The hardest part of building an NFL franchise is finding a quarterback, just look at the preview directly before this one on the list. A great team loaded with talent can become unraveled by a quarterback who is not capable of keeping the offense moving, and there are only so many top end quarterbacks out there.
The Houston Texans seem to have done the hardest part first. They landed an absolute star in the 2017 draft when they nabbed Deshaun Watson in the first round. Watson is star, a weapon, a playmaker who can take over every game when he is on.
Houston seems to understand how great their quarterback is, but they seem to be relying on him too much. One man can only get you so far, and (as many of you Lions fans know) it is hard for a quarterback without a great team around him to take the team the distance.
Watson can take this team far, but could the Texans be hoping for too much from their star quarterback?
The NFL season is almost upon us! Over the next few weeks I will be previewing each of the 32 NFL teams, and ranking them 1-32 as to how likely I believe they are to win Super Bowl LV. This week we continue the list with teams on the fringe of the playoff conversation.
16. Houston Texans
Watson is great. He has 52 touchdowns in the past two seasons, along with only 21 interceptions. The quarterback has also totaled just under 1,000 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in his two years as a full-time NFL starter. In 2019, he even got his first playoff win.
There are problems almost everywhere else, though. Star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was traded to the Arizona Cardinals after the team did not want to extend him. This leaves the receiving corps with the oft-injured Will Fuller, the also oft-injured Brandin Cooks, the aging Randall Cobb, Kenny Stills and Keke Coutee. You may have noticed the similarities here. All of these players—sans Coutee, who will likely play the smallest role—are speed threats. While it is nice to do everything you can to maximize Watson’s big play ability, it also leaves the weapons with a lack of variety.
The team’s running back situation feels redundant as well. David Johnson and Duke Johnson are both aging running backs on the backside of their prime. Both are at a point in their careers where they are better off as a third down back, but there is only one third down. Johnson is likely to be the main guy, but he is well past the point where he can be the best running back on a team with a functional run game.
On defense, the secondary is terrible. Bradley Roby, Vernon Hargreaves and Gareon Conley are a 1-2-3 of cornerback draft busts. Justin Reid looks like a great safety only two years into his career, but he is not quite the guy who can make up for all of the failures of the other guys.
The front-seven may be great, on the other hand. Even without D.J. Reader—who signed a lucrative deal with the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason—they still have potential to be a game-wrecking defensive front. If J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus can stay healthy, they are still among the best pass rushers in the game. Unfortunately, neither has done a very good job staying on the field in recent years.
Behind them is Zach Cunningham, one of the up-and-coming stars of the NFL. The linebacker came into his own in 2019, proving to be an elite run defender and coverage linebacker. If he stays at that level, Houston has stumbled onto another defensive stud.
Both the offense and defense have some things to look forwards to, but not nearly enough to really compete. If Houston is to finally compete for a Super Bowl this year, they will need Watson to do the extraordinary and then some. Watson is certainly a man capable of the job, but can he do enough?