The Houston Texans followed up back-to-back AFC South titles with a clunker in 2017. What can Bill O’Brien’s club do this offseason to rebound?
Dating back to 2011, the Houston Texans have won four division titles in seven seasons. The franchise has also finished dead last in the AFC South twice over that span, including this past year. Devastated by injuries to numerous key players, Bill O’Brien’s shorthanded club lost its final six contests and wound up with a disappointing 4-12 record.
As we have seen in this league, going from last place to winning a division title isn’t all that uncommon. And this is a Houston club that has shown that when it is healthy, it is very much a playoff contender. When you lose defensive stars such as end J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Whitney Merclius in the same game and electrifying rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson is lost in November with a torn ACL suffered in practice, the words snake bitten comes to mind.
So what does this Texans’ team need to do to get back in contention? Let us count the ways.
5. Address depth at running back
In 2016, the Houston Texans signed former Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller to a four-year, $26 million contract. The young performer has been an efficient player these past two seasons, totaling a combined 1,961 yards on the ground and eight touchdowns to go along with 67 receptions for 515 yards and four scores. It adds up to 2,476 yards from scrimmage and a dozen visits to the end zone in 30 regular-season outings.
Miller is backed up by 2017 rookie D’Onta Foreman, who finished second on the club with 327 yards on the ground and two scores. He needs to be a bigger factor in terms of taking carries from Miller. The Texans would also be wide to bring back physical runner Alfred Blue. In four seasons, he’s accumulated a surprising 2,224 scrimmage yards and eight touchdowns. But he’s coming off a year in which he played in a career-low 11 games. Will the club allow him to test free agency in March?
All told, the Texans managed to average nearly just as many rushing yards per game this past season (115.1) as they did in ’16 (116.2). But this past season that number was aided by quarterback Deshaun Watson. Hence, bringing back Blue would be a wise move indeed.