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:
Front Office Leadership
Young Emerging Talent
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:
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.
Despite the loss in Las Vegas, Sunday was undoubtedly Mills best performance of the year and perhaps of his career. As the Texans host Nashville and the undefeated Eagles on Thursday night football, Mills faces an uphill battle against a common strength.
Talking your Houston Texans, straight from the Great British Isles.
Episode 143: A late splash of OJ, As The Season Nears
Flying solo & late (apologies) this week to talk the 53-man roster being almost set. After a very fluid process will need to continue to be adding key roster spots where the team look short. A few ex-Bucc’s have been added to improve the offence, as Mills will need all the help he can get, for his full season audition in ’22.
As we are gear up for the Colts week 1, football is almost back & the trade of Blacklock, can almost put the recent past behind us but they have to show wins. Nick Caserio was cautious on Mills and the teams overall progress of the rebuild as he spoke with the media this week.
We touch on the loss of former president Jamey Rootes, as a reminder life is bigger than just football.
Joined by Brandon K Scott https://twitter.com/brandonkscott from Radio 610 to talk: – Rookie Mini Camp – Matt Bazirgan leaving the front office – The Influx of Veteran edge signings, post the draft – schedule reaction – toughest stretches, winnable games and a misplaced bye week
The Texans schedule was finally revealed on Thursday, after the networks trailed breadcrumbs for the adoring masses. A process which saw one Twitter account provide a reminder of how powerful the league’s news cycle has become but similarly, how the information around it can easily become false. But the Texans in a year where they’ve placed faith in Davis Mills to grasp his opportunity, they now know the road they must take, if that vision is to be realised.
The schedule has a few key points:
The Bye Week: Not since the impact of hurricane Ike have the Texans had such an early bye. The earliest scheduled bye was 2010, week-7. So being allocated to week-6, within the backdrop of a 17 game schedule, appears punitive to a teams chances that were already hindered. Never mind the potential positive impact a timely bye can have on a squad’s health.
4 Later Kick-Off’s: In terms of prime broadcaster slots, this is an upgrade on last year. By only having the mandatory Thursday night, at home, for the consecutive season, shows the temperature of executives hasn’t yet warmed towards the quality of Texans football. But they have however, opened the door for future years.
In the week-2 slate Houstons are to provide the foe’s for Russell Wilson’s home debut at Mile High. The Texans are then given a trio of later games post the bye week. The team will dawn the 15:05 slate, in back-to-back weeks, at Vegas, then host Tennessee. Both, prior to hosting the Eagles on Thursday night football, to commence the Week-9 slate. Thereafter, the familiar noon kick-offs revert for the remainder of the year.
The Pre-Bye Health Check: facing the AFC contender reel of the Colts, LA Chargers & Denver as three-fifths of your opening games, isn’t too helpful to a team looking to take steps with a young quarterback. For all the lack of proven offensive weapons beyond Brandin Cooks, the offensive line’s stature will be tested after going against those team’s respective fronts. Passing tests or at least surviving against Bosa/Mack, Chubb/Gregory, Buckner/Ngakoue will be an early milestone in this offence’s ability to produce.
APivotal 5 Game Stretch: These weeks – bookended by the visit of Tennessee & a post thanksgiving trip to Miami – will likely define this 2022 team, regardless of their record. For all the Texans deep-rooted roster flaws, the run of Philadelphia, visiting East Rutherford & South Beach, whilst in between hosting Wentz’s Washington, provides Houston’s best chance of momentum. As pitting your team against those in the similar echelons of the leagues hierarchy, is a far more accurate test than against any of the big guns.
Watson’s Return & Two Triples: The week 13 return of Deshaun Watson & Cleveland for many reasons will be a spectacle and not just for those wishing to vent at the player, who turned his back on Houston whilst wrangling in unprecedented legal troubles. But this run of games also has the potential to tail-spin the season. It was notably, a game the networks chose not to hero, with the hovering civil litigation uncertainty, it was understandable.
But the visit of the Browns, the trip up i-45 to Dallas & the visit of Mahommes’ Chiefs provides a hat-trick of games where Houston would be well placed, just to cover the point-spread. These games may push their backs against the ropes, in need of the bell to relive them. But they are followed by trips to both Tennessee and to end the year in the way it started, against Indianapolis.
Respite may come once again come from Jacksonville to prop up their win total, which has been the case over the last two seasons. But considering Duval’s regime change, the undoubted talent of Trevor Lawrence, it’s difficult to see that continuing to be the virtual guarantee it once was.
