' latest roster moves could come with a silver lining

How Texans' latest roster moves could come with a silver lining
Nick Caserio has no problem moving on from players like Whitney Mercilus. Composite image by Jack Brame.
Texans General Manager Nick Caserio

You ever have a scent of something new and fresh that may seem weird to others? I've heard people say they like the smell of freshly cut grass, gasoline, burnt wood, sawdust, and even the heat from computers & their monitors. Weird? Maybe. Depends on who you ask. Everyone has their preferences. One thing we can all agree on is whenever there is a stench of something putrid enough to cause instant nausea upon the mere thought of that scent, much less actually smelling it, you'd do almost anything to get rid of it.

For a couple of years, that putrid stench off Kirby was Bill O'Brien and his lasting effect on the Texans organization. He came, he saw, he ruined everything in his path. O'Brien left behind such a strong odor, it's going to take a monumental effort to clean it up. Fortunately, it appears as if the Texans have hired the right man for the job in general manager Nick Caserio.

Caserio has no issue with cutting his loses

Caserio has presided over things on the football side since his hire. While he hasn't made anything stink as bad as the DeAndre Hopkins trade, Laremy Tunsil trade, or any of the ridiculous contracts O'Brien handed out, Caserio has had his fair share of screw-ups. For example, he went into the draft with eight picks, but only drafted five players due to trading up. He also gave Whitney Mercilus a restructured deal, only to cut him several months later in the middle of the season. He may have wet the bed a few times, but he hasn't been afraid to clean himself up and start over.

I like the fact that he's found ways to clean up his mistakes. He sent Benardrick McKinney to the Dolphins for Shaq Lawson. When Lawson wanted out, he shipped him off to the Jets for a late round draft pick. I don't like the fact that he's losing on some of these deals, but I admire the fact that he's able to clean them up without much damage done. I mean, it's not like he gave a backup quarterback $37 million guaranteed, then traded him and a second round draft pick to get rid of him. Caserio has proven that he's not afraid of getting out of a bad situation if it doesn't benefit the team in the long or short term.

He has a way of playing chess and checkers at the same time. Drafting Davis Mills and Nico Collins: chess moves. Bringing in free agents like Mark Ingram and Christian Kirksey: checkers moves. One set of moves speaks to the future of the franchise by drafting two low risk/high reward rookies. The other speaks to developing a new culture immediately by bringing in two solid vets on each side of the ball that can help younger guys. While some may agree or disagree with what's being done, the thing I like the most is Caserio's ability to make moves he feels are necessary, despite what others may think.

If he can manage to turn the team's biggest asset into some formidable pieces/assets to aid in the rebuilding of this team, all his transgressions will be forgiven. All he has to do is turn a $3 billion dollar pile of dung into a winning organization. Nothing too complicated, right? He signed a six-year deal and is only one year into it. Let's see what Big Nicky can do over the next few years before we anoint him as the savior of this franchise. So far, he's done an admirable job, but I'm looking for more and better. In my book, he's on the clock.

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The Texans will have to shuffle the o-line once again. Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images.

“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.

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