May 11, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; General view of NFL Wilson Duke football at the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign on the Las Vegas strip on Las Vegas Blvd. Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis (not pictured) has pledged $500 million toward building a 65,000-seat domed stadium in Las Vegas at a total cost of $1.4 billion. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (not pictured) said Davis can explore his options in Las Vegas but would require 24 of 32 owners to approve the move. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /
Looks good in shorts Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports /
Top 10 Factors That May Lead To More Than 8 1/2 Wins
Brock Osweiler – Bill O’Brien, Rick Smith and their staffs thoroughly analyzed the draft, free agent quarterbacks and trade possibilities before concluding that acquiring Osweiler was the Texans best chance of fielding a franchise quarterback in 2016. So far he checks all the boxes – leadership, hard worker, good teammate, quick study, good mechanics, strong arm. That’s why he was the Broncos’ heir apparent to Peyton Manning, and why the Broncos had no Plan B when Osweiler left unexpectedly.
DeAndre Hopkins – There is not much more to say about one of the NFL’s top receivers. He is building chemistry with Brock Osweiler and has a better and more explosive supporting cast. He will still be doubled early in the year, but if the other receivers fulfill their big play potentials defenses will have to adjust, sometimes pitting Hopkins against single coverage.
Offensive Skill Positions Speed, Speed, Speed – Observing the difference between the 2015 and 2016 Texans Offensive skill positions is like comparing a plow horse to a thoroughbred. There is no question the 2016 Texans can run by people. The question is whether the explosive new additions will get to the right place at the right time and catch the football when they get there. Speed by itself is an improvement, but an effective offense may be a work in progress as the talent comes together.
Offensive Line Continuity
– Compared to last year the offensive line is deeper and arguably more talented. If they stay reasonably healthy they will build continuity that was lacking in the first half of 2015. They have the potential to be stronger with more attitude than the sometimes patchwork 2015 offensive line. Controlling penetration, especially up the middle, will contribute significantly to Osweiler’s effectiveness.
Jadeveon Clowney – For the first time he is healthy heading into training camp. His entire offseason focused on perfecting his craft, not rehabilitation. Clowney has a lot to prove and seems dedicated to doing so. If he remains healthy he will be the difference between a very good and a truly dominant Texans defense.
Defensive Cohesion – Front to back there is quality talent at every position. Several positions including inside linebacker and defensive end have little depth which could result in free agent acquisitions as rosters are reduced around the league. 13 of the top 14 defenders return to a 2015 top 5 defense which should carry the team as the new offensive weapons find their way.
Coaching – Both Bill O’Brien and Romeo Crennel learned something last year that is being applied in 2016. O’Brien learned that even a quarterback guru can’t get his team all the way to the top with a journeyman quarterback or, worse yet, a series of them. Crennel learned how his defensive pieces fit together to operate efficiently in his defensive scheme.
Momentum – The Texans were on a roll in the last half of 2015. They must erase the Kansas City playoff game from their minds focusing on the strong 2nd half performance. Their confidence is buoyed by an influx of offensive weapons including a potential franchise quarterback and a plug-and-play dominating defense poised to get even better.
No Hard Knocks – There is a pattern of teams underperforming immediately after being featured on Hard Knocks. There have been exceptions, but the first half Texans performed true to the pattern. Hard Knocks is great for the fan and the league, good for the host city and overall team image, but no matter how well it is done it is a distraction. Bill O’Brien is happy the cameras are gone.