The Comeback is previewing all 32 NFL teams from worst to first leading up to the start of the 2017 regular season on Sept. 7. Coming in at No. 16 on our rankings are the “What about the quarterback” Houston Texans.
2016 in a nutshell: Despite not having three-time defensive player of the year J.J. Watt, the Texans’ D ranked No. 1 in football. That and a decent running game were enough to overcome a passing offense that ranked 30th in the league in terms of passer rating, and the Texans won the lame AFC South with a 9-7 record. That was pretty much their ceiling, though.
What’s different: Watt is back and Houston spent a pair of first-round picks (this year’s and next year’s) in order to add supposed franchise quarterback of the future Deshaun Watson with the No. 12 overall selection.
Why they could be awesome: Take that defense and add Watt. Take that offense and add Watson.
Why they could suck: Can Watt’s back hold up after he underwent multiple procedures on it last year? And when will Watson be ready? Uninspiring former middle-round pick Tom Savage remains the starter for now.
Major additions: Watson and the three draft picks that followed (second-round linebacker Zach Cunningham, third-round running back D’Onta Foreman and fourth-round offensive tackle Julie’n Davenport) could all factor in as rookies.
Major losses: Breakout star cornerback A.J. Bouye took big money in Jacksonville. Free agency also stole high-quality defensive cogs Quintin Demps and John Simon from them.
— Daniel Fitzgerald (@nflpicksfitz) June 9, 2017
Breakout watch: Top 2014 draft pick Jadeveon Clowney had a strong second season, but was still held to just six sacks. This could be the year he finally starts putting up elite numbers as a pass-rusher. And watch out for 2015 second-round linebacker Benardrick McKinney, too.
Position to watch: The offensive line has issues. Left tackle Duane Brown is an injury-prone 32-year-old who has been holding out all preseason, projected starters Kendall Lamm, Xavier Su’a-Filo and Jeff Allen haven’t done much to prove they’re worthy, and center Nick Martin has yet to participate in a regular-season snap. That could put a lot of pressure on those unproven quarterbacks.
Prediction: I think the line and the shakiness at quarterback will sink the Texans, even if Watt returns to glory. The Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts are better teams with better quarterbacks, and the AFC South is no longer a walk in the park.
8-8, 2nd place in the AFC South