2018 was the first time Bill O’Brien had a double-digit win season as the Houston Texans finished 11-5, winning the AFC South Division in the process. They ended up losing to division rival Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card but it was still a successful season.

Deshaun Watson came back from his torn ACL, throwing for 4,165 yards, 29 touchdowns, and only nine interceptions. The only problem was that the offensive line gave up a league-high 65 sacks, which is not good if you want to keep your stat QB healthy.

Outside of Watson, guys like DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller had successful Pro Bowl seasons while the defense was stellar with guys like J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Bendardick McKinney, Whitney Mercelius, and then-rookie Justin Reid provided star power on the defensive side of the ball.

The main thing Houston needed to do was find guys to protect Watson. They did just that by drafting Alabama State Tackle Tytus Howard and Northern Illinois Tackle Max Sharping in the first two rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft. Outside of that, they let longtime corner Kareem Jackson sign with the Denver Broncos while signing former Bronco Bradley Roby. They also recently traded a third round pick to the Cleveland Browns for Running Back Duke Johnson Jr. to help out in the backfield.

Before my predictions on the season, here are the position breakdowns for the Houston Texans.

Quarterbacks

Credit: Shanna Lockwood/USA Today Sports
  • Starter: Deshaun Watson
  • Backups: A.J. McCarron, Joe Webb III
  • Preseason Cuts: Jordan Ta’amu

We have seen what Watson can do for the past two seasons. He is a star but Houston really needs to protect their franchise QB after giving up 65 sack last season. Before Watson, the team went through many different starting quarterbacks. They need to protect him, it is that simple.

McCarron is a solid backup QB while I have Webb making the roster as he is also a contributor on Special Teams as well as playing some wide receiver when needed. If your third QB has the ability to pay multiple positions, why not keep him?

Running Backs

Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
  • Starter: Lamar Miller
  • Backups: Duke Johnson Jr., Taiwan Jones, Cullen Gillaspia
  • Preseason Cuts: Damarea Crockett, Josh Ferguson, Karan Higdon Jr., Buddy Howell

Miller has been a solid running back during his three-year stint in Houston, earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2018. He’ll continue to have the majority of the carries in 2019. Johnson was recently acquired from the Cleveland Browns and provides a spark in the offense as a solid pass catcher out of the backfield.

Jones has been a solid Special Teamer since 2011 and looks to continue his role with his new team this season. Gillaspia was drafted in the 7th round and makes the team here when Houston uses a fullback in certain plays. Undrafted Rookie Crockett has a chance to make a roster and even scored a touchdown during the first preseason game. If they want to keep an additional running back, he could be the first guy to look at. If not, look for him to land on the practice squad.

Wide Receivers

Credit: David J. Phillip/Associated Press
  • Starters: DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller V, Keke Coutee
  • Backups: Chad Hansen, DeAndre Carter, Vyncint Smith
  • Preseason Cuts: Floyd Allen, Johnnie Dixon, Tyron Johnson, Stephen Louis, Steven Mitchell Jr., Jester Weah
  • Out for the Year: Isaac Whitney

Even without a stable QB, Hopkins was great. Now that he has a stable QB in Watson, he only has gotten better. With 7,437 career yards and 47 touchdowns in only six seasons, it is safe to say he is one of if not the best WRs in the league. Fuller and Coutee, when healthy, are perfect complements to Hopkins, with Fuller providing the speed and Coutee being a solid slot receiver.

The backup positions are wide open and very young. I have Hansen, Carter, and Smith making the team and could get some look in different formations and could play some spot duty if any of the starters get hurt.

Tight Ends

Credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images
  • Starter: Jordan Akins
  • Backups: Jordan Thomas, Darren Fells, Kahale Warring
  • Preseason Cuts: Jerell Adams

Outside of Fells, the tight end group is young here. Akins and Thomas will get a lot of looks as solid blockers and receivers while Fells is a solid all-around player that provides a veteran presence. Warring, a third-round rookie, has a lot of potential to be a starter down the line.

Offensive Line

Credit: Dylan Buell, Stringer/Getty Images
  • Starters: Tytus Howard, Senio Kelemete, Nick Martin, Martinas Rankin, Seantrel Henderson
  • Backups: Julie’n Davenport, Max Scharping, Greg Mancz,  Zach Fulton
  • Preseason Cuts: Malcolm Pridgeon, Maurquice Shakir, Roderick Johnson, Matt Kalil, Rick Leonard, David Steinmetz

The offensive line is the big question mark here. As stated earlier, they gave up 65 sacks to their franchise QB, which is unacceptable.