In the first full year of true rebuilding, Houston like any team could reach 5-6 wins & there are undoubted spots in the schedule to do so. But if the most unpredictable of all major sports was so simple, this release of games wouldn’t have been so anticipated, more merely acknowledged.
The schedule and the resulting record is a definitive means of assesses roster quality. In a match-up league, it places your players on a league scale, rather than evaluating in a vacuum. The vital development of Caserio’s latest draft crops will be realised. But quite how the Texans navigate these 17 games under Mills’ stewardship will attest to his & many others longer feasibility. As much of this roster is here on trial, until the squad is capable of consistently competing once more.
Joined by Matt Robinson from Battle Red Blog, as we review what the roles of the top picks, this coming season. Taking a further look at the yet to be announced UDFA class of free agents. And with the schedule announcement imminent we review the potential hurdles and & winnable games prior to the gods announcement.
As the dust settles on the ’22 draft, the Texans are still in the early stages of their reclamation back towards pro-football relevancy. Nick Caserio inherited a threadbare talent-base, but after two drafts, two head-coaching appointments, a quarterback trade and countless free agent signings.Are they on the right track?
What Are Realistic Expectations For The ’22 Season?
Any NFL squad aiming to fill a number of roster-needs via the draft inevitably leads to a specific outcome for that immediate season. Despite another array of over-familiar & some lesser known free-agent signings, the team will be reliant on this ’22 class of rookies, if improvements are to be sought.
It can’t be ignored that post the draft & free agency, an unmistakeable hole exists at pass-rusher. Even if the Texans had drafted a future hall-of-fame candidate at third overall, that still may have left the most vital part of any defence lacking the required talent. Lovie may resort to un-characteristically blitzing to alleviate the lack of edge talent. But whatever their plans are at Edge and at number of other roster spots, it cannot be doubted that Derek Stingley Jr., Kenyon Green & Jalen Pitre won’t have many hiding places. They’ll all be asked to grow up fast this season.
Any rookie emergence this year should be taken as a bonus. Growing pains similar to what Kareem Jackson felt in year-one or the limited but positive contributions made by rookie DeAndre Hopkins, should both provide guides of reasonable, year-one expectations. Undoubtedly, watching the development of John Metchie in the slot or Teagan Q. at the Y-TE, are perhaps more important than wins during the ’22 season. Quite how many of these steps are taken in laying claims for future years, will determine their route back to relevancy.
Caserio has now cast his first net towards his chosen sections of the collegiate talent pool. Whether he’s found any keepers, is a two year maturation process requiring time and patience, in a ruthlessly competitive environment.
Year 2 Development?
It’s a well trodden theory, that appropriately assessing young players begins in year two and the 2021 class should be under a greater degree of scrutiny than any of the Texans newest rookie additions. As all rookies take varying amounts of time to acclimate, the required leap across a holistic set of expectations is seismic.
There may be some more surprises akin to Roy Lopez’s contribution last year. There will also be some inconclusive reports, similar to Nico Collins, who missed time with injury. But the Texans are also depending on their ’21 class to delver this year. If both Brevin Jordan and Nico Collins can provide 35-50 catches each & become reliable parts of the offence, in the same way Lopez can constantly wrestle double teams, such iterative improvements across the squad will culminate in a greater degree of competitiveness.
Of course, there will be no greater focus than that placed on Davis Mills. His trajectory of improvement has the ability to be franchise altering. Though the general expectations of Mills, seem to be out-of-kilter with his limited tape thus far. It’s natural for a fanbase, who’ve been to the football equivalent of hell & back, to romanticise Mills’ limited displays to date. But forecasting the former Stanford Cardinal to become a franchise-leading player, considering he’s yet to be productive over 4-consecutive quarters, consistently beat man-coverage or assume full control of a game, is unfair on Mills but also unsteady in its foundations.
Late season highs can often be fools gold but undoubtedly those flashes need to become consistent execution over a full slate of games, for an appropriate sample size to be meaningfully evaluated.
An overlooked factor is the change in offensive scheme with Pep Hamilton assuming the role of coordinator. The offence isn’t quite starting over but the installation of new plays, gaining comfortability with players, isn’t a straight-forward, nor a quick process. Particularly when the Texans talent levels won’t be a fair match for a multitude of their opponents this year, far less 4 games against the AFC West. The unknown or the hope for new, can often bring around illogical conclusions and the “Mills Project” appears no different. But regardless of the outcome, it’s the biggest story line & inflection point for the Texans in 2022.
