The 2016 NFL season is just around the corner. As such, Sportsnaut will be previewing all 32 teams before the games begin in September. Continuing the series, we head to the AFC South to provide a Houston Texans 2016 preview.
Here, we’ll be discussing a team that is banking on quarterback Brock Osweiler to help the offense to match a championship-caliber defense.
Before we look ahead, let’s take a glance at some key developments.
Houston Texans 2016 Preview
Head coach: Bill O’Brien (second season)
Key arrivals: QB Brock Osweiler, OG Jeff Allen, RB Lamar Miller, C Tony Bergstrom,
Key departures: OG Brandon Brooks, C Ben Jones, DE Jared Crick, QB Brian Hoyer, FS Rahim Moore
1. How good is Brock Osweiler?
The Texans sure hope he’s good. They paid him a crazy amount of money banking on the fact that he’s good, even though he has started just seven games in his NFL career.
Osweiler was serviceable during his tenure with the Denver Broncos, but by no means did he sparkle and shine. Completing 61.8 percent of his passes last year (far from outstanding), he averaged just 7.2 yards per attempt and threw 10 touchdowns with six interceptions.
On the surface, these are the type of numbers you’d expect from an average NFL starter. But Houston is counting on Osweiler to be far better than average. If the franchise was content with average, then Brian Hoyer would still be the starter.
The Texans have been impressed with Osweiler’s work ethic and approach throughout the offseason and into the summer. But it remains to be seen if he’s worth the $18 million per year they signed him for, and if he can do any better than his predecessors in Houston.
2. Can Lamar Miller carry the load?
Osweiler isn’t the only new face on offense. The Texans said good-bye to Arian Foster and brought in Miller to be his replacement. Ironically, Foster is lined up to be Miller’s replacement in Miami.
This sets up an interesting sub-plot for both teams in 2016.
Miami never gave Miller the chance to be the bell cow back he wants to be. He is eager to prove he’s capable of carrying the load.
“I want to be a featured back,” Miller said, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald in February. “… I want the recognition I deserve.”
During his tenure with the Dolphins, the running back showed incredible burst, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, but averaged just 10.5 rushing attempts per game — an odd set of numbers, to be sure.
He’s been given 20-plus carries in a game just twice in his first four seasons. You’d expect that number to increase this upcoming season. But will that translate to gaudy production?
3. Is Jadeveon Clowney a bust?
Already heading into the first weekend of preseason football, Clowney is being held out of action due to some knee soreness.
As one, Texans fans will be rolling their eyes at this news, because the outside linebacker has proven to be injury-prone heading into his third campaign. During Clowney’s first two seasons, he missed 15 games and made only 11 starts.
During his time on the field, the talented defender has flashed the traits that led to Houston taking him No. 1 overall in 2014. In total, however, he’s teetering ever closer to being labeled a bust, totaling just 4.5 sacks in his early career.
If he continues to get injured and cannot produce on the field, then Houston will have to find production on the edge elsewhere — both this year and in the future.
Jaelen Strong, wide receiver
After catching just 14 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns last year, Strong is set to become an integral part of Houston’s aerial assault in 2016.
Currently slated to play opposite star receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the starting lineup, the former Arizona State stud has been wowing coaches this summer.
It helps that he showed up in shape this year. He received plenty of criticism from his head coach last season for failing in this regard.
Jaelen Strong reported in optimal condition, has lost a ton of weight since a year ago when he was overweight and sluggish. Looks quick
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) July 31, 2016
A high-volume receiver during his playing days at ASU, Strong should be one of a few young receivers to make their mark this year. Provided, of course, that Osweiler also makes his.
REASON FOR OPTIMISM
The offense looks really darn impressive on paper. In addition to Osweiler and Miller, the Texans drafted Will Fuller and Braxton Miller to make a difference in the passing game. They also drafted center Nick Martin out of Notre Dame to lead their offensive line into the future after letting Brandon Brooks and Ben Jones walk in free agency.
Defensively, you have to believe J.J. Watt will be back sooner, rather than later, after offseason back surgery. He leads one of the league’s top units on this side of the ball that has a chance every game to keep the Texans in it, even if the offense is stinking up the joint.
And heck, if Clowney can ever stay healthy, he should be amazing playing opposite Whitney Mercilus, who tallied 12 sacks in a breakout 2015 campaign of his own.
REASON TO DOUBT
What if Osweiler stinks? What then? Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden ain’t scaring anybody. Heck, Tim Tebow might have a better shot at winning games than those two.
And as scary as it sounds, nobody should be tremendously shocked if the Osweiler experiment fails. He just hasn’t been tested yet.
And what if Watt’s body is done being magnificent? What if this back surgery is the beginning of the end for the all-world defender? He recently made it clear he’s not looking to exactly play the game until he breaks down.
Still, there’s plenty to be excited about. We’re betting on a decent year for Houston.
Prediction: 9-7, tied for second place in AFC South