THE NFL IS BACK!
When will the Houston Texans host the season opener?
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.