2013 NFL season preview: Houston Texans

The Texans can’t get over the hump. They’ve won a wild-card game and then went on to lose in the divisional round in each of the past two seasons. Will things finally change in 2013? Do the Texans finally have the team that can lead them to the promise land? If not this year, then when? The Texans need to answer the bell.

Offense:

If DeAndre Hopkins becomes an impactful No.2 receiver like I expect him to be, Matt Schaub could be in for a very good season. Like many of NFL teams, the Texans’ performance relies heavy on their QB. Matt Schaub is simply just a good QB. He’s gotten by on this team’s playmakers. If Houston wants to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, Schaub must take his game to the next level. But, I find it hard to believe Schaub will all of a sudden become elite.

Arian Foster is the workhorse of the Texans. Foster recorded the most touchdowns in the league last year with 17. Foster’s vision is his best quality; he follows his blockers better than any running back in the NFL. He’s not the most physically gifted running back, but his awareness and football smarts make him a great player. Ben Tate can be very productive off the bench. In 2011, Tate averaged over 5 yards per carry. Tate could be a starter on many NFL teams. Tate brings very good speed combined with nice power. I’d like to see the Texans call more outside runs when Tate is in the backfield.

The Texans have long had one of the best wide receivers in the game in Andre Johnson. The problem is they have never had a good No.2 receiver to take some pressure off Johnson. The Texans selected WR DeAndre Hopkins in the first round of the 2013 draft. Hopkins is by far the best wide receiver out of the 2013 draft. He’s also my pick for offensive rookie of the year. Hopkins could turn this offense into a scary good one. Keshawn Martin will likely be the team’s slot receiver. The Texans have a solid group of tight ends; Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham bring a lot to the table.

Center Chris Meyers is one of the best in the business. He is the best pass blocking center in the league. Meyers is also one of the most agile offensive lineman you’ll see in the NFL. Left tackle Duane Brown is also one of the best in the league at his position. Brown only gave up 4 sacks in the entire 2012 season. At LG, Wade Smith is also a quality starter. The right side of the line isn’t as stable as the left side. Ben Jones and Brandon Brooks rotated at right guard last season. As of now, Brooks is projected to be the starter. Brooks is a dominant run blocker. RT Derek Newton was awful last season, but he isn’t without potential. Newton will battle rookie Brennan Williams for the starting right tackle position

Grade: B+

Defense:

The Texans defense hosts the 2012 defensive player of the year J.J. Watt. Watt played, perhaps the best year any 3-4 defensive end has ever had. Watt racked up 20.5 sacks in 2012. He also knocked down 16 passes at the line of scrimmage. He’s also fantastic against the run. Plus, he played the entire season with an injured elbow. I can’t imagine him slowing down. Antonio Smith plays opposite of Watt and is a good run stopper. Earl Mitchell is expected to assume the starting nose tackle spot.

Inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton finished the 2012 season on injured reserve. He isn’t anything special but he can bring help in run defense. ILB Brian Cushing also saw his season cut short due to injury. Cushing was playing great in 2012 until his injury. Cushing is in line for a very special season. Whitney Mercilus will become the starting weak side linebacker. Mercilus record 6 sacks last season. Brooks Reed is likely to be the starting strong side linebacker.

The Texans signed veteran safety Ed Reed this offseason. The Texans are hoping to eliminate more deep ball completions. CB Jonathan Joseph is the star of this secondary. Joseph is the definition of a shutdown corner. The other starting corner, Kareem Jackson is coming off the best season of his career. And of course, the Texans will have playmaking Danieal Manning at strong safety.

Grade: B

Special Teams:

For the second season in a row, the Texans will have a new kicker and punter. The Texans signed former Raiders punter Shane Lechler, and Randy Bullock will take over kicking duties. Keyshawn Martin is expected to be fielding kicks and punts.

Grade: C

Final Thoughts:

I don’t believe the Texans have the right quarterback to lead them to the promise land, but then again, many did not think Joe Flacco was a Super Bowl caliber quarterback. If the Texans are going to strike, it must come soon. In fact, if DeAndre Hopkins pans out like I expect him to, the Texans may finally have all the pieces in place to win it all. The Texans are easily going to be one of the most interesting teams to watch in 2013.

Overall Grade: B