We move on over to the AFC South to continue our post-mortems, starting in the Lone Star State with the Houston Texans. The team was coming off an impressive 9-7 season where they won their division and a playoff game against the Oakland Raiders before losing to the New England Patriots in the divisional round. The reason the season was impressive is that the defense carried the team as the offense struggled to find a starting quarterback after free agent acquisition Brock Osweiler turned out to be a bust. Getting enough out of Osweiler, Tom Savage, and Brandon Weeden to make the playoffs showed how good the rest of the team was. 2017 looked bright with the 1st round drafting of Deshaun Watson out of Clemson as the team's franchise quarterback.
Their offseason was turned upside when a hurricane hit Houston, causing mass devastation. The team had been in Dallas for a preseason game when it happened. The game was cancelled, and the team was allowed to return home to help their family and friends.
The team started off slow, losing to Jacksonville in week one, but Watson took over in the second half and would start week 2 with a win against Cincinnati. The team would end up 3 and 3 going into their week 7 bye. But bad things started happening. LB Brian Cushing was suspended for 10 games. DE J.J. Watt suffered a season ending leg injury, and in week 9 Watson tore his ACL. They would win only one other game that season, leading to a disappointing 4-12 record and last place in their division.
The biggest questions have to do with the recovery and growth of Deshaun Watson, who was off to a strong start and looked promising. And then there's the health of J.J. Watt, the heart of the defense. Their offense needs to strengthen the line during the offseason. But it's the coaching staff and front office where things are happening.
Rick Smith, the general manager, is taking a leave of absence to help his wife deal with cancer. The team has hired Brian Gain as their new general manager. They also lost defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel who is now the head coach of division rivals Tennessee Titans. Replacing Vrabel is Romero Crennel, who was already on staff as an assistant coach and was DC for the New England Patriots when Vrabel was a player there. If Crennel can keep the defense performing they way they did in 2016 and Watson can make a full recovery, then the 2018 season should be much brighter.