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So much for the heady offseason notion that Houston was primed and ready to step up in weight class this season and start punching with the heavyweights of the NFL. If ever first place in your division felt like a distinct disappointment, meet the 2016 Texans, who are 3-2 and proving themselves eminently capable of finishing a mediocre 9-7 for the third consecutive year.
Overmatched is the only word that really fit Houston’s 31-13 loss at Minnesota on Sunday, as the 5-0 Vikings toyed with Bill O’Brien’s club, rolling up a 24-6 halftime lead before seeming to lose interest in the final 30 minutes. If this was a measuring stick game for the Texans, you guessed it, they didn’t remotely begin to measure up.
The Texans came out of the first half up 14-3 on the Lions, which is good. However, at the end of the first half, Houston had just 10 men on the field and had to burn a time out, which is bad. This is a fundamental breakdown in communication that really shouldn’t happen, and O’Brien made sure his special teams coaches knew it.
HOUSTON — There have been enough significant changes within the Houston Texans jerseys that it’s time for a crucial reality check. Yes, they have a new look in the offensive backfield with quarterback Brock Osweiler jersey and running back Lamar Miller jersey arriving through free agency. The draft also produced a couple speedy receivers with exciting potential. But the Texans still will be driven by the force and ferocity of their defense. Of that, there should be no question.
This is an important point to remember as the excitement builds around the possibilities for the Texans. They made improving their offense a major focus and Osweiler’s decision to leave the reigning Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos dropped plenty of jaws around the league. General manager Rick Smith and cheap jerseys and head coach Bill O’Brien wanted an offense that could be more dynamic. What they also needed was more help for a defense that should make this team a serious contender.
After picking a wide receiver in round one, Bill O’Brien and company kept their foot on the gas, making the electric Miller the 85th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Buckeyes now have more players selected in the first three rounds (9) than any team in NFL Draft history.
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Miller ran the ball 43 times for 261 yards and a touchdown during his senior season. He also caught 25 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns. Miller, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, was a possibility for the Texans in round two as well. The team has been in a desperate search to complement wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in a new, revamped Texans offense.
It was evident, however, that he failed to gain the full trust of the coaching staff and front office. Benched three quarters into the first game of the season, Hoyer was on a short leash the rest of the way, overseeing an offense that was overly reliant on gadget plays. After Hoyer’s meltdown in the Wild Card Round loss to the Chiefs, owner Bob McNair essentially mandated that he be replaced at quarterback.
Rapoport told Dan Hellie of NFL Total Access late last month that Hoyer was expected to be on the Broncos’ list of potential targets after losing Osweiler. In a holding pattern with free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Jets are also believed to be interested.
It’s hard to place the weight of this statement on one person, but the major difference between this year’s team and last year’s team is the presence of a potential Pro Bowl quarterback. The Texans are giving Brock Osweiler every chance to be great in this offense, and his first test comes this Sunday against the Chicago Bears.
A quick look at the Texans’ schedule shows no real relief out of the gate. Outside of a potentially-bad Bears team, Houston hosts the same Chiefs team that blew them out in the playoffs a year ago before traveling to New England. Games against a better Titans team and the Vikings on the road follow.