The Houston Texans will once again be starting a new season with a new Head Coach. Lovie Smith takes over for David Culley, who previously took over for Bill O’Brien in 2021. Smith was hired last year as the Associate Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator after being fired as the Head Coach at Illinois with a 2-5 record in a Covid-shortened season.
In 2021, the Texans had to manage a quarterback situation in which Deshaun Watson was accused of assault in 24 civil lawsuits filed by women and never played a game (Watson refused to play and requested a trade). Already in a roster rebuild, the Texans now lost their franchise quarterback and turned to veteran Tyrod Taylor and 3rd round pick Davis Mills out of Stanford to lead the QB room.
After rotating starts due to injuries, Mills was announced the starter for the rest of the year before the Week 13 game against the Seahawks. In those final 5 games, Mills led the Texans with a 2-3 record and averaged 7.1 yards per attempt, good for 14th among QBs with at least 100 pass attempts during that timespan. The Texans need to use this rebuilding season to maximize Mills’ opportunities and evaluate if he can become the Texans franchise QB.
To maximize those opportunities, the Texans offensive line will need to give Mills enough time to make decisions. Surprisingly, the Texans ranked 11th in Pass Blocking Total Points with 89. They also added guards A.J. Cann via free agency and Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green with the 15th overall pick in the draft, who will look to provide stability to this unit.
An upgrade in the running game could certainly help Mills settle into the offense as well. In 2021, the Texans ranked last in the NFL in yards per attempt with 3.4 and their leading rusher was Rex Burkhead, who amassed only 427 yards on 122 attempts. The running game was supported by (or not supported by) the worst run blocking offensive line in the NFL in terms of Run Blocking Total Points with 59. The additions of Green and Cann, as well as veteran running back Marlon Mack, will hopefully help alleviate some pressure off of Mills when running the offense.
The Texans pass catchers fared well in 2021 and will look to continue to get better in 2022. Their 76 receiving Total Points ranked 14th last year, while their drop percentage was the lowest in the NFL at 3%. Veteran Brandin Cooks led the Texans with 134 targets for 1,037 yards, Nico Collins will look to take a step forward in his second season and fill the now-retired Danny Amendola’s spot as WR2.
Nico Collins Key 2021 Stats
|Yards Per Route Run||1.3||110th|
|EPA per Target||-0.09||122nd|
Defensively, the Texans had one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. Their 60 Pass Rush Total Points and 74 Pass Coverage Total Points ranked 30th and 29th in the NFL, respectively. To address these issues, the Texans drafted LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. with the 3rd overall pick and Baylor safety Jalen Pitre in the second round of the draft. However, they did not do anything to address their pass rushing woes. This will put a tremendous amount of pressure on a young secondary in an AFC loaded with QB talent.
Overall, the Texans are very much in rebuild mode. The goal of this season is to determine if they have a quarterback of the future in Mills and some pieces to build around in future drafts. Smith will need to provide these players with the opportunities to make plays in positive situations for proper evaluation. It is all about looking into the future as this Houston Texans team begins the 2022 season.