The Definitive Blueprint to Houston Texans' Perfect Offseason
Although the Houston Texans' season is still very much alive with them set to square off against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the playoffs, it is never too early to look ahead to the offseason.
And, quite frankly, the Texans have much to do before next season starts.
They have several important decisions to make with their unrestricted free agents, ones that could determine the future of their franchise?
Who should they absolutely re-sign? Who must be allowed to walk?
The Texans also have several deficiencies on their team that have been exposed in recent weeks. If they wish to make another Super Bowl run next season, they must be addressed in the NFL draft.
What positions must the Texans focus on in the draft?
Finally, the Texans may need to make some coaching decisions this offseason, and while the big boys like Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips will not and should not be fired, there is certainly a need for change.
How can the Texans improve their football team this offseason?
Read and find out.
Who to Re-Sign
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Connor Barwin (OLB)
Last offseason, there was nearly a panic over Barwin's contract status. Many believed that he should have been extended immediately, for his pass-rushing skills were extremely valuable to the team.
Others believed that he should have been extended in order for the team to save money, for if Barwin posted another great season, his value on the free-agent market would skyrocket.
Now, however, it appears that the Texans made the right choice on holding out on Barwin's contract. Barwin struggled this season, and while he was solid against the run, his sack numbers plummeted.
Hopefully, that means the Texans will be able to re-sign Barwin for a much lower price. If not, though, they must be fully prepared to let him go, considering their salary-cap concerns.
Glover Quin (S)
Quin is, by far, one of the most important members of the Texans' defensive unit. He is, also, probably one of the most undervalued ones as well. He is solid in coverage, but his true skills are put on display when he defends against the run.
Quin acts as a nearly a part-time linebacker for the defense, and he is instrumental in halting opposing team's running games.
He fills up possible holes that opposing running backs could run through, and he often limits opposing backs to very short gains on the ground. Quin is key to the Texans' defensive success, and he must be re-signed at all costs.
Brice McCain (Slot CB)
Right now, we are learning just how valuable McCain is to the Texans defense. With McCain currently on the IR, the Texans defense has struggled to limit opposing slot receivers, including Colts' receiver T.Y. Hilton, who torched the Texans for over 100 yards last week.
Brandon Harris, McCain's backup, certainly appears to have a bright future. However, he is simply too young to be expected to find consistent success. For the Texans to make a Super Bowl run next season, they may need the experience and consistency McCain brings as the team's starting slot cornerback.
James Casey (FB)
Casey is an offensive weapon on a team that does not have much weapons. He is always a threat to sneak out of the backfield and catch a first down for an offense that sometimes struggles to move the ball down the field. There is no reason not to re-sign him.
Donnie Jones (P)
Jones had an excellent year for the Texans, and in fact, it was his best season in his entire career. He consistently pinned opposing offenses deep inside the 20, and he was able to punt the ball into the opponent's territory when the offense's drives would stall deep in its own territory.
Tim Dobbins (ILB)
If nothing else, Tim Dobbins proved to be a valuable backup this season for the Texans. While his coverage skills are lacking, Dobbins is a stout run defender, perhaps the second-best one on the team behind Brian Cushing. Dobbins played an important role in short-yardage and goal-line situations, and he should be brought back at a cheap price.
With Ben Tate sitting on the bench for the majority of the season with various injuries, Forsett was forced to step up. And step up he did. Forsett was a perfect match with the Texans' zone-blocking scheme, and he was excellent at using his vision and speed to locate and hit the correct holes.
Forsett is a valuable third-string running back, and the Texans have no reason to let him go.
During the offseason, Butler was locked in a tight battle with Derek Newton for the team's starting right tackle position. When Newton eventually won the job, Butler was expected to take on a primary backup role, due to his talent and experience. Butler, however, suffered a season-ending injury and was placed on the IR.
The Texans had depleted depth on the offensive line throughout the entirety of this season, and Butler should be brought back at a low price to bolster the depth.
Who to Let Go
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Bradie James (ILB)
When James became a free agent last offseason, Wade Phillips immediately jumped on the opportunity to sign his former star linebacker from Dallas. James, however, had clearly aged, and was not the same player this season as the one that had led the Cowboys in tackles for six straight seasons.