Are The Team Now On A More Certain Path?
The life cycle of every NFL team is 3-4 years by definition of the rookie wage-scale but where Houston is sitting on that curve, is a relative unknown. The 2024 cap number has Brandin Cooks as the solitary player of any dollars to note. The lack of true foundational pieces can’t be ignored. They will need to be found & then certified across the ’22 & ’23 seasons. The Texans games over that period, will pose the question to every player in the building: Are they good enough to play a role on a winning football team? It will pose an uncomfortable outlook for most a but it’s the reality of the Texans for at least another year or so.
Further considering, the expectation is that their primary means of talent acquisition will continue via the draft. As draft hit-rates tend to circle around 50% mark, so the roster churn will highly likely continue for a number of years yet. Stability of their 53-man roster, even in NFL-terms seems distant, until the talent levels can be stabilised across the depth chart.
Of course, what players, at which position emerge, will greatly determine the speed of this team re-building process. If Mills beats the odd’s and leads this team for the years to come, then it’s instantly kicked into overdrive. Or if the Texans are drafting a replacement in the 2023 draft, progress will have stalled but finding the right one, is by far the most important step for every team.
The league is separated by the ‘have’s’ & ‘have not’s’. So for it all to truly mean something again, the Texans must find a franchise passer. But at the very least, if/when they do find the next QB, whoever that might be, they appear to be on far more stable footing than they were when they lost the faith of their previous one.
Texans Mock Draft Scenario – Three Picks on Night One
The Texans absolutely want to give Davis Mills every chance of realising his potential but this draft consists of depth at the interior offensive-line & a basic analysis of the draft show skill players at – tail-back and wide-receiver – can be found in abundance after the first round.
Across the next three drafts Caserio needs to extract maximum value for the Texans, if they are to build a roster that has talent collectively, developing together with continuity, an imperative for a performing defensive unit. The ability to stack talented players will be required to help balance that over-indexed turnover ratio achieved in 2021, if they are to avoid significant regression.
2nd Overall – New York Jets (Trade) – Kayvon Thibodeaux – Edge – Oregon
Kyle Hamilton -Safety/Hybrid
Hamilton is a unique prospect who can impact the defense on any play. His range, transitional, down-hill quickness, play recognition and football IQ are a rare blend. His wonky 40 times don’t translate to tape, his playing speed & fluidity is clear to see. Creating an identity is vital for the Texans. Does he fit the traditional tampa-2 system? Not necessarily, but not finding a role for a unicorn of a player, would say more about the coaching staff than it would the player. Hamilton is a ‘cannot pass-up’ prospect who is albeit a Rolls-Royce type-pick but any team would be lucky to have this future star, who could play 4 positions across the defense.
It would be remiss to disregard the Texans affixation on culture fits & Karlaftis checks those boxes. He’s relatively young in football-terms but his flashes in passing downs & against the run, give evaluators enough to be excited about that his best football lies ahead. His size at 266lbs/6’4″ also gives interior rush possibilities. He already fits the mold of a NFL lineman, it would be up to Jacque Cesaire &the defensive coaching staff to refine his processing of his hand-fighting technique to complement the already refined relentless motor/athleticism. Karlaftis, for his frame, can bend the edge surprisingly well but for every Wisconsin or Notre Dame tape, there is a Michigan State or Ohio State sprinkled in there. He posses a risk but also a huge potential pay-off type prospect, considering who’s come off the board at this stage.
26th Overall – Tennessee Titans – Chris Olave – Wide Receiver – Ohio State
27th Overall – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Zion Johnson – Guard – Boston College
28th Overall – Green Bay Packers – Arnold Ebiketie – Edge – Penn State
29th Overall – Kansas City – Cameron Thomas – Edge – San Diego State
30th Overall – New York Giants (Trade) – Kenyon Green – Guard/Tackle – Texas A&M
The Texans Trade the 37th Overall Pick, 107th Overall Pick, 183rd Pick & 208th Pick For Cincinnati’s 31st Overall Pick & 136th Overall Pick
Nakobe Dean – Linebacker
Trading up in the draft, was exhibited by Caserio last year, whilst Dean is a top 15-talent, he feasibly falls due to being undersized and his positional value. So trading back into the 1st round, to get the 5th year option on a player who slips is a viable option. Dean was the leader of that Georgia defense who can stay on the field for all three-downs. Added to his explosive play ability to attack the ball carrier, he can cover tight-ends and running backs on passing downs. A true day-1 MIKE-linebacker who could take a commanding role in the Texans defense very early on.
