Texans Preview Capsule
HOUSTON TEXANS (11-6)
New faces: OTs Tytus Howard and Max Scharping, LT Matt Kalil, S Tashaun Gipson, CBs Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Bradley Roby and Lonnie Johnson, Jr., QB AJ McCarron, TE Kahale Warring.
Key losses: GM Brian Gaine, CB/S Kareem Jackson, S Tyrann Mathieu, TE Ryan Griffin, CB Kevin Johnson, WR Demaryius Thomas, S Andre Hal.
Strengths: OLB Jadeveon Clowney skipped training camp unhappy he didn’t receive long-term deal but is expected to return for regular season, and 2014 top overall pick will help Houston’s front seven be strength of team. Clowney and healthy J.J. Watt provide fearsome pass-rushing duo after combining for 25 sacks and 34 tackles for losses last season. They’re joined by veteran ILB Benardrick McKinney and third-year pro ILB Zach Cunningham, who had breakout 2018 and led team with 107 tackles. QB Deshaun Watson should also take step forward after starting each game in 2018 following injury-shortened rookie season.
Weaknesses: Team needs to make huge improvement on offensive line after Watson was sacked 62 times. Serious questions about group because Kalil hasn’t played since 2017 because of knee injury and RT Seantrel Henderson missed all of last season after breaking ankle in Week 1. If Texans hope to better protect Watson they’ll also need Howard, first-round pick in this year’s draft, to contribute immediately. Also questions in secondary after team let Mathieu and veteran Jackson go in free agency.
Fantasy Players To Watch: WR DeAndre Hopkins. Ranked third in NFL with career-high 1,572 yards receiving last season. Could put up even bigger numbers in 2019 in third season with Watson. WR Will Fuller had 523 yards receiving and seven TDs in just seven games before season-ending knee injury. Fourth-year player is healthy and poised for big season after struggling with injuries for last two years.
Vegas Says: Win Super Bowl 45-1. Over/under wins 8 1-2.
Expectations: Texans made playoffs for third time in four seasons last year, but coach Bill O’Brien, who will also serve as general manager this year after Gaine’s dismissal, needs to do more than simply make postseason in sixth season in charge. If offensive line is better, Watson should improve unit starring Hopkins and Fuller. And defense led by Watt and Clowney, combined with Watson’s development, could make Texans much better than last season as they try to make deeper playoff run.