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Houston Texans 2023 NFL Season Preview: Live and Die by C.J. Stroud

As teams begin heading to training camp and the NFL season approaches, The 33rd Team asks its experts to preview every team's outlook for the 2023 season. In this installment, Charles Davis takes a deep dive into the Houston Texans.

>>READ: Texans Fantasy Football Preview

Texans Team Preview

What To Know: Offense

The Texans' biggest storyline on offense is twofold.

One is a makeover or solidification, whatever word you want to use. They re-signed Laremy Tunsil at left tackle, and Tytus Howard is back at right tackle. Looking inside, Kenyon Green was drafted last year, and the Texans need him to play to his potential. Shaq Mason, who's always moved people off the ball, comes in now after spending a little bit of time in Tampa Bay. But Houston also starts Juice Scruggs, a rookie second-rounder out of Penn State. We'll see how that goes up front.

But let's be honest about it. The Texans are going to live and die with how C.J. Stroud, the rookie quarterback out of Ohio State, does right out of the gate. Yes, he's in a quarterback competition with Davis Mills, and Case Keenum is back. But we all know Houston is going to give Stroud every opportunity to be its quarterback. And the team should.

What To Know: Defense

Over the last couple of years, this franchise has drafted well and added components to its defense. Now the Texans need to see that start to come to fruition.

Jalen Pitre, the rookie safety from last year, played really well for most of the season but missed too many tackles. If he cleans that up, he's got a chance to be an All-Pro. Houston also has CB Derek Stingley, who was drafted one pick ahead of the Jets’ Sauce Gardner, and the Texans need Stingley to play up to that potential and show why they took him ahead of Gardner.

And last but not least, they drafted LB Will Anderson and gave up a lot in order to get into that position to draft him third overall, one pick after Stroud. Anderson must play up to that potential, as well.

Bottom line: The Texans want to play like a Demeco Ryans defense needs to play. And he'll put his stamp on the teams from the head coach's chair, too.

Biggest Off-Field Storyline

The biggest off-field storyline for the Texans is their new coach, Ryans, who is going to understand players like few coaches do because he was a Pro Bowl player himself at one point for Houston.

He is a defensive-minded head coach, and he's going to have to mesh with a rookie quarterback. How will that go? Look at the other two top quarterbacks in this past year's draft. Anthony Richardson went to Indianapolis where coach Shane Steichen came from an offensive coordinator's role. And Bryce Young went to Carolina at the top of the draft where coach Frank Reich, who calls the plays and is an offensive-minded head coach, is meshing with his team's rookie quarterback.

Now in Houston, you've got a defensive coach trying to mesh with a rookie quarterback. How will that work for the Texans? I think pretty well.

Breakout Player Prediction

Houston's breakout player has to be Stingley, the cornerback who the team took at No. 3 in the draft in 2022.

Stingley didn't play poorly in 2022, but he had some injuries, didn't play the full season and Gardner was a supernova in the New York area. So the Texans need Stingley to jump up there and show exactly why they took him.

We all remember his freshman year at LSU when the Tigers won a national championship, and he was the best defensive player on that team as a true freshman. We want to see more of that out of Stingley.

Now I'm going to give you one wild card, as well — one we're all rooting for: John Metchie III, the wide receiver out of Alabama who missed his rookie season due to leukemia. He's back with a clean bill of health. I would love to see him break out this year and have a monster season.

2023 Season Expectations

The expectations for the Texans as a team are going to be low. I'm not about to say that they are going to be the super surprise of 2023 and impress by making the playoffs. But when they evaluate themselves after the season, what they're going to want to see are flashes.

They're going to want to see this team start to become their new head coach's team. They'll want to take some teams in their division to the limit. They won't be favored, nor should they be.

But are they truly that far behind everyone else? I don't think so.

They're going to want to show some of that, as well, and pick off one or two of their divisional opponents along the way.

By the end of the year, they're going to want to say they've solidified — now — as a franchise, as an organization that's moving in the right direction and does not need to pick a fourth head coach in four seasons.

NFC East: DAL | NYG  | PHI | WAS

AFC East: BUF | MIA | NE  | NYJ

NFC North: GB | CHI | DET | MIN

AFC North: PIT | CLE | BAL | CIN 

AFC West: KC | LAC | LV | DEN

NFC West: SF | SEA | LAR | ARI

NFC South: TB | CAR | NO | ATL

AFC South: JAX | TEN | IND

Charles Davis is an NFL analyst for CBS and NFL Network. He joined the sports media world after playing safety at the University of Tennessee.