THE NFL IS BACK!

When will the Houston Texans host the season opener?

With Deshaun Watson leading the charge, the Texans could be real contenders in 2020. Tim Warner/Getty Images

Tonight is the official kick-off to the NFL season as the 2017 Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles host the 2016 runner-up Atlanta Falcons. This prime-time game is the league’s way of rewarding the champion by giving them the night to celebrate with the stage to themselves. It got me thinking: when will the Texans have a legitimate shot at bringing opening night to Houston?

I sat down, looked over the current contracts, looked at the weaknesses, then decided the 2020 season is the first time the stars might align for the Texans.

Anytime a team makes the playoffs they have a shot, but this exercise is about a realistic outlook for the future and 2020 is when I think they can not only make the playoffs; but enter with a bye week as a serious threat to win it all.

I think they’ve entered a new era. For the first time in their history they have a quarterback who looks like a real franchise player. They had a good run during the Matt Schaub years, but Deshaun Watson is leaps and bounds ahead of him talent wise. In NFL circles, having a quarterback that can lead a top offense within the time frame of his rookie contract gives them a lot of flexibility.

Houston has their most important offensive players already under contract for the next two years and a lot of cap space to work with. The first thing they will have to fix is the offensive line. Everyone knows they don’t have it right now and it’s going to hold them back. Sure, Watson is still going to make it work but it’s easy to think they can be a top 5 offense with better protection up front.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that one of the new tight ends they drafted in 2018 develops. If DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and a legitimate pass catching tight end are on the field; look out, because Watson will put up MVP numbers.

I think in the next two years the running backs will get a necessary upgrade as well. While I think D’Onta Foreman can play, I’m not convinced he will develop into an every-down back. Sometime in the next two years an investment will have to be made. And not an aging veteran or a late round draft pick. It will have to be someone who can really compliment the offense and prevent any decline in overall performance. I think it happens and the offense gets some serious balance before the 2020 season.

Good news for the Texans, the defense has plenty of its top talent signed to the roster for at least two more years. J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Benardrick McKinney, and Zach Cunningham will all be here to crowd the middle and get after the quarterback. Guys like D.J. Reader and Christian Covington shouldn’t be too expensive to keep around; keeping a solid core intact. The wild card will be Jadeveon Clowney. His is currently in the final year of his contract, but with all the cap room available I feel confident that things will get worked out. That leaves Brain Gaine with only the secondary to overhaul.

It would be nice if Tyrann Mathieu stuck around on a new deal, but I’ll bet that only Justin Reid remains on the roster in 2020. And if you only have one position group to fix, then you’re in good shape. Plenty of defensive backs have been found in the middle rounds or cheaply in free agency. That means that Houston could go into that season with the talent in place to have a championship level defense.

I see a Texans team with an arrow pointing straight up. They only have a few position groups to fix and a new GM to make it happen. Rick Smith may not have done well drafting in the middle rounds, but he loaded this team with stars in the first round. His final act was to draft the future in Deshaun Watson, which will make the next few years a wide-open window of opportunity. He left a few problems on his way out, and in my estimation, it will take two more years to get them fixed.

Every season is different and none of this may work out. Or maybe they catch lightning in a bottle sooner and win it all in 2018 or 2019. It’s going to be fun to watch and find out.


 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans out-Patriot the Patriots

Texans take down the Pats. Photo by Getty Images.

Every dog has its day. A broken clock is right two times a day. All the clichés about it being better to be lucky than good can apply here with the Texans 27-20 win over the Patriots. In a matchup that broke a record for the oldest combined age for opposing head coaches, 141 years old, Romeo Crennel beat his former boss Bill Belichick. There were other narratives at work here, as well as a few things (good and awful) that the coaching staff did.

First thing I saw that I liked was the spread and no-huddle on offense. If you've been following this series of articles, you know I've been on this train quite a while now. This allows Deshaun Watson to find the matchup he likes, exposes the defense because they can't sub, takes advantage of Texans' speed at receiver, and creates a tempo most defenses can't keep up with. Not to mention the spread is the offense Watson operated in at Clemson. 28/37 for 344 yards and two touchdowns of production from Watson was enough for me to say they need to have this as their M.O. moving forward.

Tim Kelly called a great game. He used the short, quick pass game in lieu of the run game. This also helped since Laremy Tunsil was out and Roderick Johnson had to play at left tackle. This offensive line is not very good at run blocking. Hence, why Watson was again the team's leading rusher with only 36 yards. Almost all of those were on scrambles. By going spread and no-huddle, Watson can take advantage of man and zone coverages to extend plays or scramble because most teams won't spy him. Even when they do, he makes them look silly.

Not everything was on the up and up. The defense continued to look like booty juice. Cam Newton threw for 365 yards and Damiere FREAKIN Byrd torched them for 132 of those yards! When I heard the quote from Crennel that defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver is getting the most out of his guys, I found it laughable. To double down on that, Weaver was quoted as saying, "This narrative that's being painted like my guys aren't disciplined and running around blocks, quite frankly and to put it bluntly, is bull---t!" Sorry guys, but you're both wrong. This defense can't fight its way out of a wet paper bag if you gave them knives. The worst part about it is that the offense's best chance at success sets the defense up for failure. Their hurry up scheme leaves little time for this porous defense to catch its wind. If they could get some turnovers or just off the damn field and get stops, it would help the offense.

With six games left, their three games outside the AFC South (Bengals, Lions, Bears) are all winnable. The two matchups against the Colts and the season finale against the Titans will prove to be their biggest tests. However, this is the same team that has four one possession losses. 3-7 could look a lot different if the offense stepped up against the Browns, or the defense made stops against the Steelers, Vikings, or Titans. Let's hope they can build off this win and salvage whatever they can of this season.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome