Welcome to our first Houston Texans mailbag! Thanks to the Texans fans who participated, we have plenty to talk about for our first feature.
Houston Texans Offseason Mailbag Questions
What do you think happens with Justin Reid?
Opinions vary on what type of player Justin Reid is as he enters his fourth year in the league, but he remains one of the few Houston Texans players with the type of upside where he can become a difference-maker for this defense.
I had the opportunity to talk with Justin in an exclusive interview while I was an editor for ToroTimes. Just speaking with him, I understood how much he cared about improving as a player (that isn't the case for every NFL athlete).
I firmly believe he is one of the few players on the current roster that could be a Top 10-15 player at their position in this league. One of the top safeties in the NFL, Tyrann Mathieu, had high praise for him after playing alongside him in Justin's rookie season, there is still plenty to work with.
However, if Reid signs an extension, it will be based on potential rather than what he has done up to this point. That's no slight to Reid, he has the upside to be a great defender, but the talent around him also matters. If you go look at the safety position through the years, he's had a revolving door around him at safety.
Tyrann Mathieu, Kareem Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, Eric Murray (who didn't even play much at safety since he was moved to cornerback while cornerback Lonnie Johnson moved to play safety alongside Reid).
Plenty of players struggled last season with the pandemic (that's no excuse), but it didn't help to have a depleted roster and a first-time defensive coordinator in Anthony Weaver.
Reid will play with his third defensive coordinator in four years with Lovie Smith, but hopefully, he's put in a better position to succeed than previous seasons.
Which Texans do you see breaking out next season?
This question is tougher to answer with training camp/preseason still a few months away. However, I believe the younger players who fall under the "breakout" category are Jacob Martin, Charles Omenihu, Max Scharping, Lonnie Johnson, and Ross Blacklock.
The list would be a lot broader if I had a clearer sense of who would make the final roster, but those five have some untapped potential. Omenihu and Martin have played well in their limited roles, so their floor is relatively set already. If they become starters, then it will be interesting to monitor their progress.
Johnson and Blacklock are the biggest boom or bust prospects on this list. Blacklock's rookie season was eye-opening, but not in a positive way. He was under the microscope after being drafted with the Cardinals 2nd rounder the Texans acquired from the DeAndre Hopkins trade.
Blacklock came from TCU's 4-3 defense, so he should be more comfortable in Lovie's 4-3 scheme than the 3-4 defense the Texans ran last year.
On the other hand, having Lonnie train as a full-time safety in the offseason will certainly do him well after being thrown into the fire at the safety position in 2020. He was originally drafted to play cornerback, but that experiment was thrown out rather prematurely.
I expect Scharping to have a better season with James Campen taking over as the OL Coach. Mike Devlin proved to be the number one enemy for instilling confidence in the younger players, and he came up with the idea of consistently taking him in and out of the lineup last season.
The Texans were forced to turn to Scharping in his rookie season, with Mancz and Kelemete dealing with injuries, and Scharping performed relatively well. As a former 2nd rounder in 2019, Scharping should be given a longer leash to push through his mistakes and see if he can be part of the solution for the Texans' interior OL.
Ideal OL combination? We have LT locked down but the others are up for debate. Cannon or Howard at RT?
Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard should be the starting tackles. Houston has plenty of players competing at tackle as it is, Charlie Heck, Carson Green, Roderick Johnson, and Jordan Steckler.
There was a brief moment I thought Marcus Cannon could have competed for the starting right tackle spot, but he has an easier path for playing time at right guard. His $7 million salary for this season indicates he was brought in to be a starter.
Max Scharping makes the most sense at left guard, but he will likely have to compete with Justin McCray, Lane Taylor, and Hjalte Froholdt.
The Texans center competition is likely the most unaspiring of them all with Justin Britt, Cole Toner, Cohl Cabral, and Ryan McCollum. Britt is the most recognizable name out of the bunch as Seattle's longtime center, but due to the pandemic and coming off a serious knee injury, he hasn't played significant snaps in almost two years.
Toner is probably the sleeper pick to compete for the starting job since Texans OL Coach James Campen worked with him last season with the LA Chargers.
