Here's why the Texans place in the AFC South moving forward is so uncertain

This division is winnable, but the Texans are playing the long game. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

Texans head coach David Culley is coming back next season. Although he signed a five-year deal, this season could've been his first and last as Texans' coach. Going into the final game of the season at 4-12 against the AFC South division leader and number one seed in the conference, isn't an ideal landing spot for a new coach. Sure, this roster was in desperate need of an overhaul. But you can't hold a coach solely responsible for the bleep show the previous regime left.

General manager Nick Caserio is a smart enough guy to know what he's up against. He knows the first hurdle has been cleared, but there's so many more to clear before becoming relevant again. The decision to bring Culley back for next season should've been inevitable. There was no way this team was in position to bring in another coach. The roster is still in flux. This team is still a year or three away from truly competing. What coach would come in and right this ship right now?

When looking around the AFC South, are there any teams that have the sort of chokehold that makes it impossible for a team to get itself together and take over the top spot? The Colts used to be scary, but they don't have a franchise quarterback either...unless you think Carson Wentz is the answer. The Titans have Derrick Henry, aka King Henry...but he's going to wear down eventually given their reliance on him for the bulk of their offense. The Jags have a potential franchise quarterback...but they just fired their head coach and have Bill O'Brien of all people on their list of candidates.

This division is winnable, but the Texans are playing the long game. Right now, they know they don't have things in place to take over the AFC South just yet. If they get a franchise quarterback in place and build around him, they'll get right back on top. Easier said than done. Keeping Culley around gives Caserio the control he needs to reshape this roster and culture into something resembling what he can hang his hat on in his first GM job. There's a reason he got a six-year deal as a first time GM, but Culley only got a five-year deal as a first-time head coach. Caserio is seen as the guy who'll be responsible for the future of this franchise. Culley is a temporary incubator of what Caserio is trying to cultivate. This team will soon be in the hands of the guy Caserio sees as the long-term solution along the sidelines.

The Titans are holding it down now with the Colts trying to maintain relevance and knock them off. The Jags are the caboose with the Texans just ahead of them. Nobody has turned themselves into the Patriots of the last couple decades in the AFC East...yet. It's definitely possible, but it hasn't been executed. Can the Texans beat the Titans and the Colts to the punch? Will the Jags ever get themselves together long enough to be a factor? Only time will tell. Culley will be on the sidelines and in pressers next season. Some in the media will have a field day with his quirks for another season. Meanwhile, Caserio will be plotting on the long-term future of this franchise. He'll be looking at potential coaching candidates, scouting college for draft picks, and examining other NFL rosters for free agent/trade possibilities. Let the games begin. May the odds forever be in Texans' fans favor.

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1. Davis Mills had an up-and-down day under center Friday. One play saw Mills drop back and try to get rid of the ball as Jonathan Greenard was rushing him only to have Greenard leap up and intercept Mills for what would have been an interception returned for a score.

2. A few plays later Davis Mills showcased his short memory. Mills surveyed the field, looked off the safety, and pitched a strike to Brevin Jordan over the middle, wide open, for a touchdown.

3. Davis Mills doesn’t stack bad plays. It is rare to see multiple bad plays happen in a row and Mills be the cause, or a cause, of the play not working. When he misses something, he usually makes up for it the next play.

4. It was a makeshift offensive line on Friday. Max Scharping played a lot at left guard. Charlie Heck saw some snaps at left tackle while Laremy Tunsil took a breather. Veteran lineman Cedric Ogbuehi played some at right tackle. There was plenty of work emphasized on the rushing attack Friday. The offensive line was fine, nothing special. I would say slight edge to the defense overall.

5. Rookie Kenyon Green didn’t practice. Right tackle Tytus Howard didn’t practice either. Pro Football Network is reporting Tytus Howard is out with a positive Covid test. Kenyon Green was banged up last practice, but Lovie Smith expects both back in the coming days.

6.The offensive line had its hands full with the defensive line today. Jonathan Greenard made the above-mentioned play of the practice with an interception. It felt constantly like there was some level of success from the defensive line. Not to say they dominated, but I would think the defense is happy with their day.

7. Maliek Collins has been a nice player in camp. He looks a bit quicker than last year. Collins downplayed how many “close” plays he had last year citing that everyone knows the saying “close but no cigar.” I asked him if he expected a lot of cigars this year. He chuckled and said yes. Teammate Roy Lopez gushed about what he believes Collins can be for this team and called his teammate one of the best defensive tackles in the league.

8. I almost wonder if quiet Derek Stingley days are good days. Stingley wasn’t involved in a lot of plays, but I know Davis Mills saw him on Friday. Mills dropped back on one play and made a read to his left seeing Chris Moore. Stingley darted from coverage towards Moore causing Mills to move off Moore and head to Nico Collins for a score. Yes, the defense allowed a touchdown, but Stingley did his job.

9. Rookie safety Jalen Pitre is a “starting” safety for the team according to Lovie Smith. Pitre had an interception, depending on who you ask, in practice. It is clear the Texans trust him and have put a lot on his plate. I would expect to see a lot of the rookie safety, good or bad, this season.

10. Lovie Smith praised the team’s depth at linebacker earlier in camp. I scoffed a little at the notion, but there seems to be a new linebacker making a play each day. Christian Kirksey had a nice stop in the run game today. Kevin Pierre-Louis, who played very little last year, has flashed. There’s some depth here, despite my skepticism.

11. Ka'imi Fairbairn doesn’t have a challenger in camp this year. I believed this offseason should have seen at the very least someone to challenge the kicker heading into his seventh year in the league. He’s been solid in camp so far, but there have been some misses. It is tough to judge distance, but the team clearly has faith in him with no challenger in sight.

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