Grading Every Houston Texans Starter's 2013 Regular Season

Matt Goldstein@mattgoldstein5Contributor IIDecember 31, 2013

Grading Every Houston Texans Starter's 2013 Regular Season

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    With the Houston Texans' dreadful season finally in the rear view, just about all Texans fans want to forget about the team's miserable 2-14 record and move on to greener pastures.

    But not quite yet.

    The Texans, despite being loaded with talent, somehow managed to drop an astounding 14-straight games this season. That means that along with coaching failures, some of the Texans' most talented players had to have let their team down for there to be such a significant drop-off from previous seasons.

    It's time to review the Texans' season and analyze all of the starters' performances. Each Texans starter will be given a review of their play and a grade attached to that analysis.


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    Matt Schaub: F

    Whenever a team's starting quarterback is given the grade of an "F" to describe his season, one has to know that whatever team he played for ended up with a terrible record.

    And the Texans did.

    Matt Schaub's play was simply abysmal, and he appeared to have regressed to a point of no return. He displayed an inability to cope with pressure, a fear of taking chances deep and a tendency to repeatedly turn the ball over. All of these add up to a pathetically bad season, and they will likely cause Schaub's eventual release from the franchise.

    Case Keenum: C-

    When the Texans finally decided to bench Schaub and name Case Keenum the starter, skeptics about Keenum's ability to function at an NFL level were plenty. Many believed that Keenum had no shot to succeed and that his stint as the Texans' starter would be short-lived.

    Keenum, however, looked like he was going to prove everybody wrong. In his first game ever against the Chiefs, Keenum marched into a hostile environment and nearly took down one of the best teams in the NFL. Keenun, then, lit up the Colts the very next week in the first half and received national recognition for his extraordinary play.

    After this brief yet wondrous glory, though, everything began to go downhill. Keenum, like Schaub, was unable to handle the blitz, and he became a shell of himself whenever he was faced with pressure. He struggled to put points on the board, and he was unable to lead the Texans to a single victory, despite playing some very talent-deprived teams.

    NFL defenses discovered the formula to defeat Keenum, and his run as an NFL starter is likely over.

Running Back

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    Arian Foster: A-

    Heading into the 2013 season, many believed Arian Foster's high volume of carries in recent seasons would prove the end of his effectiveness as a runner. And, initially, it almost appeared that they were right. 

    Foster was rusty after missing all of training camp, and he did not look like his usual efficient self. However, after the first few games, Foster finally regained his form and was in fact experiencing a very, very good season.

    His 4.5 yards per carry were his best out of the past three seasons, and he was looking much better with an improved run-blocking offensive line leading the way for him.

    Eventually, though, those who claimed that Foster's body would break down were finally proven right. Foster carried the ball for the last time this season against the Chiefs in Week 7, and he was ultimately placed on the IR with a back injury, ending what was looking to be an extremely promising season.

    Ben Tate: A

    Normally an explosive, change-of-pace backup to Arian Foster, Ben Tate was called upon to lead the Texans' running game after Foster experienced his season-ending injury. 

    Tate was suffering through excruciating pain due to four broken ribs, yet he gritted it out and gave the Texans his all. The Texans were able to lean upon Tate heavily throughout the season, and he put on a commendable performance considering the tremendous amount of pain he was subjecting himself to.

    Greg Jones: B+

    Ever since the departure of Vonta Leach from Houston in free agency, the Texans were missing a physical lead-blocker to pave the way for their talented running backs. The signing of Greg Jones over the summer, though, finally brought a true fullback back to Houston, and the results were clear: Both Arian Foster and Ben Tate were much improved with a real lead-blocker to lead the way for them.

Wide Receiver

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    Andre Johnson: A

    He just never stops. Despite climbing well up in the age ladder, Andre Johnson continues to impress each and every time he steps onto the field. This season, Johnson continued his incredible career and looked every part the superstar that he still is.

    He was a reliable target for both Matt Schaub and Case Keenum, and he was likely the sole reason the Texans were able to maintain any type of a passing attack. 

