2014 Texas Rebound to Greatness
New coach Bill O'Brien leads the Texans back to the top of the AFC South with help for J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and a rising defense
Houston Texans: 2013 Failure
Coming off two-straight playoff appearances, the 2013 Houston Texan were one of the early favorites to win the Super Bowl. Head coach Gary Kubiak was leading what had been a deadly offense, while defensive coordinator Wade Phillips commanded an improving 3-4 defense. The Houston Texans started the 2013 season by winning their first two games. Then everything started to fall apart. QB Matt Schaub suddenly regressed, and RB Arian Foster was hampered by injuries. The elite Texans offense floundered, exposing the defense as a weak and poorly-schemed unit. The Texans would not win another game the entire year. Ending the 2013 season at 2-14, the Houston Texans blew up their coaching staff, firing Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips, not even waiting for the season to end in the case of Kubes
Houston Texans: Bill O'Brien
With the first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, established superstars like DE J.J. Watt, and a big-time fanbase, the Houston Texans coaching opening was one of the most coveted in sports. Eventually, Bill O'Brien won the job. As head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, Bill O'Brien had seen much success in the shadow of Joe Paterno. Formally an offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, Bill O'Brien came to the Texans with a excellent pedigree for developing offensive talent. Bringing defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel with him, Bill O'Brien promised to make the Houston Texans winners again, using the New England Patriots as a base. The Houston Texans would start their return to prominence with the 2014 NFL Draft, where they held the first pick.
Houston Texans: 2014 Draft
Seen as the consensus best player in college football for the past two seasons, South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney was the apple of every team's eye. A freakish athlete that made Mario Williams look like a stick figure, Jadeveon Clowney has the pass rushing skills to make All-Pro every year. There was still some debate however creeping into the conversation. The Houston Texans had no quarterback, and the NFL Draft had three top prospects at the position. Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater were looked at as great future pros, but the media and fans cried for Texas' own Johnny Manziel. Drawing many parallels to the 2006 NFL Draft, many saw Johnny Manziel as a Vince Young-like figure, opposing a talented pass rusher atop the draft.
Much like 2006, the Houston Texans took the pass rusher, letting the quarterback with questionable NFL talent go to another team. Jadeveon Clowney was the first pick, and was met with adulation from the Houston Texans faithful. The Texans were not done however, and kept adding quality players in the deep NFL Draft. Landing versatile G/T Xavier Su'a-Filo, mammoth NT Louis Nix, playmaking TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, QB Tom Savage, tough RB Alfred Blue, and more, the Houston Texans had a stellar draft, filling several holes. The rest would need to be addressed in the coming free agency.
Houston Texans: Free Agency & Trades
After shipping QB Matt Schaub out to the Oakland Raiders, the Houston Texans signed journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. A game manager with lots of experience, Ryan Fitzpatrick will be more of a stop-gap to the QB of the future rather than the face of the franchise. As predicted, the Houston Texans were quite busy after the final cuts at the end of preseason. Trading for QB Ryan Mallet from the New England Patriots, the Texans got a raw and young talented quarterback that could be a franchise player, if developed right. S Danieal Manning was originally cut by the Texans, but returned after being released by the Cincinnati Bengals. The signing of NT Jerelle Powe was a quiet move that brought in a solid starter as well. With the offseason in the books, the Houston Texans can now focus on developing talent in the coming months.
Houston Texans: Offense
The Houston Texans are still not sure about their quarterback position, but it is certainly stronger now than in 2013. Matt Schaub, Case Keenum, and T.J. Yates are all gone, not that they will be missed. Ryan Fitzpatrick is penciled in as the starter, and should hold down the job for a while. Ryan Mallet is a native Texan, and is blessed with perhaps the biggest arm in football. If he can learn the playbook, then Ryan Mallet could soon become the Houston Texans starter, especially if he builds chemistry with the likes of WR Andre Johnson. Rookie Tom Savage is listed at No. 3, and will mostly be simply asked to develop his skills on the bench this year. If Mallet does not work out, then Tom Savage will be looked at as the future of the Houston Texans in the years to come.
While the Houston Texans may be a little lost at quarterback, everything else on the offense is forming up nicely. RB Arian Foster appears to be healthy, and the former All-Pro could be the best friend of any of the quarterbacks. Rookie RB Alfred Blue will push Arian Foster, and could take the position over by the end of the season. WR Andre Johnson is finally happy again and is chasing the NFL Hall of Fame, needing a few more good years. The Houston Texans have a lot of young potential in their receiving core, including DeAndre Hopkins and DeVier Posey. LT Duane Brown is the best in the NFL and anchors an improving offensive line. G Xavier Su'a-Filo will soon be a starter, and is a great building block for the future. The Houston Texans should see plenty of dividends from the improved work in the trenches.
Houston Texans: Defense
The Houston Texans defense, and the team as a whole, live and die with J.J. Watt. A freak of an athlete, a peerless leader, and a feared opponent, J.J. Watt is the biggest star on the Houston Texans. Thriving in the 3-4 defense of Romeo Crennel, J.J. Watt will only make his teammates better. Rookie Jadeveon Clowney transitions to outside linebacker, but he will be much more of a pass rusher than a true LB. Unblockable by any player smaller than a lineman, Jadeveon Clowney will be a holy terror coming off the edge, and already showed flashes of potential in the preseason. The rest of the Houston Texans defensive line is young but growing, including two big nose tackles in Jerelle Powe and Louis Nix. DE Jared Crick and rookie DE Jeoffery Pagan are future playmakers.
Besides Jadeveon Clowney, the Houston Texans linebackers are a stout bunch. ILB Brian Cushing is an All-Pro and is finally healthy. A versatile and intelligent player, Brian Cushing will be the quarterback of the defense. OLB Brooks Reed will get more chances to makes plays being opposite Clowney, while DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus will try to shake off his bust status by contributing on passing downs. The Houston Texans secondary is deep, with a pair of bookend corners in Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson. S D.J. Swearinger is a headhunter and enforcer, while veteran Danieal Manning is still a hawker of balls.
Houston Texans: Special Teams
Formally a notoriously weak unit, the Houston Texans are liking what they have on special teams. Future Hall of Fame punter Shane Lechler will control the field position battle and was one of the few bright spots in the 2013 season. Kicker Randy Bullock is back after a sub-par 2013, but looks to be much-improved. WR Keshawn Martin will return both kicks and punts, and looks to be a much better player now that he has proper coaching.
Houston Texans: Outlook
Fans with Houston Texans tickets know that their team will be improved greatly in 2014. Much of the Texans future success will of course depend on the quarterback position. If Ryan Fitzpatrick has a career year or Ryan Mallet takes over and lives up to his potential, then the Houston Texans could challenge for the AFC South Title. The 2014 NFL Playoffs may be in reach, but fans will have to wait a year or two for the Houston Texans to be ready for a run to the Super Bowl. Still the infrastructure is there, and the future of the Houston Texans appears to be burning bright.