Written By: Jack Bourgeois
The 2018 AFC South Division winning Houston Texans are coming off a season in which they improved practically every statistical category possible. From 2017 to 2018, the team increased their win total by 7 games, their point differential (+184), and their scoring defense went from 32nd to 4th in the league. It was a massive turnaround, but after being booted in the first round of the playoffs by the team’s division rival Indianapolis Colts, it’s hard to consider Houston’s 2018 season a success. An improvement? Yes! But a success? No! The Texans were in Super Bowl-or-bust mode and should continue to be, especially while the team has QB Deshaun Watson on a rookie deal. That said, protecting their star QB had to be the team’s biggest priority this offseason; even more so than signing Jadeveon Clowney to a long-term deal. Watson was sacked 62 times and hit another 133 in 2018, the most sacked QB in the league. Now as good of a quarterback as Watson is, his career could be in jeopardy if the Texans offensive line continues to struggle like they did last season.
Bradley Roby, CB
Tashaun Gipson, FS
Briean Boddy-Calhoun, S
Darren Fells, TE
A.J. McCarron, QB
Matt Kalil, OT
Kareem Jackson, CB
Tyrann Mathieu, S
Christian Covington, DT
Kendall Lamm, RT
Alfred Blue, RB
Andre Hal, S
Now, subtracting a stud “do-it-all” type safety like Tyrann Mathieu is not how you get better on the back end of your defense. The team went on to sign veteran safety Tashaun Gipson, as well as a versatile defensive back in Briean Boddy-Calhoun. Houston signed the two at half the price of the Honey Badger, using a value-based approach that allows the team to spread out the spending and using their cap space wisely. The aging CB Kareem Jackson was let go and replaced with a younger, more talented Bradley Roby, who’s somewhat of an upgrade but by no means a #1 corner.
Houston also brought in OT Matt Kalil, who missed all of 2018 due to a knee injury sustained during the preseason last year. Any “body” is better than no “body” and Kalil brings 8 years of NFL experience to Houston, but his resume isn’t anything to get excited about. The former Viking has teetered between a turnstile and NFL starting caliber tackle his entire career. Either way, he’s a veteran who could play both tackle and guard (if needed) and brings both competition and depth to the league’s worst O-line.
R1, #23: Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State
R2, #54: Lonnie Johnson Jr., CB, Kentucky
R2, #55: Max Scharping, OL, Northern Illinois
R3, #86: Kahale Warring, TE, San Diego State
R5, #161: Charles Omenihu, DE, Texas
R6, #195: Xavier Crawford, CB, Central Michigan
R7, #220: Cullen Gillaspia, RB, Texas A&M
It goes without saying that all 31 other teams, their fan bases, analysts, writers... hell a blind man could see who the Texans were targeting from a mile away. So when the Philadelphia Eagles jumped one spot ahead of the Texans in order to select left tackle prospect, Andre Dillard, they were completely caught with their pants down. The fact that this happened shows why teams hold their cards so close to their chest, but there probably wasn’t a more glaring, blatantly obvious, no brainer team need than Houston’s O-line in the first. This affected the team’s entire draft, and they were forced to reach on a small school stand out in Alabama State’s Tytus Howard, who most had a 2nd to 3rd-round grade on. The Texans then went on to double down at the tackle position, taking Northern Illinois’s Max Scharping, who although is very raw, has a ton of potential. One pick prior to that, Houston took a position of need in Kentucky cornerback Lonnie Johnson. He’s another super raw prospect that’s a better athlete than a football player. Johnson has all the physical traits needed to succeed in the NFL but lacks the skill-set required to be an immediate impact player on a defense in desperate need of playmakers in the secondary.
The Texans have continued to address the tight end position in the middle rounds of the draft over the past few years. San Diego State’s Kahale Warring is a basketball/water polo player turned TE. He’s a tremendous blend of size, fluid athleticism, and unpolished traits, which amounts to a very high ceiling/low floor prospect, but the upside is undeniable. In the 4th, the team selected their best value based pick in local boy and Longhorn standout DE Charles Omenihu, who will add depth and starting potential to an already stout defensive line. And not to mention, a possible replacement for Jadeveon Clowney if the two parties can’t strike an extension. The Texans’ 6th round selection CB Xavier Crawford played opposite of 2nd round standout Sean Bunting at Central Michigan and will add depth to a depleted secondary. Houston proceeded to finish off the draft by fulfilling a promise they made to Texas A&M’s 12th man and fullback Cullen Gillaspia. He plays like a man possessed and is what scouts call a 100/100 player. “100 miles per hour, 100% of the time” but will likely have an uphill battle to make the roster. Honestly, the Texans likely blew this draft; they reached on too many raw prospects and didn’t play the board well at all in terms of value.
Draft Grade: D+
Houston came into this offseason with plenty of cap space and two glaring needs -- the offensive line and the secondary. Instead of solidifying these positions by pennying up and bringing in proven comedities, the team decided to supplement their weaknesses with rookies and mid-level talent. Barring a Matt Kalil resurgence or the team’s two rookie tackles proving several draft analysts and scouts wrong, the front office is setting up Watson for another year of punishment.If the O-line doesn’t improve, the Texans will certainly struggle to repeat as Division Champions. This isn’t to say that Houston isn’t stacked with talent on both sides of the ball. If Will Fuller can stay healthy, the combination of himself, Deandre Hopkins, and Keke Coutee equals one of the best receiving trio’s in the league. And as long as the defense has J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus rushing the passer, they’re going to have a top ranked defense regardless of who’s playing in the secondary.
Let’s not forget that after starting off the season 0-3, the Texans proceeded to go on a 9-game winning streak and finished the season on an 11-2 run. If not for Indy’s stellar past two offseasons, the Texans would likely be the AFC South favorites, but between the improved Jaguars, Titans, and Colts, Houston will likely be fighting for a wildcard spot in 2019. It’s simply too hard to comprehend or even imagine two small school rookie offensive linemen being the impact players Houston needs them to be this upcoming season.
Projected 2019 Record: 9-7 (Wild Card #5 Playoff Seed)
Overall Offseason Grade: C-