    DeAndre Hopkins: B+

    While many Texans fans expected DeAndre Hopkins to be a superb contributor to the offense right away, most realistic fans would have laughed in their face.

    The vast majority of rookie receivers, including first-round picks, hardly ever do much in their first seasons, and they often struggle with the transition to the more complicated NFL.

    Calvin Johnson, even, only tallied 756 yards his rookie season, despite only missing one game. Therefore, fans should be shocked and not disappointed with Hopkins' 802-yard rookie season.

    Yes, Hopkins appeared to disappear from the offense at times, but that is to be expected from rookie receivers. He still flashed amazing potential to be a big-time contributor later down the line, and he also had some awe-inspiring catches, most specifically against the Titans in the second week of the season.

Tight End

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    Owen Daniels: A-

    While it is tough to fully analyze Owen Daniels' season due to the season-ending injury he suffered in Week 5, it is safe to say that he was making his impact felt on offense.

    He was the consistent chains-mover that he always was, but he also managed to find the end zone three times in just five weeks, making him a huge factor in the Texans' passing success.

    Garrett Graham: B

    Garrett Graham did almost everything asked of him when Owen Daniels went down. Even though he's better suited as the second tight end in a two-tight end formation, he stepped up admirably and did his best to fill the void left by Daniels' injury.

    Graham put together a solid season, but he did experience some inconsistencies on a week-to-week basis, hence his average grade.

Offensive Line

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    Offensive Line: B+

    While the Texans' offensive line members will receive a major amount of criticism from fans, they actually performed quite well this season.

    They were much improved in the running game, and the results were evident in Arian Foster's and Ben Tate's improved efficiency.

    And while many would argue that poor pass blocking was the downfall of both Matt Schaub and Case Keenum, the two quarterbacks actually served to make the offensive line look worse and not the other way around.

    They both possessed very poor pocket presence and an inability to consistently find targets before heavy blitzes reached them.

    Under a more capable quarterback, the offensive line—with the exception of Derek Newton—would have been regarded as much improved this season.

Defensive Line

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    J.J. Watt: A

    Unsurprisingly, J.J. Watt did not put up anywhere close to the sack numbers he had in his incredible 2012 season.

    That does not mean, however, that Watt was no less exceptional. He led the team in tackles, consistently wreaked havoc in the backfield and even blocked two field goals. Watt was forced to deal with constant double-teams all season long with zero to little support from his fellow defenders, yet he still managed to put together another Defensive Player of the Year-worthy season.

    Earl Mitchell: C

    When Earl Mitchell broke out in the preseason, many expected his incredible success to continue into the regular season and transform the Texans defense. Mitchell, though, regressed to average once the season started, and he did little to either extraordinarily help or hurt the defense.

    Antonio Smith: C+

    Along with J.J. Watt, Antonio Smith was one of the Texans' top pass-rushers coming into the regular season. During his prime in a Texans uniform, he would consistently pressure the passer and contribute to a swarming Texans front seven.

    This season, though, Smith was not efficient, and his play would come in short spurts that did little to help the defense long term. Although he still managed to compile five sacks, he pressured quarterbacks far too inconsistently to truly impact the defense.

Inside Linebacker

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    Brian Cushing: A

    Perhaps nothing was more motivational in the entirety of the Texans' season than Brian Cushing's pick-six in his first game back from a torn ACL that was a major factor in the Texans' come-from-behind victory against the Chargers in Week 1.

    But nothing was more tragic than when Cushing suffered a broken leg and torn LCL against the Chiefs in Week 7.

    Between those two astonishing moments, Cushing was putting together another great season. He asserted himself as the defense's leader and consistently made big plays. He left it all on the field and was looking every bit the Pro Bowler that he deserved to be.

    Darryl Sharpton: C

    Thrust into the limelight after Brian Cushing's injury, Darryl Sharpton did very little to repair the damage. He was average both in coverage and against the run and was unable to elevate the Texans defense to new heights as Cushing was able to.

