By Seth Payne

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The Houston Texans get to face one of the easiest schedules in the NFL in 2014. When facing teams that had bad records in 2013 it means the Texans will square off against some of the highest rated prospects from this year’s draft class. Seth Payne takes a look at who the Texans will face in first round picks in 2014 and what that means.]

Sept. 7 Washington Redskins – No Pick

RG3 will have had a full and healthy off-season for the first time in his career, but the Redskins are starting to feel the pain of trading away all those draft picks to get him. It’s like they traded all their fertilizer for a magic bean that can’t grow without fertilizer.

Sept. 14 At Oakland Raiders – OLB Khalil Mack

Mack is an incredible athlete who will give the Raiders the ability to be more multiple in their defenses. Hopefully the Texans will have found the answer at right tackle, because otherwise this could be a coming out party for Mack.

Sept. 21 At New York Giants – WR Odell Beckam Jr.

Last year we saw breakdowns in the defensive backfield let up too many big plays. A lot of those breakdowns, though, came in zone coverage when there was minimal or non-existent pass rush from a four man front, which puts tremendous pressure on the defensive backs. J.J. Watt can do only so much, especially when the edge rushers are being single blocked by tight ends. This is where you need to earn your keep, Jadeveon. Make Eli nervous. Make Coughlin nervous.

Sept. 28 Buffalo Bills – WR Sammy Watkins

One of the disappointing trends we saw last year was a regression in Kareem Jackson’s ball skills. In 2011 and 2012 he had gradually shown improvement in his ability to make plays on the ball, or at least turn and look for the ball. Sometimes a change in scheme and coaches can do wonders for a player. Sammy Watkins will show us whether Crennel’s staff has done it for Kareem.

Oct. 5 at Dallas Cowboys – OG Zack Martin

The Cowboys had a historically bad defense last year. They need all the help they can get on defense, so Cowboys fans should be happy to see them…..oh, nevermind.

Oct. 9 Indianapolis Colts – No Pick

In my first round draft grades, I’m going to give the Colts a 0.25, which was Trent Richardson’s yards per carry in the playoffs.

Oct. 20 at Pittsburgh Steelers – OLB Ryan Shazier

I’d rattle off a list of great Steelers outside linebackers, but they’ve given me a word limit on this post. Suffice it to say, Dick Lebeau has a way with linebackers. The Texans need to be sure Shazier doesn’t have his way with their right tackle.

Oct. 26 at Tennessee Titans – OT Taylor Lewan

Presumably he starts out at right tackle. JJ Watt plays left defensive end. Let’s see how your college tough guy routine works out against the best in the business. Over/under on how many times Watt faceplants a lunging, over aggressive Lewan: 4

Nov. 2 Philadelphia Eagles – DE Marcus Smith

The Eagle defense got better over the course of last season, but they took a ton of snaps. The toll of being on the field so much showed up in the playoffs when the Saints marched down the field on them in a murderous rushing based drive at the end of the game. Smith might help them get off the field faster.

Nov. 9 Bye Week

Nov. 16 at Cleveland Browns – QB JFF

Well, hell, this is gonna be fun. Game planning for a guy like Manziel is just a flat out pain in the butt. The pass rush needs to be very disciplined. You need to keep him in the pocket and turn his height into a liability. Maybe this is a game we see a return to the days of multiple batted passes. Or maybe Johnny goes off.

Nov. 23 Cincinnati Bengals – CB Darqueze Dennard

Two things I’d love to see here, both involving Diandre Hopkins. One, does the Texans quarterback to be named later have the accuracy and gonads to throw the jump ball and back shoulder fade to Hopkins, who is plenty capable of going up after it. Two, has Hopkins turned into a veteran who can take advantage of an aggressive rookie in press man coverage. Dennard was great in press man in college, but NFL pass catchers have more tools and strength to defeat handsy rookies.

Nov. 30 Tennessee Titans – Taylor Lewan

The thing about playing against great players like Watt is that it improves you as a player. Watt and Clowney will see a better Lewan, and we’ll find out which rookie means more to his team by now.

Dec. 7 at Jacksonville Jaguars – QB Blake Bortles

I grew to like Bortles the more I saw of him. He’s got that charismatic QB personality and looks the part. I could have gotten behind him if the Texans had traded back from #1 overall. Is that what they were trying to do? I don’t know. All I know is that he is now dead to me.

Dec. 14 at Indianapolis Colts – No pick.

Sometimes I start to worry about vitamin D deficiency amidst the Colts, playing inside in a cold climate. They look like pasty skinned Butler basketball players by this time of year.

Dec. 21 Baltimore Ravens – ILB C.J. Mosely

I don’t know if this kid will approach Ray Lewis’ level, but he’ll certainly test Chris Myers and the two guards, who struggled as a group last year versus middle blitzers. There were lapses in responsibilities that were uncharacteristic of that group in prior years. My hope is that a young Brandon Brooks and a hobbled Wade Smith put too much stress on Chris Myers, and it will be corrected by now.

Dec. 28 Jacksonville Jaguars – Blake Bortles

One of the pre-draft criticisms of Bortles was that his mechanics broke down under pressure. Don’t mistake that for Blaine Gabbert’s bladder breaking down under pressure. Bortles is plenty tough, but if the Clowney/Watt rush is as fearsome as Texans fans hope, he’ll want to get that those mechanical issues fixed in a hurry.



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