September 6, 2016
Optimism High for 2016 Kickoff
by Bob Hulsey
Following a perfect 4-0 pre-season, the Houston Texans open the 2016 real season hoping - some say expecting - to defend their AFC South championship. A horrible playoff thud was laid at the feet of Brian Hoyer last January, so the Texans spent large on Broncos free agent quarterback Brock Osweiler and added weapons to jump start the offense.
Free agent running back Lamar Miller and rookie wideouts Will Fuller and Braxton Miller (no relation) hope to inject big plays to an offense that leaned too heavily on DeAndre Hopkins last year. Returnees Jaelen Strong, C.J. Fiedorowicz and Alfred Blue expect to see their share of touches as well.
The cast will need to function behind an offensive line that struggles at times to be, well, functional. Former Pro Bowl tackle Duane Brown missed training camp and his health is in question. The remainder are largely fill-ins and cast-offs which could get tested when the defensive-minded Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs visit NRG Stadium in the first two weeks.
Romeo Crennel's defense is still the team's calling card, and they will be happy to see All-Everything DL J.J. Watt return to practice. He's got some scary teammates on that side of the ball if Brian Cushing, Whitney Mercilus, JaDeveon Clowney and Vince Wilfolk are at full strength. The secondary of Jonathon Joseph, Kareem Jackson, Kevin Johnson, Andre Hal and Quentin Demps ought to be able to impose their will as they did at times last season.
Questions remain about Special Teams as the team enters the season behind a new coordinator in Larry Izzo, but the unit should be solid based on preseason results.
Beating up on division foes Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Tennessee with get harder this year than last, but they'll face two of them at home and the rest after the Week 9 Bye Week (November 6th) where it is hoped they will have ironed out any remaining weaknesses.
Of particular interest to fans will be an early Thursday Night trip to New England while Tom Brady sits out his suspension, an October visit to Denver where Osweiler will get his chance for revenge and a December trip to Green Bay where snow is always a possibility late in the year.
Bill O'Brien has led a 9-7 squad in each of his first two seasons in Houston. Exceeding that will mean getting some breaks and keeping Osweiler upright. It will be a good year if defenses have to chase Hopkins, Fuller and Miller all over the field. It will be a bad year if Osweiler isn't getting enough time to find them.
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