Thanks to a veteran core and plenty of young additions, the Texans are favorites to reach the Super Bowl in 2014.
Houston Texans Preview: Overview
Though it took the career-threating injury of Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning to open the door, the Houston Texans finally achieved AFC South supremacy in 2011. Taking the AFC South Title for two-straight years, the Houston Texans lived up to the hype that had been generated for years. The Texans showed early success in the NFL Playoffs, notching wins over the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card round for two-consecutive years. Losing in the AFC South Divisional Round in 2012 and 2013, the team still showed promise, and with the AFC's best dealing with age and controversies, the Texans are poised to make a run at the Super Bowl in the 2013-2014 season.
Houston Texans Preview: Offseason
Entering the 2013 offseason with few holes to fill, the Houston Texans had the luxury of acquiring the best talent, regardless of need. Future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed was the only major free agent splash. Though at the end of his career, the venerable Ed Reed will bring experience and leadership to one of the best secondaries in football. FB Greg Jones was an under-the-radar free agent signing that will pay dividends in the 2013 season, and should help Arian Foster return to form. With some limits on cap space, the NFL Draft would once again be the focal point of the team's strategy over additional free agents.
The 2013 NFL Draft was not headlined by dynamite prospects like Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, but was loaded with depth, especially at positions that the Houston Texans could improve on. When Clemson Tigers WR DeAndre Hopkins dropped to the team at the No. 27 pick, the Houston Texans did not hesitate to take him. DeAndre Hopkins gives the Houston Texans another offensive weapon and is the first legitimate receiving threat to line up opposite Andre Johnson. The Houston Texans devoted much of the remainder of the 2013 NFL Draft to the defense. S D.J. Swearinger was considered a steal at the 57 spot. OLB Sam Montgomery is a troubled-but-talented prospect that may take a year to develop.
Houston Texans Preview: Offense
The arrival of rookie WR DeAndre Hopkins should add a new dimension to the Houston Texans tried-and-true West Coast Offense. Thanks to a big body and an impressive skillset, DeAndre Hopkins will be an immediate redzone threat, something the Houston Texans have lacked for years. All-Pro WR Andre Johnson continues to be a weapon, keeping his gamebreaking speed in the face of Father Time. Inarguably the best Texan to ever wear the uniform, Andre Johnson still needs a few good years to make the NFL Hall of Fame. TE Owen Daniels is still a big target in the passing game, and the Texans expect young WRs DeVier Posey, Keshawn Martin, and Lestar Jean to become reliable weapons for QB Matt Schaub.
Though the passing game is the present and future of the NFL, the Houston Texans are set to dominate the line of scrimmage with their running attack. RB Arian Foster ran for over 1400 yards in 2012, scoring 15 touchdowns on the ground, and two more off of catches out of the backfield. Arian Foster will put up even bigger numbers on the field and in fantasy football this season, thanks to new FB Greg Jones. Having made a living as the lead blocker for Maurice Jones-Drew with the Jacksonville Jaguars for years, Greg Jones has a proven track record of improving the RB behind him. Backup RB Ben Tate will also amass a ton of yards of the bench. The Houston Texans also boast one of the NFL's best offensive lines, making the running game even more effective.
Houston Texans Preview: Defense
Whenever the Houston Texans defense is discussed, DE J.J. Watt is always the first name mentioned. The 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt has redefined the role of a 3-4 defensive end. Leading the team in sacks and swatting down passes in trademarked fashion, J.J, Watt is an unstoppable force in the front seven. Second-year OLB Whitney Mercilus and veteran OLB Brooks Reed must step up to rush the passer if the Houston Texans hope to be successful. Rookie OLBs Sam Montgomery and Willie Jefferson may provide a pass rush as well. DE Antonio Smith is another big body for the Houston Texans up front and should make plenty of plays as well. Pro Bowl ILB Brian Cushing also returns from injury.
Even if the Houston Texans can't get a great pass rush, they can still rely on one of the best secondaries in the NFL. The CB tandem of Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson is unmatched in the AFC, and the duo can hogtie the two top receivers on opposing teams. SS Danieal Manning is a rangy player, able to force plenty of turnovers thanks to the cornerback play in front of him. FS Ed Reed comes over from the Baltimore Ravens, where he surely earned a place in the NFL Hall of Fame. Still an interception machine, Ed Reed can be counted on come up with a few key turnovers every year. Rookie S D.J. Swearinger will see a lot of action, and will be the heir-apparent to Ed Reed, though his big hits will make him an instant star on special teams.
Houston Texans Preview: Special Teams
Traditionally the Achilles heel of the Houston Texans, the team has totally overhauled the all-important third unit of the team. P Shane Lechler is the best specialist the Texas have ever had and his pinpoint punts will be crucial in winning the field position battle. K Randy Bullock was such a talent that the Houston Texans stashed him for a year on injured reserve his rookie year, something unheard of for a kicker. Keshawn Martin will take over the return man duties, though Danieal Manning will still take a kick return now and again.
Houston Texans Preview: Outlook
The time is certainly now for the Houston Texans to make a run at the Super Bowl. AFC teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and Denver Broncos are aging, while young up-and-comers like the Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts are still raw. The AFC South, outside of the afore mentioned Colts, should be an easy trip for the Houston Texans, but their schedule will be a rough one when it comes to opponents from outside the division. But, even with the likes of the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers standing in their way, the 2013 Houston Texans have the tools and the will to hoist the Lombardi Trophy when al is said and done.