2017 did not go according to plan for the Houston Texans. After a successful 2017 campaign the 2018 season ended anticlimactically. To go from division champions to 4-12 in one year was not the plan. It is highly unlikely that the 2018 season will have as many speed bumps as 2017. This is an examination of what went wrong in 2017 and how it will improve in 2018.
First things first, Deshaun Watson is really good. When he was healthy and playing for the Texans the offense was deadly. The ability to make plays with his arm and his legs make Watson essential to the Houston offense. The difference was truly seen when Watson was lost for the year and the likes of Tom Savage and T.J. Yates were called into action. Savage and Yates are not capable of making plays like Watson.
There is good news. Watson is training with fellow injured teammate J.J. Watt (More on Watt later).
To see Watson training with this sort of intensity at this point in his recovery is a good sign. Concern over this injury lingering long term seem to be fading away. Watson should be ready to go for the season opener and lead the Texans in 2018.
Injuries to the defense certainly did not help the Houston defense. J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus were lost in the same game. Losing players such as Watt and Mercilus were devastating, without them opponents could focus on blocking Jadeveon Clowney, While Clowney was still productive, his job was made more difficult due to these injuries.
Watt and Mercilus are expected to be ready to for the start of next season. Their absence had a massive effect on the pass defense of the Texans. Houston’s secondary is not great by any means, but without adequate pressure opposing quarterbacks had all day to pick apart the defense. With a proper pass rush the quarterback would have to hurry to avoid pressure. This should change next season as Watt and Mercilus are set to return.
Before we get into why Will Fuller will be crucial, it is worth mentioning that DeAndre Hopkins is one of the best receivers in the league and will lead the Texans receivers next season. Now, time to discuss Fuller. Fuller is a legitimate deep threat who can take the top off the defense. The attention Hopkins gets only helps Fuller truly make defenses pay.
There is little reason to doubt that Fuller can duplicate his success with Watson next season. Of course that is assuming that Watson returns to his former self. Fuller should continue to keep opposing defenses honest.
Head coach Bill O’Brien is returning to the sidelines next season. This has drawn mixed reactions from Texans fans and analysts. However having a consistent coaching staff with a young quarterback is essential. The constant turnover in Cleveland is an example of what happens with young quarterbacks and coaching staffs who constantly change. Keeping Watson under the tutelage of the same successful coaching staff is key.
O’Brien has shown in the past that he can lead the Texans to a successful season. Before this years disastrous 4-12 season Houston enjoyed three straight 9-7 seasons. If anything this season was an anomaly in what has been a successful coaching career thus far.
Competing for a Super Bowl is a lofty goal in 2018. That does not mean it is not impossible, just unlikely. It is best to take baby steps first. Start with winning a playoff game after a lackluster season. Some will say look to make the playoffs rather than winning a playoff game, however Houston made the playoffs last season.
In the future look towards building to becoming a Super Bowl contender. There are great foundational pieces in Houston to build towards competing. The Texans already have the hardest asset to acquire, a franchise quarterback. After that is all just improving the players around him. A task that can be accomplished in free agency.
As long as the Texans stay healthy they will be successful in 2018. It is not a complicated concept to understand but their failures this season can be attributed to injuries. The injury bug should not be as impactful next year which will lead to a successful season.