10 Biggest Issues Facing the Houston Texans This Offseason
Last season was a year to forget for the Houston Texans, to say the least. After a 12-4 season in 2012, the Texans finished 2013 with a dismal 2-14 record, losing their last 14 games.
The Texans fired head coach Gary Kubiak late in the 2013 season and finished the year with interim coach Wade Phillips. Texans owner Robert McNair hired former Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien in January to lead them into the 2014 season and beyond.
Houston suffered both on offense and defense last year. The team averaged 17.2 points per game (31st the NFL) and ranked 24th on defense, allowing 26.8 points per game.
It would be difficult for the Texans to get any worse than they were in 2013, but there still are numerous needs to be addressed before the team can improve.
Here are the 10 biggest issues facing the Texans.
Josh McCown is no longer available after signing a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The team needs somebody like a McCown to help develop a rookie into a long-term quarterback.
A veteran would understand his role in helping the Texans transition a promising but raw rookie into a capable NFL signal-caller.
Arian Foster currently projects to be the starting running back for Houston. Most running backs who have reached Foster's age play a lesser role as their career advances.
Foster played only eight games in 2013 and is currently rehabbing from injuries that kept him off the field last year. The Texans should acquire a running back in case Foster cannot stay healthy.
The Texans did not have three productive wide receivers at once in 2013. The team signed wide receiver Mike Thomas late last year, but that is not enough to solidify the position.
Keshawn Martin and Andre Johnson both played 16 games in 2013. DeAndre Hopkins had a terrific rookie year and looks to have a very bright future. Still, the Texans could use a productive third wideout.
Tight end Garrett Graham re-signed with the Texans on March 13. He finished last season with 49 catches for 545 yards and five touchdowns.
Graham ranked at No. 93 on ProFootballTalk’s Top 100 and proved to be reliable. But releasing Owen Daniels means the Texans need more depth at the position.
Randy Bullock crumbled in several big situations last season. He missed three field goals against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 9, including a 55-yard attempt the that would have sent the game into overtime.
The Texans need a dependable kicker for crucial situations. Bullock’s kicks were inconsequential in 2013 because Houston was not competing for the playoffs, but his misses will be heavily scrutinized if Houston becomes competitive.
Cornerback was problematic position for the Texans last season. Johnathan Joseph made numerous penalties and appeared to make few adjustments as the season progressed. His seven infractions resulted in an NFL-high 174 yards in 2013.
Despite his mistakes, Houston's defense would have had even bigger problems without Joseph's coverage abilities. Still, his cap number for 2014 is a whopping $11.25 million, so the front office must decide whether to make the financial commitment to the team's best corner.
Overall, the Texans need to upgrade their defensive backfield.
Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) Defensive Player of the Year for 2013, J.J. Watt is a ray of hope for the Texans. Last December, Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com ranked him No .1 in his DPOY list.
But Watt cannot do it all on his own. Jared Crick has not come close to matching Watt’s level of defensive dominance. Crick did not have any sacks in 2013 and had nine assists on tackles compared to Watt’s 15. The Texans should add depth to their defensive end position in case Watt underperforms or falls to injury.
The Texans and Brian Cushing agreed to a six-year, $55.6 million extension in 2013. Houston made a huge commitment to their 2011 MVP, but he was largely absent the last two years
Due to injuries, Cushing played just a combined 12 games in 2012 to 2013. When on the field, the veteran linebacker is likely to perform at a high level. But if he gets hurt again the Texans defense will suffer.
According to Spotrac, the Houston Texans are projected to rank 18th in total estimated cap with over $120.8 million. Their predicted cap space is exceeds $13.6 million, well below the league minimum of $22.3 million. The team does not have a lot of money to spread around in free agency.
After such a terrible season, the Texans have tremendous room for improvement. With a bottom-half payroll, however, they cannot fill every need through free agency. Houston could spend big on a few players or make minor advances across the board.
2014 NFL Draft Pick
The benefit of the Texans’ embarrassing 2013 season is the No. 1 overall draft pick they have this year.
But who will they choose in May? Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel? Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater? South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney?
All of the potential No. 1 picks are full of promise, but some of them may not live up to expectations. If the Texans make the wrong choice and watch another team develop the player Houston bypassed intoa superstar, it will haunt them for years.