James was not awful, but he was not terrific, either. And with him getting higher up in the age margin, it is likely that his usefulness will only continue to diminish. The Texans need to improve the inside linebacker position, and James is certainly not the solution.
Quintin Demps (S)
If the Texans decide to re-sign Demps this offseason and keep him on the team as a primary safety backup, I will be extremely furious. Demps is terrible in coverage, and he cannot be counted in any situation, including, let's say, a 3rd-and-23 against the Colts.
The Texans need to upgrade their safety depth, and Demps will only be a hindrance to that improvement.
Shayne Graham (K)
Shayne Graham had a great season for the Texans. In fact, he broke the Texans' franchise record for the most points in a single season. Graham, however, was limited from long range, and the Texans were forced to punt in several situations where other teams would have happily attempted a field goal.
Additionally, the Texans drafted Randy Bullock in the fifth round of the NFL draft last season to become the kicker of the their future.
While he was stashed on the IR this season, it is very likely that Gary Kubiak expects him to become the starter next season. If not, then why would they have drafted him? All of this adds up to saying bye-bye to Graham this offseason.
Shaun Cody (NT)
Cody is a great character, as anyone who watches the On-the-Nose segments certainly knows. Cody, however, is only an average player on the Texans' defensive front. He does not do anything special, and he is only average against the run—an area that the defense must improve in.
This year's draft is also loaded with nose tackles, and the Texans would be wise to shed Cody and go with a young, talented and larger nose tackle.
Antoine Caldwell (G)
Like Rashad Butler, Caldwell competed for a starting job on the right side of the offensive line, and in the end, he eventually lost. Ben Jones has taken over his job, and it seems that Caldwell has not seen the field since.
Actually, Brandon Brooks, the offensive lineman taken in the fourth round of this year's draft is ahead of him on the depth chart. It is time to let go of older player and make room for the younger players to develop.
Alan Ball (CB)
Ball has been a solid special teams player for the Texans this season—well, as solid as one can get on an awful special teams squad. Aside from that, however, he has not much of anything.
Ball was not solid in coverage whenever he got the opportunity to play on defense, and at times, he appeared to play a lot like a rookie Kareem Jackson. On deep throws, he rarely turned his head and located the ball in mid-air, which would allow opposing offenses to gain huge yardage through the air.
The Texans have several talented, yet undeveloped, cornerbacks on the roster, and I believe it would be much wiser to let go of Ball and develop the younger defensive backs.
What to Do in Free Agency
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Two offseason's ago, the Texans made several free-agency moves that would completely change the nature of their franchise.
The first was that they brought in Wade Phillips to be their defensive coordinator after he was fired by Jerry Jones and the Cowboys as the team's head coach. Rick Smith, Gary Kubiak and Bob McNair believed, correctly, that the defensive mastermind would revolutionize the Texans' terrible defense.
They were right.
Next, the Texans signed Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning, both of whom were solid defensive backs who toyed around with stardom on their respective teams. Those two signings were major reasons why the Texans defense managed to jump from one of the worst in the league to one of the best.
This offseason, however, the Texans will not be able to go out in free agency and make moves that will significantly improve their football the team. They simply do not have any money to spend.
So when free agency rolls around this season, do not keep your hopes up in believing that the Texans will manage to bring in a player like Mike Wallace. There will be no Joseph-type signings this offseason; the only players the Texans might bring in will likely be veterans who will have little chance to contribute to the team in the slightest.
Free agency will not be Christmas for the Texans this year.
Needs to Address in the Draft
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If the Texans have a chance to take a game-changing wide receiver in the draft, they must jump on the opportunity. All throughout this season, it has been ever-present that the only dependable receiving threat on the Texans, aside from Owen Daniels on occasion, is Andre Johnson.
This fact allowed opposing defenses to stack the box with defenders and worry little about the other receiving threats on the Texans offense. This would allow opposing defenses to limit Arian Foster and the running game, which made it very difficult for the Texans offense to be successful on several occasions.
