Saturday, August 23, 2014

2014 NFL PREVIEW - Houston Texans

HOUSTON TEXANS                                                

2013 Record: 2-14-0

Key Additions: RB Andre Brown; QB Ryan Fitzpatrick; S Chris Clemons; RB Ronnie Brown; S Kendrick Lewis; DL Jerrell Powe.

Key Losses: QB Matt Schaub; TE Owen Daniels; S Danieal Manning; CB Brice McCain; DL Earl Mitchell; RB Ben Tate; DL Antonio Smith.

HEAD COACH: Bill O' Brien

Offense: After several years of close calls and near misses in the post-season with former quarterback Matt Schaub, the Texans decided to go a different way and now have Ryan Fitzpatrick, a journeyman QB who played with Tennessee last season. Fitzpatrick passed for 2,454 yards with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions after the Titans' starting QB went down with a season ending injury. Case Keenum (1,760 passing yards with nine TD and six INT in 2013) and Tom Savage (rookie from Pittsburgh) will battle it out for the backup role.
Arian Foster was injured last year and ran for just 542 yards with a 4.5 ypc average and one score in seven games. Gone is Ben Tate, who filled in admirably so now the Texans have former Giants' RB Andre Brown (492 yards with three TD last year) and Ronnie Brown, who played sparingly with San Diego last season, rushing for 157 yards and one touchdown, as the backups to Foster.
The wide receivers are led by the durable Andre Johnson, who's now in his 12th season after making 109 receptions last season for 1,407 yards and five touchdowns. DeAndre Hopkins (52, 802, two TD) and Keshawn Martin (22, 253, two TD), along with tight end Garrett Graham (49, 545, five TD) will be the main targets in the passing game.
The offensive line will see Chris Myers at center while either Xavier Su'a-Filo (rookie from UCLA) or Cody White will man a guard spot along with right guard Brandon Brooks. The tackles are Derek Newton and Duane Brown.

STATS - Houston averaged 347 yards in total offense a year ago (11th in NFL) while scoring an average of just under 25 points per game. The passing game was 15th overall, going for 238 yards per game while running game averaged 109 yards (20th). The Texans turned the ball over 31 times (22 picks and nine fumbles) for a league worst minus-20 in the turnover category. They also gave up 42 QB sacks last season.

Defense: Playing the 3-4 set, the Texans feature defensive ends J.J. Watt (10.5 QB sacks) and Tim Jamison at the ends while rookie Louis Nix (Notre Dame) is looking to be the nose tackle. Jerrell Powe is another option for Houston at the nose position.
The linebackers will have top NFL draft pick Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina) and Whitney Mercilus (seven sacks) on the outside with Brooks Reed and Brian Cushing playing the inside spots. Cushing has missed most of the last two seasons with knee injuries and is a big part of the Texans defense. Clowney is being counted on to be a force in his first year as a pro.
The secondary features corners Kareem Jackson and Jonathan Joseph (three interceptions) and the safeties are D.J. Swearinger and either Kendrick Lewis or Chris Clemons.

STATS - Houston didn't give up a lot of yardage (318 yards per game) last season, ranking seventh overall on defense, but they did allow an average of just under 27 points per game, meaning too many big plays against them. The pass defense finished seventh in the league, allowing 195 yards per game while the run defense surrendered 123 yards per game (23rd). The Texans had just seven interceptions and four fumble recoveries and sacked opposing quarterbacks only 32 times last year.

OUTLOOK: The 2013 season was a nightmare for the Houston Texans, as they lost 14 consecutive games after winning the first two.
New Head Coach Bill O' Brien comes over from Penn State and will have a new quarterback running the show as journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick takes over this season. The Texans need a healthy Arian Foster at running back as well. When playing at one hundred percent, he has put up big numbers for the team in years past.
The defense will likely have two rookie starters in Clowney (at linebacker) and Nix up front at the nose tackle. Along with veterans J.J. Watt, whose sack numbers were way down from the year before, and Brian Cushing and Whitney Mercilus at linebacker, the Texans should be a solid defense as they were prior to last season, when they had just the 32 QB sacks and eleven takeaways.
The AFC South is looking like perhaps a one horse race again this season (Indianapolis Colts) but if the Texans can right the ship on offense and improve in the turnover category, they could very well be right back in the thick of the division race this season.
The schedule appears to be on the lighter side in the first four weeks, so if the team can get out of the gate quick and maintain some momentum, anything is possible in the NFL these days as evidenced by numerous one season turnarounds in recent years.
The Texans are not as bad as what they appeared to be last season, but with the changes on offense, they may not be as good as the teams they are chasing in their division either. Expect improvement, but probably not a playoff season this year as they get things headed back in the right direction with a 7-9 record or even a .500 finish. Considering what happened last year, that would be a big improvement.

Week 1- vs. Washington
Week 2- at Oakland
Week 3- at NY Giants
Week 4- vs. Buffalo
Week 5- at Dallas
Week 6- vs. Indianapolis
Week 7- at Pittsburgh
Week 8- at Tennessee
Week 9- vs. Philadelphia
Week 10- BYE WEEK
Week 11- at Cleveland
Week 12- vs. Cincinnati
Week 13- vs. Tennessee
Week 14- at Jacksonville
Week 15- at Indianapolis
Week 16- vs. Baltimore
Week 17- vs. Jacksonville

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