After featuring an NFL record 78 players last season, the biggest key for the Houston Texans this year in my opinion is depth and protection! On both sides, the Texans must look for role players who can become potential starters in a case of losing players due to injury or any element that may hold them out of a game or two. After carefully watching the first pre-season game, I believe some questions were answer in their opener.
There is an old saying in football; “defense wins championships” and for a team that can win a Super-Bowl when fully healthy, this statement is holds weight. The good thing about the Texans defense is for one, they are getting Romeo Crennel back to call plays. After being ranked top ten in defense in previous years, last year the Texans ranked dead last in the NFL. This is largely due to losing players like Watt, Mercilus, and others. So for the first outing, I wanted to see how good are the players that are going to be backing up the guys ahead of them. The one guy that popped off the screen for me was 6th round draft pick from Wake Forest, Linebacker Duke Ejiofor. Ejiofor; Houston native, showed his ability to get in the back field and cause disruption. Blazing past tackles, beating blocks with various moves at the line, Ejiofor had three quarterback hits in the preseason win over Kansas City Chefs. Ejiofor is from the Houston area and has a lot to prove because of the time he lost his senior season due to injury. Do not be surprised if he makes the team and becomes a valuable player for this team, especially with Cremmel back calling the shots.
The second most important aspect of last nights game and moving on through the season is the weapons Deshaun will have to throw to. We know what All-Pro wide receiver Deandre Hopkins can do to other teams, but even a player of his caliber needs someone to take the pressure off of him. Rookie Tight End Jordan Atkins jump off my screen! The Texans really do not have a dynamic Tight End, in a league where this is common. Atkins made his debut in the red, white, and blue by catching two touchdowns. I watched him while in college, and he reminds me a Jimmy Graham type of tight end. He is tall, good frame and can jump! No matter how long a quarterback has been in the NFL, it is important to have a safe haven Tight End and maybe Atkins can be that for Watson. I think time will tell who else can step up to be key for the Texans passing game, but get excited for Will Fuller V! He showed a lot of promised last year with his ability to get open for touchdowns. He bulked up a bit, adding an additional 15 pounds to go along with that 4.3 40 speed. If healthy, he can finally be the weapon he was drafted to be.
It might sound unimportant to some, but considering all things nature, I seriously paid attention to the backup quarterback play. Brandon Weed actually player an amazing game for the minutes he received. Over course of last season, the Texans struggled with getting suitable back up quarterback play. Weeden goes 9/11 for 97 yards and two touchdowns and no picks. In any case of injury to Watson, you want to make sure the backup can step up and play. Weeden showed glimpses of this Thursday. The last thing Texans needs is someone who cannot get the ball to their best playmakers when needed. Weeden has been a starter in this league, has thrown for 6400 yards and 30 touchdowns. Safe to say, Weeden will be ready if his number is called.
Lastly; and maybe the most important, the newly acquired offensive line. During the offseason, the Texans signed free agents’ guards Zach Fulton and Senio Kelemente, and tackle Seantrel Henderson. Each are starters and each are three big pickups for obvious reasons. First, it is important to keep Deshaun Watson upright! The team will not go far without him; which has been proven, and to make sure he is available, you do everything you can to avoid injury. The o-line looked good through the first quarters, which is a good sign. This also helps Lamar Miller get back to his 1000 yard form, which will add a different dynamic to the offense as well.
The first game showed a lot of promise for the areas that needed improvement from the previous season. Whether its roles that need to be filled or getting the new guys acclimated to the team, the end goal is to be better than last year. With only a glimpse of the starters, Thursday proved to show when needed, players will be able to come in and make a difference. Depth is very important for this team moving forward and so far it looks like it will be solid. Next, on to San Francisco.