However, the center position is the one that could be a complete coin toss, Britt's name is written in pencil as the starting center, but it could easily be erased if the Texans bring in another player heading into training camp.
Who would you rather see step in to replace Watson? Tua Tagovailoa, Sam Howell, Spencer Rattler, another QB?
College prospects aren't too alluring for me, so I would go with Tua. Unless there is an Andrew Luck/Trevor Lawrence "can't miss" type of prospect, there are too many unknown quantities in top prospects, general managers often talk themselves into drafting quarterbacks highly in the first round because there is external pressure by fans, ownership, and the media.
I really loved Chris Ballard's response to his QB situation before the Wentz trade. Texans got really lucky with Deshaun Watson in the first round. Both of the better QBs in the 2017 Draft weren't selected in the top 5. Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun were drafted 10th and 12th, respectively; who knows if either franchise will be that lucky again?
Tua has his own red flags from an injury perspective and playing with a star-studded Alabama team that might have inflated his draft stock (not his fault). People are likely fooling themselves if they believe Tua can be the next franchise quarterback for this team right out of the gate.
There will certainly be growing pains if the Texans move on from Deshaun, but there are reports Nick Caserio liked Tua coming out of the draft. If the Deshaun to Miami reports turn out to be real, Tua could be a real possibility.
If Davis Mills plays well, do you think the Texans will pass on a top QB in 2022?
If the Texans end up with a high pick in the 2022 draft, they should definitely pass on drafting a QB if they aren't comfortable with the upcoming class. Going back to Ballard's comments, no need to reach at that position if there isn't a QB you're willing to put your job on the line for as a GM.
Davis Mills is a player the Texans front office/coaching staff has done extensive research on. The beautiful thing about drafting Mills is that it gives Texans a young QB to develop behind Tyrod (a solid bridge QB), who is on a 1-year deal.
Drafting a QB in the 3rd round still keeps the door open to acquiring another talented young QB if Watson is traded. Texans had the golden opportunity to draft or trade for a young QB behind Tyrod. Mills is a good enough prospect to take a flyer on.
If he doesn’t work out, Caserio will draft another QB in a few years. The same model was used in New England. The Patriots drafted Day 2 QBs (Ryan Mallett, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett).
Who are some draft/FA signings you liked? Who do you think the starting lineup will be on offense and defense?
It’s way too early to predict the starting lineups for the offense and defense.
With that said, the free-agent signings I thought can pay off for the Houston Texans are the additions of Phillip Lindsay, Desmond King, and Tyrod Taylor.
I like each of them for different reasons. Lindsay provides Houston a cost-effective running back that has proven he has the potential to be a 1,000-yard rusher. He has a lot to prove on a one-year deal, and he could find a home here if he has a good season.
On the other hand, King is another one of those players that have demonstrated he has the ceiling of an All-Pro. King has struggled in the past few seasons, but that doesn’t mean he can’t rekindle his past success. So again, it’s a low-risk, high reward signing from Houston’s side.
Signing Taylor was another decent move by the Texans, given all the uncertainty surround Deshaun Watson. Taylor isn’t going to light the world on the fire, but he is a solid game manager that can be a bridge quarterback.
Having a QB who can move outside the pocket to extend the play or get yardage through the ground is a bonus for this offense.
What’s a move you see coming but would catch us by surprise?
The Houston Texans may not be done addressing their secondary. Caserio reportedly missed out on drafting Illinois CB Nate Hobbs after trading up twice to get him in the 5th round.
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reported the Texans are one of the many teams interested in Steven Nelson. The interest certainly makes sense on paper, and Texans CB Coach Dino Vasso worked with Nelson while they were together in KC.
Houston is also bringing Crimson Tide Defensive Backs Haha Clinton-Dix and Shyheim Carter for tryouts.
Can Texans flip some of these recent additions for picks? Or are we just taking flyers on everyone cause we need people?
A little bit of both? As repetitive as it sounds at this point, the Texans intend on building the best depth possible and create competition. This roster has many missing pieces to be considered a contender, but they are building the foundation in Year 1 with Caserio as the GM.
With that said, they could trade a few players (if the price is right) at the deadline. It really depends on how the market unfolds.
How much longer do they keep Kahale Warring?
