Our Houston Texans have won the AFC South 4 out of the 6 years BOB has been Head Coach. It's something that BOB himself takes pride in, along with his stans. While it's certainly great to win the division, and I agree that we could be in a lot worse situation, being the Browns of the NFL, for example. Winning the AFC South is not enough. Now that we've established ourselves as perennial threats for the division, we have to take that next step. This is no longer and accomplishment to hang our hats on. We should not be content with being above average. We need greatness. We need rings. We need the Super Bowl. So how do we get there? Let's discuss.
What Needs to Happen for the Houston Texans to Win the Super Bowl
Defensive Internal Development
To win the Super Bowl, the Texans must improve from the team they were last year. That is one of the most obvious statements I've ever written, but it's still true. We were not the most talented team in the NFL, we still aren't. While I, and many, wanted to sign as many defenders as possible, strengthening the pass rush in particular, the Texans opted against it. While I'm certainly happy about the offensive additions we've made: Brandin Cooks, David Johnson and Randall Cobb. The defensive additions of Eric Murray and, oh wait, that's it, don't exactly scream instant improvement. Ngakoue, Clowney, Armstead. Those were the names I was dreaming about, when we entered Free Agency with the 4th most salary cap space. Quinn, Golden, Fowler. Those names would've worked as well. Instead, the Texans decided to ignore making improvements to one of the worst pass rush units in the NFL.
While I'm high on draft pick Ross Blacklock, and love Jonathan Greenard, they're rookies. We are win now, and need veterans who will help us win now. We can't continue to sit on our hands and wait for all of our homegrown talent to be great. But that's the scenario we're in right now. Improvements from the pass rush unit will need to come from either: JJ Watt miraculously playing more than 8 games, Whitney Mercilus suddenly regaining his athleticism, or youngsters Jacob Martin, Charles Omenihu and even Duke Ejiofor improving drastically. That last point is the most realistic option on the list, and one that the Texans coaches are banking on heavily.
You won't find anyone higher on Martin than me, and if you do, send me their address, I will fight them. An initial after thought from the Jadeveon Clowney trade, Martin has proven to be an unheralded gem. While his stats won't blow you away, turn on the film, and you can see we've got something special. His pure athleticism is up there with the Von Miller's of the world. His speed and burst off the snap wins him matchups almost instantly. 300 pound offensive linemen just can't keep up with him. He's got a variety of pass rush moves to defeat the few OL that stand in his way. Check out the interview I had with him, to see how he breaks down his own film:
Martin is the key to our defense improving. He's still extremely young, going into his 3rd season, and is working to become as great as possible. Taking some snaps from Merc and Watt on the edge will only make him more productive. It will also allow the two vets to get some rest, which will only make them more energized to get after the QB when their number is called.
Martin is vital, but so is sophomore Charles Omenihu. The Texans need him to develop, as he's the best shot on the roster to provide an interior pass rush. Something that we've honestly never had. Omenihu showed great flashes of using his absurd length and motor to plow IOL backwards and into the QB. He has been grinding this offseason, working with legend Demarcus Ware. Iron sharpens iron, and Charles is determined to prove every team that passed on him in the draft wrong. Here's a video breaking down his game:
The hope is that the Texans didn't need to spend double digit money on free agent defensive linemen. They had two hidden gems on rookie contracts, that would be far more cost efficient. Continuing with the young guns, Lonnie Johnson is the most important CB on this team. No, he's not the best, that crown belongs to Gareon Conley. But he's the most important because if he is at least average, it allows us to trot out our 3 best CBs at their 3 best positions. Conley and Lonnie on the outside, with Roby in the slot. That would prevent us from having Roby outside, and Hargreaves in the slot, which we saw last year is not ideal. I've made a video on Roby, showing why he's better in the slot, and you can check that out here:
As for Lonnie, he is the epitome of internal development. He's the one guy they are REALLY banking on making a huge jump. The early returns from his rookie season weren't amazing, but that's to be expected. CB is the toughest position to translate from college to the NFL, and we need to have patience with his development. Early reports from Aaron Wilson said that the plan is for Lonnie to start on the boundary. They are confident in him, likely because they see the kid his DRIVE, DETERMINATION and GRIT. He's a worker, and that's the only way you can get better. He knows he hasn't hit his ceiling yet, and he won't stop until he does. I respect the hell out of that. I respect anyone who has high work ethic. I really hope he makes the second year jump, because he has all the tools to succeed. He just needs to clean up the nuances of his game, and I made a video to show what he does well, and what he needs to work on here:
Those three are the guys who have the most room to improve, in my opinion. But there are others who are still on an upward trajectory, and their marked improvement will go a long way. First, Justin Reid. J Reid did not have a bad sophomore season whatsoever, but his rookie season was so stellar, that anything less would be seen as a disappointment. Fighting through a torn labrum would make anyone not look like their best self, but Reid still showcased his immense talents. He's extremely versatile, being able to play any position or coverage in the books. He's the best tackling DB on the team and is already a leader on and off the field. But still young at 23, Reid's best football is still ahead of him. Now fully recovered from his injury, Reid has been putting in work as well, and he's been vocal about how motivated he is to win. I'm really excited to see him return healthy, and gain the national media's respect, because he is the future of the safety position.
