Entering The ’22 Season – Are The Texans Re-Entering Relevancy?

The NFL often provides huge swings in outcome versus expectations, its unpredictability has provided some of the foundation for the marketing machine it has become. In a league that is never short of a story line, will Houston become a relevant one during the 2022 season?

Assessing The Texans – The Key Factors Of A Successful Franchise:

  • Ownership
  • Front Office Leadership
  • Coaching
  • Young Emerging Talent
  • Star Players

Ownership
It’s undoubted that his period since assuming ownership, Cal McNair’s has overseen much uncertainty and decline. The endured years 2020 & 2021 have been damaging & will take time to re-build, in terms of on-field success and fan equity.

But to the credit of the team, they’ve been on the offensive to create some positive PR. That previously hadn’t been possible due to a myriad of disastrous factors surrounding them, not all of their own making.

But whether it’s grilling burgers for fans, showing an unprecedented level of self-awareness or giving live mic interviews on radio610, there’s a sense of new from Cal & his wife Hannah. The pair now pose as a more present and positive influence as an ownership family who’ve taken steps to repair a self-created crisis.

But perhaps the greatest agent of positive change has been the growing influence and trust given to the right people, as the hire of Nick Caserio appears to have been a shrewd one.

Front Office Leadership
Nick Caserio undoubtedly has brought a sense of professionalism and stability to this club. Though even his most avid supporter would admit he botched his first coaching hire & has had some questionable salary cap moves defining his early years. Whilst clearing out the inherited mess was always going to be 2-year process, after a first year shrouded in uncertainty, with a star quarterback demanding an exit, entangled in legal trouble, therefore gaining three 1st-rounders in the trade of Watson was a reasonable outcome.

If Caserio is to build a truly competitive roster, he’ll be required to fully utilise the acquired draft assets, leaving little room for error. Though talent evaluation appears to be his strong suit and after two drafts the initial outlook appears robust in terms of establishing a talent base. How these selections work out, is largely beyond his control but the contribution of these picks will be a significant factor in determining his success.

Caserio has grow into his role, particularly the media facing element & although his New England roots will be forever entrenched, he was particularly coy on the potential progress of this years team & the future of Davis Mills:

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In an off-season where the team nearly hired Josh McCowan, the last minute pivot to hire Lovie may become a defining moment as a GM for Caserio, second only to who he decides to roll with at quarterback beyond this season.

Coaching
Although his hire may have been a by-product of external pressures from the Brian Flores law suit, Lovie encapsulates everything a head coach should be. In terms of his persona as the leader of the players, the public facing messaging around the program is almost unrecognisable.

Whether or not Lovie & his coaches can guide this team to more wins or results beyond their perceived talent is one thing. Quite how Lovie balances game management and defensive play-calling is another question. His experience, knowledge and motivation permeates throughout every part of the organisation but like every coach, he will be judged by team performances.

The coaching staff has notably evolved with the retention of Pep Hamilton, who assumes the O.C. role. The extent to which his new scheme & play-calling can unlock the potential of Davis Mills’ will define the complexion of Houston’s 2022 season. But given the lack of proven game-wreckers on either side of the ball, the coaches will need to find schematic advantages & harness their player’s discipline throughout the season.

Young Emerging Talent
Every successful roster has rookie contract players, contributing beyond their deals. It can become the ultimate a factor in roster building when it concerns a young quarterback. If Davis Mills can prove himself to become a more refined passer, with a ruthless level of accuracy and consistency, then the Texans window for success would swing wide-open. Mills’ development across this extended trial period is an inflection point not only for this season but for the medium-term future of the programme.

Beyond Davis, Nico Collins, Brevin Jordan & Roy Lopez, the number of emerging players is limited, due to the abundance mis-evaluations in the draft, that defined the previous years of Texans football. Although, this years rookie class has the potential to change the complexion of the roster. Dameon Pierce, at running back, has the potential to be a much sought after mid-round gem. If Pierce can convert his pre-season flashes into a foundational 3-down back, then the Texans may have filled a perenial hole.

It’s asking a lot of any rookie to come and contribute from Week 1 & throughout an entire season. But the Texans will be doing that & in turn are hoping to develop potential difference makers in Kenyon Green, Jalen Pitre & 3rd overall pick Derek Singley. Game time, mistakes and successes will all contribute to an understanding if this rookie crop can emerge as players to be counted upon, each Sunday.

Star Players
All-Pro type talents are a phenomena that fans in Houston were accustomed to, dominance of players like Andre Johnson & J.J. Watt who amongst many, lead this team to relative success. The current squad represents a departure from those days. That lack of premier talent may likely be the Texans undoing in ’22, as although they’ve undoubtedly made incremental improvements to this roster, they lack true game-wreckers. Although such players are rare, they’re often required at times, to win games particularly in the trenches.

Though Brandon Cooks continues to be overlooked in league circles as a dominant number-2, Z-type receiver, who can aptly compliment a true-X. There is of course the conundrum of Laremy Tunsil who’s heavy contract and trade cost may well weigh into future decisions. But his elite ability in terms of pass-protection, coupled with Cooks speed, will both need to be omni-present in the development of Kenyon Green & Davis Mills.

Season Outlook
The 2022 is set to be one of incremental progress, which is a lot more than can be said for the year prior. A tough stretch of games in November-December added to the early bye week may combine to suppress hope of a wild-card berth at this premature stage of re-building.

The Texans will tread a thin line between gaining a rounded assessment of their 2nd year quarterback whilst not pushing themselves too far down the ’23 draft order, if they are to better last year’s win total. Any under-construction team can win between of 3-6 games, but the deeper context on how they arrive at that total, will determine whether their additional first round pick is used to acquire a new quarterback, given the touted potential of this upcoming draft class. 

Latest Episodes:

Episode 152: Turn Up For Watt Podcast

Joined by Cody Stoots from the Wheelhouse on ESPN Houston 97.5 to talk the Houston Texans loss to the Giants.

A 4th straight loss and despite a straining sense of repetition, the first overall pick in the draft seems even more likely.

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