The Houston Texans were undoubtedly one of the surprise teams of 2013 season; unfortunately for them it was for all the wrong reasons. Tipped as potential Super Bowl candidates prior to the season (following a 12-4 record in 2012), the Texans imploded to finish 2013 at 2-14 on the back of a 14 game losing streak. 2013 will not be remembered fondly in Houston.
Houston’s main problems came on the offensive side of the ball and stemmed from their play at quarterback and injury limiting the participation of star running back Arian Foster. Although Ben Tate (771 yards at 4.3 yards per carry) stepped up to deputise adequately for Foster, the rotation at quarterback was not an effective strategy this year. Matt Schaub started the season as the man in possession and proceeded to set an NFL record of four consecutive games with an interception returned for a touchdown. When he was injured in week 5, replacement TJ Yates continued the trend with a ‘pick 6’ of his own. Undrafted Case Keenum then took over the starting job from Schaub, showing promise in patches yet ultimately unable to pull off a much needed victory. Schaub threw for 2310 yards, 10 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a rating of 73.0 during the season. Keenum contributed 1760 yards, nine touchdowns, 6 picks and a rating of 78.2. At wide receiver, Andre Johnson (109 catches for 1407 yards) and rookie DeAndre Hopkins (52 catches for 802 yards) were the main threats, yet Johnson’s team leading five scores tells the story of the Texans’ season.
The Texans ranked seventh in the NFL on defence in terms of yards allowed per game, averaging just 317.6. They were not so string in terms of points allowed per game, yet some of this must be put in the hands of Schaub and his string of pick 6s! Although falling short of 2012’s heroics, JJ Watt managed to rack up 10.5 sacks and was ranked among the top Defensive Ends in the league. The loss of linebacker Brain Cushing to a second serious knee injury against the Chiefs in week 7 impacted heavily on their effectiveness and with just seven interceptions and four fumbles recovered, there is room for improvement in terms of the turnover differential in 2014.
Keshawn Martin had one punt return for a touchdown and averaged 26.3 on kick off returns. The Texans allowed just one punt return against them all season. Kicker Randy Bullock’s Field Goal success rate of 74.3% could leave him looking for alternative employment in the off season.
The Texans moved early to try to rectify the problems of 2013, sacking coach Gary Kubiak after their 11th successive loss in week 14 (to Jacksonville). Former Penn State Head Coach and New England Patriots Offensive Co-ordinator Bill O’Brien was the first new appointment for the 2014 season and has inherited a roster that, with some smart moves in the draft and Free Agency, has the potential to be turned around quickly. Foster, Johnson, Hopkins and Tight End Owen Daniels are all significant weapons on offence and any defence that can call on the talents of Watt and a (hopefully) rehabilitated Cushing can cause other teams problems. Don’t be surprised to see O’Brien have the Texans challenging again next year.
DRAFT/FREE AGENCY NEEDS
Houston are in the enviable position of holding the first overall pick for the 2104 draft. Much of what they do here depends on how O’Brien views the quarterback position in both the short and long term. If he feels that Schaub or Keenum are the answer then the Texans could chose to trade down and pick up a host of picks in exchange for their first selection. A more likely scenario would see Schaub being cut/traded and a new signal caller selected, most probably Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville. Beyond the quarterback position, help on the offensive line (especially at Tackle) and in the secondary are areas that need strengthening. Defensive Lineman Antonio Smith and running back Tate could be two of the more high profile Free Agency departures. Much of the shape of the 2014 draft will depend on how Houston decide to proceed with their first pick. Watch this space!