    Joe Mays: C

    Joe Mays' play suffered after Brian Cushing was down. He was benefiting from the increased attention teams would place on Cushing and would make his presence felt against the run. After Cushing's injury, however, Mays' play was revealed to be very pedestrian, and he was unable to compensate for the loss of Cushing.

Outside Linebacker

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    Whitney Mercilus: B-

    Like Antonio Smith, Whitney Mercilus' play was very unreliable. He would look great at times—almost unstoppable—and at others would appear to completely fall off the map.

    More often than not, Mercilus would make no impact on the pass rush, thus not fulfilling his primary goal on defense: pressure the quarterback consistently enough to take pressure off of J.J. Watt. 

    Brooks Reed: C-

    If Whitney Mercilus' season is to be considered a failure, then Brooks Reed's should be considered an absolute disaster. Unlike Mercilus, he hardly ever even managed to touch the quarterback, and he was virtually nonexistent in all pass-rushing scenarios.

    He honestly seems better off at inside linebacker, where his run-stopping ability and above-average coverage skills would be much more valuable.


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    Kareem Jackson: B+

    Many fans will criticize Kareem Jackson after relatively poor quarterbacks such as Matt McGloin put up a lot of points against the Texans defense.

    Jackson, however, was not part of the problem. He was consistently good in coverage and was one of the few bright spots in the Texans secondary.

    Johnathan Joseph: B+

    Like Kareem Jackson, Johnathan Joseph should not be heavily blamed for the Texans' secondary struggles. Joseph, too, was solid in coverage all season and his play was rarely detrimental to the defense's success.

    Both Jackson and Joseph were the only truly effective coverage players on the Texans, and the other members of the secondary should receive the majority of the blame for a season the featured poor pass defense.

    Brice McCain: D

    Remember how poorly Kareem Jackson played his rookie season? Well, take that horrible performance and magnify it, and you'll get Brice McCain's 2013 season.

    McCain mightily struggled every time he stepped onto the field, and he was seemingly unable to keep up with any of the receivers he was matched up with.


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    Ed Reed: F

    Ed Reed was considered a huge offseason signing for the Texans, as it was believed he would drastically improve the team's coverage issues.

    Reed, though, never really contributed to the defense. He missed the first two games of the season with a hip injury, but even when he did come back, he struggled to make more of an impact than when he was sitting on the bench.

    Reed did nothing to help force turnovers or improve team coverage—which is why he was brought in—and he struggled mightily when it came to open-field tackling. He was soon cut after making disparaging remarks about the coaching staff, and his overall time with the Texans was largely a waste.

    Danieal Manning: B+

    Like so many other Texans players, Danieal Manning's season was cut short due to injury. However, even though he only played in six games, it was clear that he was much improved from the previous season.

    His coverage was no longer a liability, and his ability to make plays against the run was just as present as it was before. He was an integral part of the defense, and it was a major loss when he went down for the season.

    D.J. Swearinger: B

    Drafted in the second round, D.J. Swearinger was not expected to start this year with both Ed Reed and Danieal Manning ahead of him on the depth chart.

    However, due to Reed's release and Manning's injury, Swearinger found himself with a wealth of playing time, and he did not overly disappoint.

    He proved himself to be the ferocious tackler that everyone knew he was when he was drafted, but it was his coverage that was the surprise. While it was not tremendous, it was certainly average, and that is more than what was expected considering most analysts believed he needed at least a season to adapt to NFL secondary play.

    Shiloh Keo: B-

    While Shiloh Keo is not perceived to be a solid player at all, he actually put together quite a good season this year, and he is certainly worthy of keeping on the roster as a backup.

    He proved himself adequate in coverage, and he was also decent against the run. He should also only continue to improve.

Special Teams

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    Randy Bullock: D

    While Randy Bullock was perfect on all field goals from 39 yards and in, he struggled heavily on everything else.

    His efficiency dropped dramatically when he was called upon to hit long field goals, and he only converted on 13-of-22 of them from 40 yards and out.

    Shane Lechler: A

    Shane Lechler, a future Hall of Fame punter, played like one for the Houston Texans in 2013. He was the lone diamond in a special teams unit full of horrible play.