The Texans won the AFC South last season despite using four quarterbacks over the course of the year: Ryan Mallett(!!!), T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer. Of the four, only Weeden is back on the roster this year. That’s because the Texans’ hopes—for better or worse—will rest on the shoulders of Brock Osweiler, the pricey quarterback who signed with Houston after an awkward parting of ways with Denver.
Osweiler will have the fortune of playing in a much less competitive division than the AFC West, though the South should be significantly less putrid than it was in 2015. But the expectations for Osweiler will be high due to the eye-popping numbers on his contract. Is he ready for the spotlight? Houston made it a mission to improve its offense in the off-season, and this season will ultimately serve as a referendum as to whether the Texans—who have won 18 games the last two years despite constantly changing signal callers—have finally found stability under center.
J.J. Watt’s effectiveness could be affected by off-season surgery, which will put a little more pressure on former No. 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney. Ultimately, the Texans have enough talent across the roster to challenge for a playoff spot if Osweiler can realize some of his potential.
The Rookie: Will Fuller is the more polished receiver, but Braxton Miller is a very intriguing prospect Houston picked up in the third round of the draft. Miller played only one season at receiver/running back for Ohio State after three years at quarterback. He flashed big-play potential, but his skills are still raw. Miller could become a threat in the slot, on the outside or in the backfield if deployed creatively by Bill O’Brien.
Preseason Battle Spoilers: There shouldn’t be any intense battles here, but center bears watching. Houston selected Nick Martin in the second round, and he was quickly penciled in to start in the middle of the offensive line. Veteran Tony Bergstrom will be pushing for the starting spot, however, and the Texans could be tempted to go with experience over pedigree with high expectations for their offense.
The Stat: One, the number of games last season Lamar Miller carried the ball 20 times with Miami. The Texans scooped up Miller in the off-season to be their featured running back, and the relationship should be mutually beneficial if O’Brien feeds Miller the ball. The speedster averaged 4.5 yards per carry last season.
Preseason Watchability Guide: With back-to-back games against the Saints and Cardinals in Weeks 2 and 3, Osweiler could briefly get a side-by-side comparison with two of the game’s savviest veteran cornerbacks. Some back-and-forth offense would be fun to watch.