Fans are already writing Warring off, but it's honestly up in the air on who makes the final roster. Jordan Akins, Antony Auclair, Pharaoh Brown, Ryan Izzo, and Paul Quessenberry are free agents after the 2021 season.
Warring has two seasons remaining on his rookie deal, and the Texans have Brevin Jordan for four seasons after drafting him in the 5th round. Those two players have good traits to have at the tight end position.
Warring has yet to capitalize on his potential, but maybe a new coaching staff can help him. Things aren't looking good for him, considering Caserio brought in four tight ends during the offseason, but nothing is set in stone.
It'll be interesting to see if Warring can stay healthy and perform well through training camp and the three preseason games the Texans have scheduled.
If the Miami deal takes place post-June 1, what is the Best Realistic return? I prefer to wait till next year to maximize return.
As improbable as it sounds, the best-case scenario for Houston at this point is to work out a way to keep Watson. However, if they move forward with trading Watson, it makes sense to move him Post-June 1st and before the start of mandatory minicamp (June 15). That would be the earliest time to move him.
The NFL will have to give Houston the greenlight, but that's a scenario that should be heavily considered if Caserio is motivated to flip to the next page. Caserio has already brought in 3 QBs in the offseason (Tyrod Taylor, Davis Mills, and Ryan Finley).
Unless the league nixes any trade in 2021, waiting to trade Watson until 2022 makes little sense since 25 teams won't be able to send out a minimum of 3 1st rounders (the realistic asking price for any offer regarding Watson) until next year's draft night.
Only 5 teams can currently offer a package of 3 1st; the Dolphins, Eagles, Lions, Giants, and Jets (49ers is the sole NFL team without no 1st in 2022 or 2023 after trading up to get Trey Lance).
MIA: 1 (2022), 2 (2023)
DET: 2 (2022), 2 (2023)
NYG: 2 (2022), 1 (2023)
NYJ: 2 (2022), 1 (2023)
PHI: 2 (2022), 1 (2023), and a 2022 IND 2nd rounder that can convert into a 1st if Wentz plays 75 percent of the Colts snaps in 2021.
Out of those teams, the only ones that would be aggressive in upgrading at QB are Miami and Philadelphia (maybe Giants). The Eagles roster doesn't scream contenders by any means, but all 4 NFC East teams finished under .500 in 2021. The Eagles could potentially be a playoff team with Deshaun at QB.
Philly could offer more of a competitive package of first-rounders than Miami, but it would seem tough and unrealistic for the Eagles front office to give up a 4 1st rounders when most teams can only offer 3.
The best deal the Texans could likely get for Watson in 2021 is 3 1st, other early draft picks, and a potential starter on defense (preferably a DB). Interested teams can posture all they want, Deshaun remains a Top 5 QB in this league. If a team doesn't want to give up 3 1st, Houston has no obligation to trade him.
With that I said, teams could get creative with Watson's eligibility for this season up in the air, and offer conditional 2nds that can turn to a 1st if a player meets certain goals (Like the Wentz deal). 2 1st and a conditional 2nd. Something along those lines for a Texans deal.
Miami has 3 1st in the next 2 drafts (1 in the 2022 draft and 2 in 2023). So suppose the Texans ask Miami for their 2023 1st rounders, a player, and a 2022 conditional 2nd that can turn into a 1st.
That’d be an interesting offer to at least consider.
Am I crazy betting my life savings that Tyrod can win 5 games in 2021?
Not a financial advisor, but I wouldn’t recommend betting your life savings on a sports team.
All jokes aside, this team is tough to read with a rookie head coach, and there are too many questions we won’t have an answer to until the BYE week.
We don’t know what will happen with Deshaun; all signs point to his time in Houston being up.
We don’t know what version of Taylor we will get in Houston? The Bills QB or the one we have seen lately with the Browns and Chargers.
Will the defense improve under Lovie Smith?
Will Mills start in his rookie season if Taylor struggles or gets injured? How will he fare against NFL competition?
I’m not saying Houston can’t win 5 games, but it’ll be extremely difficult if they can’t win within the AFC South division. Houston’s best bet to win games will always be within the division.
Texans proved last year that those games were completely winnable last year, but it’ll be interesting to see how they fare without their best player in Watson for the 2021 season.