The 2020 offseason has been a strange one for Houston Texans fans.
Bill O’Brien traded star wideout DeAndre Hopkins, in part because Hopkins (rightfully) wanted a raise. The return? An oft-injured running back in David Johnson, along with future draft considerations.
Knowing the team needed added talent in the receiving corps, O’Brien then signed veteran Randall Cobb and traded a second-round pick in exchange for Brandin Cooks and his massive salary.
To top it all off, the Texans made left tackle the richest offensive tackle–by far–in football with a three-year, $66 million extension.
Lane Johnson was the highest-paid offensive tackle at $18 million per year. Tunsil takes that title at $22 million per. Yowza. https://t.co/aLRbGKHScd
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) April 24, 2020
Much of the focus was on the offensive side of the football.
After all, Hopkins is arguably the best receiver in the game, and O’Brien seems to contradict himself with each new personnel decision. There is also a concern as to how the team will protect its future investment in quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Yet, the most glaring holes are still on defense. The Texans ranked 26th in defensive DVOA last season, per Football Outsiders. What did they do to address those deficiencies? Just about nothing.
Weaknesses at corner
The Texans ranked 26th in passing DVOA last year, and have pretty consistently been exposed for a shortage of quality depth in the secondary.
But Houston did not do much to upgrade the secondary, especially at the corner spot.
The biggest move was re-signing Bradley Roby to a three-year, $36 million contract. Roby is a decent cover corner, but he missed six games in 2019 and had previously been burned for seven touchdowns in 2018. Was he worth that kind of investment when the Texans could have explored other options on the market for a similar price?
Other than Roby, the Texans also re-signed Phillip Gaines–who made just two starts last season–and signed Vernon Hargreaves III, Jaylen Watkins and Michael Thomas. They drafted just one corner–John Reid out of Penn State–in the fourth round.
Hargreaves struggles in coverage, and most of Watkins’ experience comes at safety. The same can be said for Thomas.
Additionally, Houston mutually agreed to part ways with veteran Jonathan Joseph, a staple both in the secondary and the locker room.
It will be a lot to ask Roby and the new additions to raise their level of play, given past history and limited starting experience.
Will the pass rush help?
One way to mask issues in the secondary is having an elite pass rush. But that remains to be seen for the Texans.
Houston inexplicably allowed defensive tackle D.J. Reader to walk in free agency. They drafted former TCU lineman Ross Blacklock as his potential successor, but Blacklock faces a tall task.
Moreover, the Texans are placing a lot of faith in J.J. Watt to stay healthy. Watt is one of the best players in football when healthy, but has missed 16 games over the course of the last four years.
If Watt is healthy, he and Whitney Mercilus can pressure the quarterback and give Houston’s corners some breathing room. If not, it is likely opposing quarterbacks will continue to roast the Texans secondary.