Even though Brock Osweiler will be the starter in 2016, the Texans should keep their eyes on the former Penn State signal caller.
At the outset of free agency, the Texans reshaped their backfield as they brought in Osweiler to be the starting quarterback and Lamar Miller as the starting running back. Osweiler got a huge deal as he signed for four years and $72 million after starting just seven games his whole career, all in 2015. He played alright in those games with ten touchdowns and six interceptions, but the offense was still decent at best for Denver as they only scored 21.42 points in the seven games Osweiler started (slightly less than their average of 22.2); the last of which being the week 17 game Peyton Manning finished. But the Texans were still willing to put all their eggs in his basket and gave him a massive deal. While much of the talk regarding the #22 pick in the draft had been about a quarterback, that talk is now gone. Still, the Texans should keep an eye on Christian Hackenberg, Bill O’Brien‘s former quarterback at Penn State.
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While Hackenberg will not be brought in as the starter, he still would be a good player to have in this offense. He knows O’Brien’s system and as we all know after watching the Dallas Cowboys implode this season, you need a capable backup quarterback. That’s exactly what I think Hackenberg can be.
Hackenberg has struggled in the scouting process so far, meaning he will fall likely to the third round or perhaps even to the third day of the draft. This could work out well for the Texans, who could then pick up Hackenberg in the third or fourth round and spend earlier picks on other needs.
With Brian Hoyer figuring to be released fairly soon and T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden free agents, the Texans will need depth at quarterback. With Hackenberg it could work out much like the Kirk Cousins situation did in Washington when they drafted him in 2012 with RG3. When RG3 got hurt Cousins was able to step in and did so admirably and then earned the starting job this past season. Hackenberg had his best season in Happy Valley under O’Brien, so if anyone knows how to get the best out of the former Nittany Lion it is O’Brien. There’s certainly more upside with Hackenberg than with any of the other three guys. However, there is another guy in the picture.
O’Brien praised Tom Savage, saying, “I ask him questions during the week every week and most of the time he’s got the right answer. We like the way he throws the ball. It’s unfortunate what happened to him in the beginning of the season there, in the preseason.” But now it is questionable where he fits in Houston’s plans. If O’Brien was confident Savage could eventually become the starter after drafting him as a project in 2014, why go out and sign Osweiler? If Savage really could start somewhere else, then they should trade him and get an extra draft pick for him, because the table has been set for Osweiler.
If Savage is still seen as a project, I could see the Texans holding onto him and keeping him around to compete for the backup job. Hackenberg has natural talent and knows the system, so he could be a better option to fill in if Osweiler were to go down or (hopefully not) become a free agent bust.
But I don’t get the feeling that they have much confidence in Savage or they would not have spent so big on Osweiler. Hackenberg can now come as low cost insurance.