Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

July 24, 2018 at 1:10 am.


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: Starters – Lamar Miller FB Jay Prosch. Backups – D’Onta Foreman, Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin.

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. Prosch is a hard-nosed lead blocker who excels on special teams. 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.

TIGHT ENDS: Starters – Ryan Griffin. Backups – Stephen Anderson, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas, MyCole Pruitt.

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, though Anderson is a hybrid H-back type as a 6-foot-3, 235-pound converted receiver from Cal. 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, Chris Thompson, Braxton Miller, DeAndrew White, Sammy Coates.

Hopkins is in line for another big season. He is one of the best offensive players in the game. He was named a first-team Pro Bowler 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 touchdown passes and clicked with Watson before he got hurt. Ellington is dangerous after the catch. Thompson is an OK receiver, but a better returner. Miller is improving his skills as a converted quarterback, but could lose his slot job to impressive rookie Keke Coutee.

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, LG David Quessenberry, 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. Jeff Allen was removed from the roster with an injury settlement. 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, DE Ufomba Kamalu.

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 is 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, ILB Ben Heeney. OLB Brennan Scarlett, ILB Brian Peters, OLB LaTroy Lewis, ILB Josh Keyes.

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 rusher.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters – LCB Johnathan Joseph, RCB Aaron Colvin, SS Tyrann Mathieu, FS Kareem Jackson. Backups – S Treston Decoud, CB Kevin Johnson, S Corey Moore, S Justin Reid, S Kurtis Drummond, CB Johnson Bademosi, CB Jermaine Kelly.

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. Jackson should be back. 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.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Ka’imi Fairbairn, P Shane Lechler, LS Jon Weeks, KOR Chris Thompson PR Will Fuller V.

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. Lechler is a seven-time Pro Bowl selection. He didn’t make the Pro Bowl, but had a strong season and was signed to a new contract. Thompson and Fuller have upside in the return game. Weeks is a consistent former Pro Bowl selection.




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