What The Texans Could Be In 2014: Part 2
HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – Over the next week, SportsRadio 610’s Paul Gallant will compare and contrast the 2014 Texans with 2013 NFL teams.
The Realistic Scenario
2013 Buffalo Bills: 6-10, 4th AFC East
Yesterday’s Jets were the best case scenario for this year’s Texans. Despite a terrible group of quarterbacks, no help for them on offense, and a secondary that needed a whole lot of work, New York stumbled their way to a surprising 8-8 season. And saved Rex Ryan his job in the process.
Unfortunately, very often when the deck is stacked against you, reality hits hard. The Jets – predicted by many prognosticators to be one of the worst teams in 2013 – dodged that fate. But most teams don’t. Enter the Buffalo Bills.
Another QB Mess…
Between rookie E.J. Manuel, Thad Lewis, and Jeff Tuel things can’t get much worse at quarterback. Manuel may have had the promise of a first round pick. But he sure didn’t show it year one. In fact, you could argue the Texans quarterback situation this coming year is actually better than Buffalo’s 2013 crop.
…And The Horses To Hide It
Just like the Texans with Arian Foster, the Bills had the running game to support mediocre quarterback play. Speedster C.J. Spiller and bruiser Fred Jackson both averaged 4+ yards per carry with struggling signal callers. If Arian stays healthy – another if – he’d at least have the support of an effective offensive line to pave him holes.
First Year Coach
Like Bill O’Brien will be in 2014, Buffalo’s Doug Marrone was a first year NFL head coach in 2013. And like O’Brien, Marrone got his first taste of being the chief at a college football program after a stint as an assistant with one of the NFL’s best franchises (O’Brien with the Patriots, Marrone with the Saints). Obviously the two could be completely different as NFL head coaches, but there’s no denying they have similar backgrounds.
Heavyweights Up Front?
The Bills run a 4-3. The Texans run a 3-4. That difference is obvious. Just like Buffalo’s front seven last season was among the league’s best. Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, and Jerry Hughes combined for 41 sacks this past season. And rookie middle linebacker Kiko Alonso was one of the best first year players in the league.
In a perfect world, Houston’s defensive front seven could be vastly improved – maybe even to Buffalo’s level. J.J. Watt is the league’s best defensive player. When healthy, Brian Cushing is up there with any other middle linebacker. Still, to match Buffalo the Texans need to answer some major ifs:
– Can Jadeveon Clowney and Louis Nix be impactful rookies?
– Will Whitney Mercilus ever show first round talent?
– And can Brooks Reed become a contributor at middle linebacker?
I’m willing to bet Clowney and Nix will be key contributors this season. But I’m not nearly as confident in Mercilus or Reed.
Sentries Back Deep
Who knows which Texans will start at safety this coming season. Kendrick Lewis and D.J. Swearinger seem most likely, but it’s far from a given. And Chris Clemons and Shiloh Keo are still nipping at their heels for playing time.
Meanwhile, the Bills had things locked down back deep. Jairus Byrd, Aaron Williams, and Jim Leonhard combined for twelve interceptions this past season. An improved pass rush could help the Texans replicate that kind of production at safety. Key word: could. Because I don’t expect it.
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