QB A.J. McCarron, TE Darren Fells, OT Matt Kalil, CB Bradley Roby, DB Briean Boddy-Calhoun, S Tashaun Gipson, Jahleel Addae
QB Brandon Weeden, RB Alfred Blue, WR Demaryius Thomas, DL Christian Covington, CB Kareem Jackson, CB Kevin Johnson, S Tyrann Mathieu, S Andre Hal
2019 draft class
OT Tytus Howard (1.23), CB Lonnie Johnson Jr. (2.54), OT Max Scharping (2.55), TE Kahale Warring (3.86), DE Charles Omenihu (5.161), CB Xavier Crawford (6.195), FB Cullen Gillaspia (7.220)
QB: Deshaun Watson
RB: Lamar Miller
WR: DeAndre Hopkins
WR: Will Fuller
WR: Keke Coutee
TE: Jordan Thomas
LT: Matt Kalil
LG: Martinas Rankin
C: Nick Martin
RG: Zach Fulton
RT: Max Scharping
DE: J.J. Watt
DT: Brandon Dunn
DE: D.J. Reader
OLB: Jadeveon Clowney
ILB: Benardrick McKinney
ILB: Zach Cunningham
OLB: Whitney Mercilus
CB: Jonathan Joseph
CB: Bradley Roby
S: Tashaun Gipson
S: Justin Reid
QB A.J. McCarron, QB Joe Webb, RB D’Onta Foreman, WR DeAndre Carter, Vyncint Smith, TE Darren Fells, TE Kahale Warring, TE Jordan Thomas, OT Tytus Howard, OT Julie’n Davenport, OT Seantrel Henderson, G Senio Kelemete, C/G Greg Mancz, DE Carlos Watkins, DE Charles Omenihu, OLB Davin Bellamy, CB Aaron Colvin, CB Johnson Bademosi, DB Briean Boddy-Calhoun, S Jahleel Addae
Biggest strength: Defensive front
Houston has been led by their defensive front since J.J. Watt was drafted in 2011, and the group remains a strength as we hit the end of the decade. While there has been some trade talk around Jadeveon Clowney, I think moving him would be a mistake at this point in the offseason, as the Texans can’t go into the fall with Whitney Mercilus as their only proven pass rusher. Perhaps fifth-rounder Charles Omenihu can earn a significant role as versatile depth at defensive end/outside linebacker, but the starting seven can carry the load if everyone stays healthy.
Biggest weakness: Offensive line
Overall depth (even in the front seven) is an issue throughout the roster, but protecting Deshaun Watson remains the biggest weakness for the Texans after failing to address the offensive line with top-level prospects and/or free agent signings, which was likely part of the reason for general manager Brian Gaine’s firing over the weekend. First-round pick Tytus Howard is making a big jump from small-school Alabama State, so even if he eventually turns into a star, it probably won’t come in 2019—and that’s what Houston needed with their aging defensive core.
Position battle to watch: Safety
There will be spots up for grabs on the offensive line, but I’ll also be curious to see how things play out defensively on the backend. 2018 third-round pick Justin Reid is almost certainly going to be locked in at one safety spot, but newcomers Tashaun Gipson (who has started every game over the past five years) and Jahleel Addae (started 40-of-40 games for the Chargers over the past three years) can both make a case for playing time. If Reid struggles early, we could see the veterans both takeover for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
One more thought
Similar to Joe Douglas with the Jets, Houston’s next general manager won’t really get to make a huge impact on the roster until 2020, as free agency and the draft have obviously passed. That said, I think the franchise should give serious thought to trading DeAndre Hopkins if they could get a couple premium picks plus a solid starter on the offensive line in return for him, because the priority needs to be protecting Deshaun Watson at all costs.
Early over/under: 8.5 wins (via CBS Sports)
Under. Houston has the talent to make a deep playoff run, but I had a bad feeling about them even before they fired their GM, and the schedule looks absolutely brutal to start the year (first four road games: @ NO, @ LAC, @ KC, @ IND). Unless the rookies surprise on the offensive line, it could be a disappointing year for the Texans in an improved AFC South.