Another name that has room for improvement is Zach Cunningham, believe it or not. Only 25, Zach is entering his prime, and every year in the NFL, he has taken a JUMP. Why would we expect anything different now. A monster tackler, Zach lead the AFC last year. So where can he improve exactly? Man coverage. No, not coverage in general, because he is actually great in zone. Don't believe me? I understand, so here's a video I made to prove it:
Back to man coverage, he's not great at it, we know it, he knows it, and him improving at it would be game changing. As confident I am in the secondary, offenses love to pick on LBs, and as long as we have one who can hold up in man, we are set. Zach is on the verge of getting the bag he deserves, and making any improvement will just be the icing on top.
If these key internal defensive players can develop like we expect, BOB will look like a genius for not spending cash on expensive veterans. Especially now with the cap decreasing, and Watson+Zach extensions coming soon. I mocked the term "internal development" early in the offseason. I didn't like the idea of relying on it, but after rewatching the film on essentially every single Texans player last year, I see why there is so much excitement. Martin, Omenihu and Lonnie can be game changers. Reid and Zach are legit pillars of the defense, and all of them have the drive for greatness. Offense won't be the problem this year, and if these guys make legit improvements, defense won't be either.
The next thing that we need to happen is a bit harder to quantify. Consistency was the biggest downfall of last year's Texans. The team that collapsed after the first quarter against the Chiefs in the Wildcard Round was just not good enough to win the Super Bowl. As many blunders as BOB made, there is no coach who is solely responsible for giving up 41 points in a row, and 51 in total. BOB wasn't out there guarding Travis Kelce, or rushing after Patrick Mahomes. The defense shit the bed, and the offense wasn't much better either. Scoring just one TD in the last three quarters. That wasn't BOB running routes or throwing passes. However, I'll move on from that example, to spare what little emotions you have left from that horrid game.
Plain and simple, the Texans team after the 1st quarter of that game is not winning a ring. The Texans team that showed up to the Panthers, Broncos and Ravens game is not winning a ring. The Texans team that showed up to the Patriots game? That team could win it all. But we can't expect to go all the way playing at that level only 1 out of 16 weeks. The team is too eratic, the highs are legit SB contenders but the lows look like the worst team in the NFL.
The offense is the main culprit here. Will Fuller and the changing offensive philosophy is a huge reason. With Fuller healthy, BOB runs a deep passing vertical offense. It looks creative, unpredictable, and puts up POINTS. That offense can win a SB. However, when Fuller is injured, BOB runs a quick passing offense, taking the "death by a thousand cuts" approach. That style can work, but it forces the QB to be perfect. The average depth of target falls off a cliff, and they need to complete more passes to drive down the field and score. That's not Watson's game, he loves the deep ball, and can drive down an entire field and score in just two plays (see Saints game). The fluctuations in offensive scheme set our own death. But we shouldn't have to deal with that anymore. When the offseason started, I wanted the Texans to operate like Fuller wasn't even on the team. They did exactly that by adding Brandin Cooks. Now, even when Fuller misses games, we won't have to go to the dreaded quick passing game. We can remain the creative, take the top off, explosive offense that puts up highlight reel after highlight reel.
Another reason why we should be more consistent is because BOB has given Tim Kelly the reins to the offense. Lance Zierlein reported that BOB would often change the gameplan on a Friday or Saturday before the game. With that little practice time (and Nuk/Fuller never practicing), it's no wonder why the offense continuously fell flat on their face in the 1st quarter. I think we scored one time on our first drive all year. ONE TIME. And funny enough, it came during the Week 17 game against the Titans, with AJ McCarron at the helm. Does this mean McCarron is better than Deshaun Watson, of course not. And now that Watson will finally have consistent practice time to master the game plan, we will be scary. BOB's scheme heavily depends on everyone being on the same page. The QB, the WRs, the TEs, the RBs and the OL. EVERYONE has to see the same thing, and understand what the call should be, based on what is seen. That was rarely the case last year, and it held Deshaun back from being the superstar that he is.
If the Texans see the internal development that they are banking on, and become a more consistent team, they can certainly win the SB. They showed last year that they can beat any given team on any given day. And they were oh so close to beating the eventual SB champs. If a couple things go their way in that Chiefs game, the narrative behind the Texans could've been insanely different. And so while development and consistency will go a long way, we also just need some damn luck. Every SB winner has some sort of luck. The main thing will be the luck of having a healthy team. Obviously we need Watson to be healthy, but if guys like Watt, Fuller, Tytus, Roby and Reid can all remain healthy, this team is a legit force to be reckoned with. So pray to whoever/whatever you believe in, put on your lucky article of clothing, and let's finally get a healthy team. If we combine our internal development, consistency and pure luck, the Houston Texans could very easily be the 2021 Super Bowl Champions.