Houston Texans: 5 Biggest X-Factors entering the 2020 season
5. Gareon Conley — Cornerback
Gareon Conley has had an interesting but uneven start to his NFL career, starting with becoming a first-round draft pick by the Oakland Raiders in 2017. After being traded to the Houston Texans mid-season in 2019, he wound up being the team’s top-rated cornerback with a score of 64.5, per Pro Football Focus.
Conley was right ahead of fellow Texan Bradley Roby’s final score of 64.0, but in retrospect, they placed an uninspiring 57th and 60th league-wide, respectively. Due to his big-play ability and $12 million annual salary, Roby is the de facto No. 1 corner. However, the battle for No. 2 is Conley’s to lose.
The only real competition for a starting role comes from second-year player Lonnie Johnson, who graded out 115th out of 115 qualified cornerbacks and a miserable coverage score of 29.0. By comparison, Conley’s strongest attribute comes in man coverage, where he will likely be working against the opposing team’s secondary receiving options.
Though this offseason will be far different from most due to practice restrictions, having an entire seven to eight months learning Anthony Weaver’s scheme before Week1 will be beneficial to Conley’s development with the team. The secondary is the major weakness of the Texans’ defense, which means improved play from the former first-round pick could be a huge X-factor.