Howard was the teams first round pick and looks to start immediately alongside Center Martin. The other positions seem to be wide open and looks for fellow rookie Scharping to earn a starting role as the season progresses.

Defensive Line

Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
  • Starters: J.J. Watt, D.J. Reader, Angelo Blackson
  • Backups: Carlos Watkins, Joel Heath, Albert Huggins, Charles Omenihu
  • Preseason Cuts: Johnny Dwight, Tracy Sprinkle, Brandon Dunn, Javi Edwards, Walter Palmore, Ira Savage-Lewis
  • Out for the Year: Ira Savage-Lewis

Watt is one of the best defensive players in the league which makes him the obvious starter. Look for him to get a bunch of attention from opposing offensive lines while Reader and Blackson start alongside Watt.

There is a lot of young talent with the backups that I think could get some playing time in the rotation.

Linebackers

Credit: Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
  • Starters: Jadeveon Clowney, Benardick McKinney, Zach Cunningham, Whitney Mercilus
  • Backups: Brennan Scarlett, Dylan Cole, Peter Kalambayi, Davin Bellamy
  • Preseason Cuts: Tyrell Adams, B.J. Bello, Xavier Woodson-Luster, Jesse Aniebonam, Jamal Davis II, Gimel President
  • Out for the Year: Duke Ejiofor, Chris Landrum

The question remains with Clowney as he is holding out with a new contract but I think with what he brings to the table as a pass rusher, Houston will get it done and sign him for the long haul.

Mercilus and McKinney are underrated players in my opinion and form a nice starting core of linebackers alongside Cunningham. Scarlett, Cole, Kalamabayi, and Bellamy bring solid depth and Special Teams value as well.

Cornerbacks

Credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images
  • Starters: Johnathan Joseph, Bradley Roby
  • Backups: Aaron Colvin, Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Lonnie Johnson Jr., Xavier Crawford, Johnson Bademosi
  • Preseason Cuts: Derrick Baity Jr., Deante Burton, Jermaine Kelly Jr.

Joesph might be up there in age (35) but still plays as a high level so he starts on one side. Roby was signed this past offseason to start opposite of Joseph.

Colvin is one of the better nickel backs in the NFL while Boddy-Calhoun is a solid veteran. Johnson and Crawford are two physical rookies who could get a lot more playing time was the season progresses. I also have Bademosi making the team due to his excellent skills when it comes to Special Teams.

Safeties

Credit: Steven Ryan/Getty Images
  • Starters: Justin Reid, Tashaun Gipson Sr.
  • Backups: Jahleel Addae, Austin Exford
  • Preseason Cuts: A.J. Hendy, Chris Johnson, A.J. Moore

Reid was solid in his rookie season and I think he will take the next step as a rising star in Houston’s secondary. He is someone you should keep an eye on. Gipson is a hard-hitting safety that’ll start next to Reid, making a nice duo at safety.

Addae and Exford provide nice depth and can also contribute on Special Teams.

Specialists

Credit: Brett Coomer/Staff Photographer
  • Kicker: Ka’imi Fairbairn
  • Punter: Bryan Anger
  • Long Snapper: Jon Weeks
  • Preseason Cuts: Trevor Daniel

The tradition keeps going as there is really no competition in the specialist department. Fairbairn has been a consistent kicker during his time in Houston while Weeks has been the long snapper since 2008. Anger was signed this past offseason to fill the punter spot.

The AFC South I believe is wide open and Houston has a chance to win the division for the second season in a row. The main thing they need to do is to PROTECT DESHAUN WATSON.

Yeah, I said it multiple times but that is the main thing they need to do. They have the talent on offense with Hopkins, Miller, Johnson, and Fuller as important offensive weapons but what is the point in having them if you cannot protect the quarterback?

On the defensive side, they have star players on all three levels of the defense. Clowney and Watt provide an excellent pass rush while McKinney and Mercilus provide stability at the linebacker spot. Joseph, despite his age, and Roby are solid starting corners while Reid is a rising star safety in the league.

If they can stay healthy and protect the QB, I expect Houston to compete for a playoff spot come December. If things fall apart, Coach O’Brien may be on the hot seat.

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