The Texans are expected to encounter some offensive challenges in 2021, particularly if quarterback Deshaun Watson isn’t available.
Watson’s future is very much in doubt in light of his earlier requests for a trade, then followed by his off-field challenges in the wake of numerous allegations of misconduct against him.
With the AFC South heating up, particularly after the Jacksonville Jaguars nabbed Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, it’ll be interesting and telling to see how Houston’s own offense will stand within the division. Watson, of course, is the key X-factor.
But Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox isn’t buying the idea Watson will be on the field in Week 1. Perhaps not even at all for the upcoming season.
In Knox’s recent 32-team offensive power rankings heading towards the regular season, the Texans understandably ranked dead last:
"There’s virtually no chance quarterback Deshaun Watson will play for the Houston Texans in 2021. He faces multiple allegations of sexual assault and asked to be traded before those allegations came to light. As a result, Houston will likely be looking at either Tyrod Taylor or rookie third-round pick Davis Mills at quarterback.This creates a very unappealing offensive situation in Houston. The Texans had a relatively average overall offense in 2020 with Watson playing at a near-MVP level."
Speaking of that average offense last year, Houston finished 18th in scoring and 13th in total yards gained.
Take away Watson, though, and one can see how things could go bad in a hurry.
What else can Texans offense build upon?
There’s always going to be the hope veteran running back David Johnson stays fully healthy and is able to contribute at a much higher level than he did during his first year in Houston where he managed 691 rush yards over 12 games.
Yet general manager Nick Caserio went ahead and added veteran runners Mark Ingram II and Phillip Lindsay during the offseason, suggesting the hope for Johnson to be a bell-cow running back is a bit far-fetched.
At any rate, turning the Texans into a run-first team might be the best approach to make up for any loss of Watson, should he ultimately not be in the equation.
This might be the right approach for first-year head coach David Culley, whose experience with the Baltimore Ravens offenses the past two years has developed one of the more run-centric systems in the league.
Perhaps that factors into the kind of play he’ll expect from his quarterbacks.
Taylor, a journeyman veteran, has his merits. But the lack of receiving weapons around him will be a cause for concern. While rookie wideout Nico Collins, selected by Houston in Round 3 of this year’s NFL Draft, can spark some hope in light of his sizable 6-foot-4 frame, it’s important to note the former Wolverine sat out 2020 and will likely take a good deal of polish before being able to regularly contribute at the pro level.
Again, Watson is the key X-factor here. And while it’s unclear whether or not there’s any immediate resolution to the MVP-caliber quarterback’s immediate future, one thing is certain.
Houston’s offense looks far grimmer without him under center.