Can the Houston Texans be the best team in the division?
Outside of a six game stretch with Deshaun Watson as the starting quarterback, the Houston Texans were a frustrating team to watch. The struggled on both sides of the ball which resulted in a 4-12 record. That being said, there is hope for next season. Like many teams before them they can go form worst to first. Here is how.
For most teams that suddenly win out of nowhere, a new quarterback comes in and transforms the offense. The hardest part about this process is finding that quarterback. Luckily the Texans already have their quarterback in Deshaun Watson. Watson was prolific during his time as the Texans starter and took the offense to heights that have not been seen before. Unfortunately an ACL tear in practice ended his season and the Texans (slim) playoff hopes.
While the time with Watson was short, his play is a reason for optimism in Houston. The hardest position to find a suitable starter is already taken care of. Free agency can be focused on finding suitable pieces elsewhere.
Using this offseason to build chemistry on the offensive side of the ball can lead to dynamic results next season. Already having their starting quarterback makes the Texans job of winning the division that much easier.
Finding another target for Watson
DeAndre Hopkins is a prolific wide receiver and Will Fuller appears to be a nice complimentary receiver. That being said an offense needs more than two receiving targets to perform at a championship level. C.J. Fiedorowicz may retire and a suitable replacement will need to be found. Luckily Hopkins is attempting to recruit Jimmy Graham via Twitter. Graham would be a great addition to the offense.
In addition to a tight end, finding another receiver is essential. Terrelle Pryor would be a nice addition to the Houston. After a disappointing season in Washington it is possible to sign him to an inexpensive contract.
Finding more targets for Watson will allow him to be even more dangerous and take the Texans offense to heights that have never been seen. Heights that can lead Houston to a division title in 2018.
Health of Texans defenders
Two key defensive players for the Houston Texans suffered season ending injuries in 2017. J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. As a result Houston struggled to develop a productive pass rush and their pass defense was shredded. The return of Watt and Mercilus will ultimately allow Houston to have a pass rush that is capable of applying pressure to the quarterback.
Applying pressure to the quarterback will result in less time that the secondary is required to defend receivers. Due to the less time required to cover receivers less passes will be completed and the defense will make more stops. As a result the Texans will be able to be more competitive and win more games. All of this starts with the return of a healthy Watt and Mercilus.
This goes hand in hand with the above. The health of Watt and Mercilus will result in less time required to cover receivers. However better players will need to be brought in to fully transform this unit. There are several players who will be available in free agency who could come in and start form day one.
In addition to finding new players, some players will need to be let go. The aging Johnathan Joseph is one name that comes to mind. While he has been a mainstay in the Texans secondary it may be time to move on and find a more youthful secondary player. Additionally players such as Marcus Gilchrist and Marcus Williams may need to be replaced as well. A massive overhaul in the defensive backfield will do wonders for the Texans.
Will this actually help the Texans win the division?
That is the big question. Jacksonville certainly looks like a powerhouse and they are the class of the division. Their issue is inconsistency at the quarterback position. Houston will need to find a way to line up offensively that can somehow find a weakness in their defense. Luckily for Houston Indianapolis looked like a mess last season and Tennessee was perhaps one of the weaker playoff teams in recent memory. When the Texans were healthy the only team that was better than Houston in the division was Jacksonville. There is a great foundation for Houston to build upon that can help them win the division next season.