Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 1:08 am.

GAME PLAN: The Texans need to pressure QB Tom Brady to have a chance. Otherwise, he’ll pick them apart. Offensively, the Texans have to avoid turnovers and run the football effectively.

— Patriots QB Tom Brady vs. Texans DE J.J. Watt: Brady is a pinpoint passer who thrives on firing quick passes with excellent timing. Watt is a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year who has been limited to eight games over the past two seasons due to injuries.


QUARTERBACKS: Starter – Deshaun Watson. Backups – Brandon Weeden, Joe Webb.

Watson has made a full recovery in the wake of an epic rookie season before he injured his knee. He tore his ACL, but was on pace for 43 touchdown passes before he got hurt in practice. Weeden is a proven backup, but has a totally different style than Watson because he’s a pocket passer. Webb has versatility working in his favor as the third quarterback and can play receiver or special teams.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter – Lamar Miller. Backups – D’Onta Foreman (PUP/could return later in season), Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin, Buddy Howell.

Miller is hoping for a resurgent season after a down year. His longest run was 21 yards. Miller is a good pass-catcher out of the backfield and more durable than advertised. Foreman provides a tackle-breaking presence and has some wiggle on outside runs, but isn’t fully healthy after a torn Achilles tendon. Blue is a proven backup who also excels on special teams. Ervin missed most of the season with a torn quadriceps, but has been cleared for this year. Howell is a strong inside runner.

TIGHT ENDS: Starters – Ryan Griffin. Backups – Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas.

The retirement of C.J. Fiedorowicz hurt a lot. He was the only combo tight end the team had on the roster. Griffin is a tall, athletic downfield threat. The Texans like his athleticism and toughness. He had two concussions last season. Akins could provide an immediate impact as a rookie. Thomas is a project, but an intriguing one.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters – DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller V. Backups — Keke Coutee, Bruce Ellington, Sammie Coates, Vyncint Smith.

Hopkins is in line for another big season. He is one of the best offensive players in the game. He was named first-team Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro. He led the NFL with 13 touchdowns, catching 96 passes for 1,378 yards. He was signed to an $81 million contract prior to the season. Fuller dealt with a lot of injuries, and had arthroscopic knee surgery. He had a broken collarbone and a knee injury during the season, but is fully healthy now. Fuller caught seven touchdowns and clicked with Deshaun Watson before he got hurt. Ellington is dangerous after the catch. Coutee has been dealing with a hamstring injury. Ellington is excellent after the catch. Coates is a strong special-teams contributor.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters – LT Julie’n Davenport, LG Senio Kelemete, C Nick Martin, RG Zach Fulton, RT Seantrel Henderson. Backups – LT Kendall Lamm, RT Martinas Rankin, C-G Kyle Fuller, C-G Greg Mancz, RG Chad Slade.

The line has been overhauled with four new starters. Martin is the lone returning starter from a shaky group. Martin is a capable technician in the middle, but is coming off ankle surgery. Davenport is big, but raw. Fulton is arguably the top healthy lineman. Kelemete’s ability to line up at several positions makes up for his lack of size. Henderson had substance-abuse issues with the Bills, but has been a model citizen so far with the Texans. Mancz is a gritty backup.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters – DLE J.J. Watt, NT D.J. Reader, DRE Joel Heath. Backups – RDE Christian Covington, NT Brandon Dunn, LDE Carlos Watkins, RDE Angelo Blackson.

A three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Watt is coming off a tibial plateau fracture. He’s expected to make a full recovery, but has barely played the past two seasons due to back surgeries and this latest setback. Reader has capably replaced five-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork. He’s stout inside and can rush the passer. Heath took a step back last season. Covington has nice quickness, but is undersized and coming off a torn biceps. Dunn is a nice player who’s versatile. Watkins got off to a slow start, but picked up steam at the end of the season. Blackson is a good rotational player.

LINEBACKERS: Starters – MLB Benardrick McKinney, ILB Zach Cunningham, OLB Jadeveon Clowney, OLB Whitney Mercilus. Backups – ILB Dylan Cole, OLB Brennan Scarlett, OLB Duke Ejiofor, OLB Peter Kalambayi, ILB Brian Peters.

McKinney is the Texans’ $50 million middle linebacker. Cunningham has excellent speed and instincts. Clowney is one of the most disruptive pass rushers in the NFL. Mercilus returns from a torn pectoral. Cole is the best of the backups. Scarlett is a decent spot pass rushers Ejiofor is a good situational rusher.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters – LCB Johnathan Joseph, RCB Aaron Colvin, SS Tyrann Mathieu, FS Kareem Jackson. Backups – CB Kevin Johnson, S Justin Reid, CB Johnson Bademosi, S A.J. Moore, CB Natrell Jamerson, CB Kayvon Webster.

Colvin is a big-ticket free agent with a $34 million price tag who should upgrade the secondary. Joseph got picked on some in single coverage, is 34 years old, but provides leadership. A converted corner, Jackson is a good tackler and solid in coverage. He should help make up for the loss of Andre Hal due to lymphoma. Johnson has had injury issues and hasn’t lived up to first-round draft status. He gets a lot of penalties, but the team is hopeful and picked up his fifth-year option. Bademosi was mostly signed for special teams. Webster is a former Broncos and Rams starter.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Ka’imi Fairbairn, P Trevor Daniel, LS Jon Weeks, KR Tyler Ervin, PR Will Fuller.

Fairbairn is a good young kicker. He hit his first 11 field goals, but dealt with some consistency issues as the season went on. He connected on 20 of 25 field goals and made 3 of 4 from beyond 50 yards. He missed three extra points. Daniel beat out seven-time Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler. Ervin and Fuller provide upside in the return game. Weeks is a consistent former Pro Bowl selection

PRACTICE SQUAD: OLB Davin Bellamy, CB Andre Chachere, C-G Kyle Fuller, OT Roderick Johnson, NT Darius Kilgo, TE Matt Lengel, TE MyCole Pruitt, G-T Chad Slade, S Mike Tyson, WR Jester Weah.