Watt leads Texans' defense, but questions abound on offense
HOUSTON (AP) J.J. Watt was unstoppable in winning his second NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. Houston has added reinforcements to play with the superstar, and there's little doubt that defense will be the strength of this team.
So can the offense do enough to get the Texans back to the postseason after a two-year layoff?
The Texans signed Brian Hoyer in the offseason and he beat out Ryan Mallett at quarterback. Hoyer started 13 games for the Browns last season and threw 12 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. Many wonder if he's a long-term solution to Houston's quarterback woes.
''We all need to give Brian Hoyer a chance,'' coach Bill O'Brien said. ''He's got an opportunity here. He's got an opportunity to go in there as a starter and make the most of his opportunity. I believe in him. I believe in his ability to run our offense efficiently. I believe in his experience in our offense. I think he's shown in the past that he can be a successful starting quarterback.''
He'll have to do it early without a big weapon: running back Arian Foster (groin) is out indefinitely. Second-year player Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes are expected to fill in until he gets healthy.
Watt didn't play a single snap in the preseason because O'Brien thought it was unnecessary. But the Texans have no doubt he'll be ready when Houston opens the season Sunday against the Chiefs. He'll have one prominent new face with him in veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who joined the Texans after spending 11 seasons in New England.
The defense should also get a boost from the return of outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, and the addition of first-round pick cornerback Kevin Johnson. Clowney, the first overall pick in last year's draft, played just four games before having season-ending microfracture knee surgery in December.
Watt was asked about how good the defense looks on paper.
''We don't play games on paper,'' he said. ''We have to go out there and we have to execute. We have to go out there every single day and be the best that we can be. It's one thing to look great on paper, it's another one to go out there and prove it every day. That's what our defense is working to do.''
Some things to know about the 2015 Texans:.
WHAT WILL WATT DO NEXT : Football fans are curious to see what Watt will do next. He comes off one of the finest seasons ever by a defensive player, finishing with 20 1/2 sacks to become the first player in NFL history with 20 or more in two seasons. He also had 78 tackles, 29 tackles for losses, 50 quarterback hits, forced four fumbles and swatted 10 passes. Perhaps most impressive: the five touchdowns he scored. Watt had an interception return for a touchdown, ran in a fumble for another score, and caught three TD passes lining up as a tight end.
He was second in MVP voting to Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers with 13 votes, the most for a defender since 1986, when Lawrence Taylor won the award.
HIGH HOPES FOR HOPKINS: Longtime star receiver Andre Johnson is gone, leaving DeAndre Hopkins as the team's undisputed top target. He already started to move into that role last season when he led the team with a 1,210 yards receiving. Now that Johnson plays for the Colts, has Hopkins, who is entering his third season, changed how he approaches his work?
''No, never,'' he said. ''I've still got the mindset I had since I was a rookie, and that's to come out here and dominate.''
CONSISTENCY AT CORNERBACK; While the focus on defense is on Watt and the big guys up front, Houston also has a solid secondary led by veteran cornerbacks Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph. The pair has started together for four years since Joseph joined the team after spending five years with the Bengals. Their consistency should help the defense be stingier.
YEAR 2 FOR O'BRIEN: O'Brien helped the team to a seven-game improvement in his first season as an NFL head coach. He's looking for more from the Texans in Year 2 now that they're more familiar with his system, and he and his coaching staff are better acquainted with their personnel.
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