32nd Overall – Detroit Lions – David Ojabo – Edge – Michigan
The lack of faces to dawn the season tickets books was a question that was asked of Caserio, post the Watson trade. Picking up three day-one starters with a full season to grow before the team becomes competitive again, would certainly be a start to laying the foundations of a defensive unit in need of talent.
Credit to the UK NFL Fans Mock Draft who providing the picks, follow the full 7-rounds of the draft on Twitter:
As we stand on the precipice of the Deshaun Watson trade, a point of inflection faces the Texans & Nick Caserio. Acquiring a plethora of assets would give him the necessary capital to invest in a talent-barren roster that looks, at present, multiple years removed from competitiveness. But is that all about to change?
Parameters of a trade:
There’s been diverging narratives placed into the media over last few days. In the absence of legal issues and if the Texans had of traded Watson before the draft in 2021, a baseline price of 4 first round picks – considering the unicorn-like rarity of the proposition on offer – would have been the fair asking price. But now, if Caserio ends up within the region of: three first-rounders, two second-rounders, plus multiple starter calibre players (ideally on rookie deals), most would accept that as fair return on investment, albeit not ideal.
Potential Trade Partners:
Carolina – A Home Coming For Deshaun with an Aggressive Owner?
Trade-judo versus owner, David Tepper’s pressure for quick success is a factor that can’t be overlooked. But from a QB replacement angle, a trade being weighted into future years is preferable for the Texans though year 1 may feel short changed, it will be eased by procuring Derrick Brown.
Acquiring from teams more than one top tier player will difficult without waiving premium picks but both Jaycee Horn or Chinn would be worthwhile considering. Brain Burn is a flashy option but Derrick Brown’s top-10 talents are far rarer than a mid-1st round pick form a poor 2019 draft class.
Houston acquires an extra player up-front due to the lack of year-1 picks. Robbie Anderson is cut-candidate, throw-in who can stretch the field. Matos – 38th overall pick in 2020 has shown some mixed results due to a combination of limited snaps and injuries in first two years. The 35inch arms at 265lbs is a prototype to work with. Whilst adding much needed help in the secondary, via C.J. Henderson, who may be a slot primarily for this career. The top 10-pick from Jacksonville that Urban hastily threw away, again can bring some upside.
New Orleans – A move to Louisiana despite the coaching transition?
If this is the Watson camp’s preferred route, there’s logical to believe that it suppresses the pick value, whilst the Saints have less plausible players to return. Having the 18th pick, isn’t ideal as the primary future asset. But Loomis can offer this years 2nd and allow the Texans then trade up from their 4th round spot into a key spot in the 2022 draft class. This via the compensatory pick from the Trey Hendrickson contract.
Adebo presents a young corner who was taken in third round last year, 66 tackles & 3INT’s in year one, is a N.O. primary concession. The upside of Payton Turner who only played 5 games last year may be enough for the Saints to part with Davenport who would needs to be extended against a tricky cap situation, he set to play on his 5th year option. Therefore giving up Paulson over Turner seems feasible, whilst Cesar Ruiz would be a perfect need to fill on the interior.
Seattle – Can Carroll & Schneider convince Watson it’s not another re-build?
Going down the primary pick-heavy route is the idea scenario for Houston but wether Watson will waive his clause for Seattle is a bigger question. Their roster is in need of picks & there’s few players they could give up beyond throw-in types. This trade allows the Seahawks to retain two 2nd’s over the next two years, whilst Houston is in prime spot with three 1st’s next season to address quarterback, should they be convinced by the ’23 class. The valuation (3x1st & 2x2nd, 1-player) pays a premium versus the Seattle selling price of Wilson, accounting for the 7 extra years of youth Watson can give a club.
Darrell Taylor represents an unknown but trading former Vol. saves a pick of third-round equivalent value. After missing his rookie year, he rebounded with 6.5 sacks in his first pro-season, there’s an adage of: you can never have enough pass rushers.
Whatever the outcome, the Texans could be about to kick start a new era, as fans from multiple clubs eagerly await the outcome, of the Deshaun Watson saga.