The Rundown: Checking the Texans Core Players Heading into 2020

Patrick D. Starr

With the off-season arriving for the Houston Texans, there are plenty of factors to look at with the team moving into 2020. NFL Network's Daniel Jerimiah, a couple of seasons back, said NFL teams need 12 players, a core, to compete week in and week out. Jerimiah, before the NFL Network, worked in Baltimore, Cleveland, and Philadelphia's scouting department and even was a candidate for the general manager vacancy for the New York Jets this past off-season. 

With that said, we are using Jerimiah's checklist to look at the current Texans' roster and see if they have a solid foundation heading into this next season. 

Here is the checklist. 

Daniel Jeremiah's Checklist 

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One thing to note is outside of the edge rushers, the 2nd and 3rd level defenders he has on his list. That is focusing on the linebackers and secondary for clarification purposes. 

Here is how we see the Texans roster current construction. 

The Texans Checklist

Position/Role
1
2
3

Quarterback (1)

Deshaun Watson

Pass Rusher (2)

J.J. Watt

N/A

Offensive Playmaker (3)

WR DeAndre Hopkins

RB Duke Johnson

WR Will Fuller | WR Kenny Stills 

Defensive Playmaker (2nd/3rd Level) (3)

ILB Zach Cunningham

N/A

N/A 

Quality Offensive Lineman (3)

OT Laremy Tunsil

OT Tytus Howard

OG Max Scharping | C Nick Martin

First thing is that honesty is the best policy and being realistic regarding the Texans roster is important. 

How we broke it down should be a little surprise and it was clear flaws in the 2019 team especially when foundational players went down with an injury. 

Let us explain. 

The offense is in better shape than the defense. 

Deshaun Watson is the solidified quarterback for the Texans and it is clearly the hardest position to find in the NFL. It should be noted that the Texans offensive line is in solid shape with both Laremy Tunil and Tytus Howard holding down the offensive tackle positions. Max Scharping is not being discussed enough regarding his impact on the offensive line and Nick Martin had his best season as a professional. So, Scharping or Martin is the option for the third 'quality' offensive lineman. 

For offensive playmakers, DeAndre Hopkins remains the best wide receiver in the league. We added running back Duke Johnson to this playmaker list due to his impact both on the ground and in the passing game. The only caveat is that there needs to be more involvement from Johnson in the offense but he was third on the team in touches per game only trailing Hopkins and Carlos Hyde. We added the combination of Will Fuller and Kenny Stills to this list. Fuller is a clear difference-maker when healthy and Stills' skill set is even more dangerous when Fuller is on the field with him. 

The defense is lacking, in more areas than one.

The Texans were struggling before the 2019 season even started after they traded Jadeveon Clowney and left J.J. Watt to man the pass rush himself. Watt was the only option to rush the passer and when he went down, they had little presence to handle the duties. Outside of Watt, Whitney Mercilus would have been put as the second pass rusher but a reality check from last season shows he did not have that presence that was needed to scare offenses. 

This was the most sobering part of the exercise. When it comes to second and third-level defenders, outside of Zach Cunningham, there was not much to hang their hat on. Cunningham was able to lead the AFC in tackles and be a three-down defender. Bradley Roby and Justin Reid would have been logical options but their injuries prevented them from their true potential in 2019. Gareon Conley led the team in pass breakups when he arrived from Oakland but he was not intercepting passes or flipping games when needed. 

Outside of Cunningham, the Texans lacked true difference makers on the defensive side of the football. How their season ended, the correlation is clear. 

The Texans Checklist Heading Into 2020 

Looking at the checklist, it is clear how the Texans need to tighten up their core heading into 2020. 

There is room to grow for offensive playmakers, counting on Hopkins and Johnson seems like a good bet. Finding competition or someone to step into that third playmaker to challenge Fuller or Stills would be welcomed. Health plays a big part for Fuller especially but the offense appears to be in decent shape. 

The offensive line is the biggest surprise heading into 2020 and the turnaround from a personnel standpoint from the start of the 2019 offseason. 

The defensive side needs help and it shows on all three levels. The Texans need at least another pass rusher and possibly two to protect against Watt's injury history. There is a slight hope that Jacob Martin, Duke Ejiofor, and Charles Omeinhu to pick up the slack but the defense could use a bigger name pass rusher for help. 

As for the second and third levels, there is a void in playmakers outside of Cunningham. There are not enough plays being made from the safety position and in 2019 Ried and Gipson's injuries slowed them. Maybe a healthy 2020 season could help them move into that core player role. Reid is the closest but he is going to need a bounce-back season to move into that core player checklist. 

As for the cornerbacks, Bradley Roby showed signs of making key interceptions but he dropped his fair share and a hamstring injury knocked him out for a good portion of the season. Outside of Roby, the cornerback position did not have that difference maker either. 

The Texans roster needs for 2020 lineup with the checklist, the Texans need another offensive threat either at running back or wide receiver. On the defensive side, the Texans are looking for pass rushers and secondary help, especially at cornerback. 

There is work to be done and with nearly ~$64,027,692 in cap space heading into 2020, the Texans have room to work.

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