3 main X-Factors for the Houston Texans in 2019
The Houston Texans have taken leaps-and-bounds to become a legitimate playoff contender. They have an elite defense led by J.J. Watt, and on the other side of the ball sits one of the best quarterback-wide receiver duos in the NFL. But, despite their abundance of star power, the team has failed to win a post-season game since their divisional loss against the Patriots in 2016.
The Texans will live and die by their stars — the group of Watt, Deshaun Watson, and DeAndre Hopkins has totaled nine Pro-Bowl appearances and seven All-Pro nods. But, for them to take the next step to be Super Bowl contenders, each of these three X-Factors will need to show up and perform.
3. Jadeveon Clowney’s Contract
This is as simple as it gets; the Texans need to sign Jadeveon Clowney to a long-term deal. As of right now, that hasn’t happened, as he is sitting on the franchise tagged. But, the star edge-rusher hasn’t signed it. Instead of playing year-to-year, Clowney wants to be locked up long-term.
Although Clowney hasn’t quite been what the Texans hoped for when they drafted him at No. 1 overall, he’s a transcendent talent. Clowney, admittingly, has injury issues, but the Texans can’t let a 26-year-old three-time Pro Bowler walk out the door. Luckily, with $41 million in available cap space, the Texans shouldn’t have a financial problem locking him up. General manager Brian Gaine needs to close the gap between negotiations.
2. The New-Look Secondary
Tyrann Mathieu is gone, so is Kareem Jackson, Andre Hal, and Kevin Johnson. But is that a bad thing? Johnson is, by all means, a bust. Jackson is more of a box safety than cornerback — he performed well during his 2018 contract year, but that’s not a new trend. Hal is a reliable free safety, but he’s not game-changing. As for Mathieu, he’s energetic, passionate, and brings star power, but he had his fair share of blown coverages toward the end of the 2018 season.
To fill the void of losing four defensive backs, the Texans added two veteran safeties, two cornerbacks, and drafted two more. Tashaun Gipson should fill in well as a “tight end stopper” for Mathieu/Jackson alongside Justin Reid; the budding star of the secondary. Jahleel Addae should prove to be solid depth behind the two. As for the cornerbacks, the team drafted Lonnie Johnson and Xavier Crawford — two big-bodied defenders that fit their press-man profile.
That’s a lot of revolving talents. And that doesn’t include the additions of Bradley Roby and Briean Boddy-Calhoun — two under-27 talents with a history of solid play. Though Johnathan Joseph is still hanging around, you can bet that the team will rely heavily on young cornerbacks.
1. The Offensive Line
Deshaun Watson has been impressive since the team drafted him in 2017. He’s formed a formidable duo with All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins, but his team holds him back as much as they benefit him. Since he’s first stepped onto an NFL playing field, he’s dealt with a copious amount of pressure. In just 23 career games, the Clemson product has been sacked 81 times.
The Texans’ poorly performing offensive line doesn’t just hold Watson back as a passer; it’s also led to some significant injuries. Since entering the league, the QB has torn an ACL, bruised a lung, and injured a rib.
In 2018, the Texans starting line (Julie’n Davenport, Senio Kelemete, Nick Martin, Zach Fulton, and Kendall Lamm) had a cumulative average 57.8 Pro Football Focus — a shockingly low number. To the dismay of their fanbase, the team didn’t go after any big-fish offensive linemen in free agency. But, there is hope for better play in 2019.
The Texans didn’t shy away from adding big, physical offensive linemen in the draft. Their rookie linemen Tytus Howard and Max Scharping may have been reaches at their draft slots, but both were consistent pass-blocking aces during their respective college careers. However, hoping that either will shore up the offensive line is wishful thinking. For Watson to blossom, he’ll need both his veteran and rookie blockers to impress and progress.