The Vikings game is a perfect example of this, as the Vikings defense displayed just how incompetent the Texans offense was without a consistent running game.
However, if the Texans had a dangerous receiving threat lining up alongside Johnson, everything would change.
That receiver would force opposing defenses to drop more defenders into coverage, which would in turn open up running room for Foster. Also, Johnson would find less and less double-teams, which would enable him to make even more significant plays.
Lestar Jean, DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin all have bright futures, but they are not ready to be consistent contributors. The Texans are built to Super Bowl contenders right now, and a first-round receiver would further their chances of achieving that ultimate goal.
Don't get me wrong, Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell are not hurting the Texans defense. What they are not doing, however, is helping it. They are simply average nose tackles who make the occasional play, but they are not playmakers.
This upcoming draft is stocked with nose and defensive tackles, and the Texans can find great starting value anywhere in the first three rounds.
Imagine if the Texans drafted a huge nose tackle who could consistently penetrate the backfield. Not only would the Texans' rushing defense become significantly better, but pass-rushers would suddenly find it much easier to get to the quarterback.
A playmaking nose tackle could revolutionize the Texans defense and immediately solve all of the woes they have been recently experiencing.
If any position on the Texans is in need of depth, it is the offensive line. The line is loaded with young talent, but behind the young talent, there is a bunch of dead weight. Those older players, like Antoine Caldwell and Ryan Harris, do little to contribute to the success of the Texans' offensive line.
The Texans would be wise to pick up several offensive linemen in this year's draft, perhaps one or two in the earlier rounds, who could immediately contribute.
It is about time to find a viable player at inside linebacker to start alongside Brian Cushing. Darryl Sharpton is young and talented, but he seems to always find himself on the sidelines with some type of injury.
A dream scenario would find the Texans trading up in the draft to get Manti Te'o, but that is extremely unlikely, considering that the Texans have never once traded up in the first round in the history of the franchise. If the Texans could find a starter in this year's draft, though, it would be a huge success.
Right now, the Texans' starting safeties are extremely dependable. Glover Quin and Danieal Manning are both great safeties who consistently contribute to the defense. However, the depth behind the two starters is deplorable, and Manning is starting to age, which is a huge concern for today's safeties.
The Texans need to bolster their depth at safety in this draft, and they also might need to find a potential future replacement for the aging Manning.
Fire Joe Marciano
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No part of the entire Texans team has been more disappointing than their special teams unit. They have consistently underperformed and have been detrimental to the Texans' success on a game-to-game basis.
They are constantly flagged for holding and block-in-the-back penalties. The blocking for return man Keshawn Martin has been disgusting.
Martin, also, has not called for fair catches deep in his own territory with opposing defenders swarming around him, which has caused the Texans to start their offensive drives on their 1- or 2-yard line on numerous occasions.
Furthermore, the coverage units have been awful in limiting opposing returners, and those returners have managed to pick up huge gains and place their offenses in excellent field position.
Are all of these problems occurring because the Texans utilize inferior talent on their special teams units?
These problems are happening because Joe Marciano, the special teams coordinator, has refused to adjust and solve the special teams' woes.
When a special teams unit is so undisciplined, the blame must fall on their coach. If Marciano is allowed to hang around for next season, then the Texans' management will have made a horrific decision.
Re-Hire Greg Knapp
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Yes, Paul Kuharsky made this suggestion on his AFC South Blog earlier today, so yes, this is not my original idea.
While not original, this idea is genius.
Greg Knapp was the Texans' quarterback coach last season, and the Texans' quarterbacks used every opportunity they could to praise the coach.
Knapp was an instrumental factor in preparing T.J. Yates to start after Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart were placed on IR, and he definitely succeeded, as Yates went on to clinch the Texans a playoff berth and a playoff victory.
Schaub has been struggling as the Texans' quarterback as of late, and if there's any quarterback coach who could inspire Schaub with confidence and correct his mistakes, it's Knapp.
Knapp was just fired as the Oakland Raider's offensive coordinator, and the Texans would be making an excellent decision if they brought him back as soon as possible.