The tenuous ground that this 2021 Texans team was build upon showed its fragility in the worst way, during a rain soaked encounter at Highmark Stadium on Sunday. As the elements withered the remaining hopes for the remaining optimists amongst Houston’s ranks, a definitive realisation emerged for many, just how far this franchise has fallen.
It pains to consider just how multi-faceted this free-fall has been. But quite how this was allowed to occur at the speed it did, is quite remarkable. The 40-0 blow out at the hands of a Super-Bowl contender, is perhaps only the start of a definitive demise that remains incomplete. At the very least Sunday was a clear sign of the weekly struggles facing this team on the remaining schedule.
The way Caserio chose to approach this off-season, will be lamented in due course. The excessive spending on a laundry list of weary veterans, at a cost to future years cap dollars, isn’t paying much dividends. At least losing by over 6 scores, with young players, who are developing and learning is at least a positive to be derived from within the expected misery. But instead of stacking un-drafted free agents to find young and inexpensive pieces, we are a roster laden with many players, who have zero current value, far less any in the future.
This week alone, losing two developing offensive linemen in Fjolholt & McCollum. Neither were wholly ready to contribute but considering the lack of production at both guard spots from the 2019 1st & 2nd round picks, there is an element of succession planning required at those positions, considering the current struggles. But losing them both was a choice, the front office had consciously chosen to not protect the league allotted practice-squad spots from other teams.
Reflecting on the personnel choices of this season through four weeks, such as the Texans keeping 5 running-backs to create an anaemic running game hasn’t been fruitful. Ironically, the only young and vibrant possibility of those five, the team have point-blank refused to play him. For a team that preached competition in the off-season, it begs the question, how can all 4 vets earn snaps are part of that process. Caserio said it would be “process over results” but currently neither are in healthy level of operation to assist building the foundations of a competitive football team.
The wide-receiver group is similarly in flux, taking only 4-recognised bodies, was quickly undone by couple week-2 injuries to the 35-year-old Danny Amendola & Nico Collins. They’ve looked short-handed, as the choice of cutting Keke Coutee continues to appears an ever more short sighted call. Whilst considering Anthony Miller has posed limited impact or potential longer term value. Having a passing game so reliant on the five-foot-ten frame of Brandon Cooks is clearly unhealthy, considering his skill set. The offence with the removal of Tyrod Taylor looks incredibly disjointed and became entirely un-watchable on Sunday.
Davis Mills was at the centre of those struggles. It was not his fault. He should have never been placed in that position. Considering the opposition, his supporting cast, his required development points; he was set-up to fail. Once again, questions have to be raised about this Caserio-lead front office. Davis, like many players were placed in a situation where their chance of success was significantly hindered. Being the 3rd-string quarterback is about as much as you can feasibly ask from a guy with only 14 college starts since high school. He looked every bit of the unrefined, signal caller that his playing history would suggest. The output of that was a shut-out on the road, despite a 10-days of preparation.
Where do we go from here?
The hope has to be that the Texans offence & particularly it’s run game can find some level of cohesion this week, when the Mac Jones led Patriots visit NRG. That would seem wishful thinking, as Houston are currently 9-point underdogs against a rookie quarterback, at home. A rather sobering notion, one of many which will hopefully awaken those of influence on Kirby Drive into some fresh thinking & much needed action.
They may well look to the market for reinforcements, as few would take the gamble Tyrod doesn’t miss further time across the remaining twelve games. They may find a level of sufficient competitiveness with Taylor back in the lineup, following this weekend. We are all hoping. But with a sufficient stretch of quality NFC opponents to tackle, as well as four mismatches against a run-heavy divisional opponents, a repeat of Sundays blowout appears to be just around the corner.
The diverging fortunes since the 2019 play-off game with Buffalo shows how quickly it can change in this league. But the Texans will now, after postponing the required reset prior to rebuilding, will now need to be undertaken after this season. This only extends the timelines in regaining competitiveness for its suffering fanbase. Of course, they’ve been hindered by the unprecedented Deshaun Watson situation. But their most important step will be to navigate out of this with a ransom of assets. If so, this false start in a supposed new era will be quickly forgotten. But in the interim, we will continue to suffer, until the clouds finally clear over NRG, a day that can’t come soon enough.