Ask any football expert and each one will tell you the same thing: The Houston Texans are loaded with talent.
Even if one excludes Arian Foster, Owen Daniels and Brian Cushing—who were both injured midseason, the Texans can still lay claim to a multitude of exceptional players, including superstars like J.J. Watt, Andre Johnson and Duane Brown.
So why then were the Texans so unbelievably horrible this season?
Obviously, a large part of it was coaching failures and significant injuries (see players listed above), but those two reasons cannot possibly be the only factors.
The Texans had several major holes on their roster this season, most notably at quarterback, on the offensive line and in the secondary.
In this article, we will take a look at which players the Texans must consider letting go this offseason in order to help wipe away a miserable 2013 season and march boldly into bigger and better things in 2014.
Note: For the sake of including more players and inspiring some debate in the comment section, obvious names like Matt Schaub and Ben Tate will not be mentioned.
Before the hiring of Wade Phillips in 2011, Kareem Jackson was likely the most hated player on the Houston Texans, and for good reason. He would continually blow coverage and seemingly ruin all chances of success for the defense.
Now—after Jackson's emergence as a solid cornerback—a new player player has taken his spot as the bane of the Texans fans: Derek Newton.
The Texans offensive line, on paper, actually seems quite terrific. The left side of the line is stacked with one superstar and another Pro Bowler, the center position is manned by a two-time Pro Bowler and the right guard spot features the young and super athletic Brandon Brooks.
Right tackle is where the problems start. Newton—a physical specimen—just hasn't put it together. His run blocking improved this past season, but his inability to protect the passer remained as horrid as always.
And this was a major liability for the Texans, as both of their starting quarterback this season—Matt Schaub and Case Keenum—struggled mightily when faced with even the slightest pass rush.
In order for the Texans to finally complete their makeover of the offensive line, it seems Newton needs to at least be benched, if not released.
His one saving grace, however, might be the hiring of Bill O'Brien. The Texans' new head coach prefers to feature a power-blocking run scheme, as opposed to Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme.
Due to Newton's size and strength, he may actually excel as a run-blocker under O'Brien. And a few improvements to his pass-blocking technique under new coaching may at least guarantee him a shot at competing for the starting job.
It should be an interesting situation to keep your eye on moving forward.
A free agent this offseason, Antonio Smith will likely be looking to sign the last big contract of his career before slipping into the uncertainty of one year deals and retirement.
Smith has been a great defensive end for the Texans the past few seasons, and he has been most effective when rushing the passer—one of the Texans' main weaknesses.
This past season, however, Smith's play fell off.
His formerly consistent motor only appeared in spurts, and he would often completely disappear from the game for long periods of time.
Poised to turn 33-years-old next season, Smith's age could certainly be a factor in his recent decline. And while he would be an excellent player to bring back this season, if he asks for too much money, the Texans will be forced to decline his services.
The Texans simply do not have a sound enough financial standing under the cap to make a large monetary risk on a player who might not ever be the same again.
Out of all the players who have a chance of being handed their walking papers this offseason, this one is probably the least likely to occur.
Owen Daniels has been an incredible tight end for the Texans throughout his career. He is best known as a safety blanket who is always there for his quarterback, always waiting to make the catch needed to move the chains.
And with the very likely possibility that the Texans have a rookie quarterback starting for them on opening day, a safety blanket would certainly be very valuable.
Also, Bill O'Brien—who hails from New England and their forbidding two-tight end sets—is a huge fan of utilizing tight ends in his offense. He can definitely fall in love with Daniels and want to feature him in his offense.
As strong as the case for Daniels staying is, though, there is a very strong case that he should be released.
The Texans are weak financially, and releasing Daniels a year before his contract expires could save them some money to extend more valuable player and possibly make some moves in free agency.
Daniels, also, has proven to be very injury prone over the years—he missed nearly the majority of this season with a fibular injury—and he is not a guarantee to always be on the field.
Plus, Garrett Graham and Ryan Griffin both showed this season that they are capable of growing as players and fully taking over Daniels' duties. Add in the factor that there are several talented tight ends in this year's draft, and O'Brien may see no reason to retain Daniels.
Only time will tell.
The very mention of Randy Bullock's name can likely elicit angry, pained emotions from most Texans fans, which is certainly understandable.
Randy Bullock was the very definition of horrible in the first-half of the season. After his game-winner against the Chargers in Week 1, he missed clutch kick after clutch kick and shanked long fields on the regular.
He ended up costing the Texans several games.
But as bad as he was in the first half of the season, he was surprisingly efficient toward the end of the season. In fact, from Week 11 and onward, he did not miss a single field goal.
While most fans likely want Bullock gone as soon as possible, he certainly redeemed himself and earned another chance.
At the very least, Bullock will be given a chance to compete for the starting job with another kicker in training camp and the preseason.
With two stellar cornerback in Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph on the roster, it was a surprise that the Texans secondary struggled so mightily in 2013.
But there was another member of the Texans cornerback core that saw significant playing time and was the root of the Texans' secondary issues: Brice McCain.
McCain simply could not guard whoever was placed in front of him, and opposing quarterbacks were able to easily pick on him, marching the ball up the field by simply throwing to whoever he was assigned to.
To be fair, Wade Phillips' ridiculous press-man coverage-only defensive scheme certainly hurt McCain's chances to succeed, and he would likely fair much better under a defensive coordinator.
However, McCain's performance was simply inexcusable, and it would be a surprise if he was still with the Texans next season.