The Biggest Offseason Priorities for the Houston Texans
If one were to listen to and believe the rash and irrational remarks made by desperate fans, one would discover that the Houston Texans have absolutely no shot of winning the Super Bowl next season, or in the near future. The Texans, however, with a decent offseason, can jump right back into the Super Bowl conversation.
The Texans have several flaws that are severely limiting the way they play the game of football. The lack of a consistent pass rush caused Wade Phillips' defensive scheme to crash and burn, and the inconsistency of the O-line halted the Texans offense.
With a few quick changes, the sinking Texans ship can easily be prevented from becoming a Titanic. In fact, with a few easy changes, the Texans ship can become the Noah's ark of all ships.
Here are the biggest offseason priorities for the Texans that will—hopefully—make them dangerous Super Bowl contenders.
Fire Rick Dennison
You want radical? I'll give you radical.
Rick Dennison, the offensive coordinator, has failed in his quest to be hired as a head coach for another organization—surprise, surprise.
The main reason for this is because Dennison, despite having the title of offensive coordinator, has no control of the offense. He plays second fiddle, a simple assistant to the offensive overlord, Gary Kubiak.
While this would remain a non-issue if the Texans could consistently put up points, the offense unfortunately forgot how to score a touchdown toward the end of the season.
Kubiak's conservative offensive strategy brought doom upon the Texans, and Dennison did nothing to prevent it. In fact, he shares the exact same ideology with Kubiak.
That is the core of our problem.
In order for the Texans offense to succeed, it needs to take more shots and stretch the field. And with a head coach who is too stubborn to change his offensive philosophy on his own, the Texans need an offensive coordinator with a vastly different philosophy who would not be afraid to get in Kubiak's ear.
Dennison is not that guy.
Houston needs to bring in a coordinator who understands the zone-blocking scheme, but also understands the need to open up the playbook and force Matt Schaub to throw the ball further than 10 yards downfield.
Get a Game-Changing Wide Receiver
For years, critics of the Texans offense have called upon Gary Kubiak and Rick Smith to select a play-making, bona fide receiver on draft day.
Draft after draft, however, the Texans have failed to address a need that has plagued their team for the entirety of its existence.
Supporters of adding a game-changing receiver note that it would take pressure off of the Texans superstar receiver, Andre Johnson, and also force opposing safeties to drop back into coverage, opening up running room for Arian Foster.
Those arguments are good enough, but the Texans' need to find a great receiver in the draft gets more serious each new season.
Johnson, the Texans' primary receiving threat for his entire career, is nearing the end of his playing career. Despite breaking career records last season, Johnson is getting old and will not be able to continue that level of production for much longer.
The Texans absolutely must not wait until Johnson retires to finally seriously address their receiver need. Adding a dangerous receiving threat will drastically improve the Texans offense now while also giving it insurance for the future.
Develop the Right Side of the Offensive Line
The zone-blocking scheme—the offensive philosophy that Gary Kubiak makes his money off of—depends on the success of the offensive line.
If the offensive line is able to consistently generate running room for a running back with incredible vision and footwork—a back like Arian Foster—then the offense will be nearly unstoppable. The play-action pass would be deadly, and opposing defenses would have no clue as to how they should stop the offense.
This is what the Texans offense is like when the offensive line is dominating.
However, when the line finds itself overpowered by a physically dominant defensive front, then things take a turn for the worse. The running game collapses, defenses don't bite on the play-action and the offense ultimately stalls.
This is what the Texans offense was like at the end of the season.
The cause of this was the inexperience on the right side of the line. The entire right side was made up of first-time starters, aside from the oft-injured veteran, Ryan Harris. Despite showing flashes of immense talent, Derek Newton, Ben Jones and Brandon Brooks were unable to provide the offense with the consistency that the zone-blocking scheme requires.
The Texans must develop the offensive line soon, or the offense could be faced with another year of dreadful inconsistency. On draft day, several offensive linemen must be selected that can compete with the incumbent starters from day one.
Hopefully, though, a player overhaul on the right side will not be required. Hopefully Newton, Jones and Brooks are able to progress significantly as professional football players and return the Texans offense to its elite status.
Re-Sign Glover Quin Before Anything Else
Glover Quin is the unsung hero of the Texans defense. He is vastly underappreciated; he fills an enormous amount of roles for the defense, and he does each with great success.
Quin, playing the free safety position, is nearly a fifth linebacker for the defense. He is asked to constantly step up in the box, diagnose the running play and attack the running back with the ferocity of Brian Cushing.
It is for this reason that the Texans run defense was able to somewhat stand the loss of Cushing. Without Quin, opposing running backs would have run all over the Texans.
Quin's duties, however, are not limited to assisting the run defense. Quin is excellent in coverage, and he improves each year as he transitions from playing cornerback to safety. He is able to keep up with receivers step by step, and he rarely gives up the deep ball, as his fellow safeties are often inclined to do.
Quin makes the Texans defense work. Without him, it could fall apart. Based on that logic, it would make no sense to let him walk in free agency.
Quin must be re-signed, no matter the cost.
Create a Dominant Front Seven
After the Texans were destroyed by the Patriots twice—once in the regular season and once in the playoffs—many furiously criticized Wade Phillips' defensive scheme that was hailed as holy just a season before.
What caused this defensive collapse? Was it Phillips' inability to adjust to elite quarterbacks? Partly. Was it the loss of Brian Cushing to an ACL injury? Definitely possible.
But the single most important factor that contributed to the decline of the Texans vaunted defense was the lack of a dominant pass rush.
In 2011, the Texans' pass rush was formidable and unstoppable. Quarterback after quarterback fell victim to its relentless pressure. They were forced to get rid of the ball in a hurry, but they were unable to do so because their receivers were struggling to break free from the press coverage that the Texans cornerbacks were applying.
That's the beauty of Phillips' defense. Stall the receivers at the line of scrimmage and allow the pass rush to work its magic. The result is usually a sack or a thrown-away ball.
When the pass rush suddenly declines, however, the defense too declines. The quarterback is granted much more time in the pocket, and his receivers are eventually able to escape from the Texans cornerbacks. Then, the offense. is able to connect for big play after big play.
So the solution to the Texans' defensive woes is really quite simple. The front seven needs to be beefed up to its 2011 stratum, and this could easily be accomplished through the draft. This year's class is deep with pass-rushers and tough defensive linemen, and the Texans will be able to find great value in nearly every single round.
Here's to hoping that they do so.