HOUSTON -- In the TV show, "The Twilight Zone," Rod Sterling would start every episode stating, “You’re about to enter another dimension."
What dimension did the Houston Texans enter to enjoy the madness that’s to come in 2021?
The Tennessee Titans have acquired All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones from the Atlanta Falcons. For the low price of a 2022 second-round pick, plus a 2023 fourth-round selection, the 32-year-old heads to the Music City franchise.
Jones also heads to NRG Stadium in Week 18 of the 2021 season. If Houston's impending struggles weren't enough, to begin the season, enjoy facing a five-time All-Pro target just to close out what seems to be a rebuilding year.
The Jones of yesteryear might be gone for good. Houston might not see the model that posted seven total 1,000-yard seasons in Atlanta with Matt Ryan. They might not have to worry about the bully in man coverage than can win against even the best press cornerbacks.
Statistically, Jones is coming off a season low in which he recorded 51 catches for 771 yards and three touchdowns in just nine games.
Then again, who's to say that Jones doesn't regain his form in Nashville?
Still regarded as a top-10 target in the NFL, there's no telling if the decline of 2020 will carry over into September. The Titans are banking on remaining the favorites in the division despite losing Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith in free agency.
For years, Jones was the caped crusader with a young ward to play his "Robin" in the passing game. This time, Jones will be the mentor to the next great pass-catcher in the NFL.
Houston already is set to face Pro Bowler A.J. Brown twice a season as he builds on his 2020 success. Since drafted out of Ole Miss, few targets have been as consistent at No. 11 for Ryan Tannehill.
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Brown posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons to begin his time in Tennessee. Last season, 209 of his 1,075 yards came against Houston's secondary. He also scored three of his 11 touchdowns in the process.
The loss of Davis allowed Houston to add more pressure on Brown this season. With Jones, the pressure is gone. Allowing Jones to get open only causes concerns for the safeties over the top.
Allowing Brown to win in the open-field could give Tennessee an advantage in the foot race to the end zone.
Welcome to the Twilight Zone?
The Texans already have one receiver they face every season that causes terror each snap. With T.Y. Hilton returning to Indianapolis, Houston now if hopeful last season was proof his skills were declining.
Since 2012, Hilton has eight games of 100-plus receiving yards against the Texans — one of which was over 200. Covering him allows names like Zach Pascal and Micheal Pittman to get open across the middle and off the edge.
If Carson Wentz returns to 2017 form, is Indy the favorite to win it all?
Jacksonville has a 1,000-yard receiver of their own in DJ Chark. Now that Trevor Lawrence is in Duval, will the 1K magic return in a contract year? And who's to say tha Marvin Jones or Laviska Shenault isn't the perfect No. 2.
Six games against a duo of undeniable talent with this secondary as the last resort? Houston, we have a problem.
The Texans added Desmond King inside the slot. He'll contain the run, but offers little in man coverage against larger receivers. Bradley Roby is coming off a season-ending suspension.
Terrance Mitchell is bested used a rotational player.
As for the offense, Deshaun Watson hasn't reported to camp and seems hellbent on leaving Houston. Tyrod Taylor, the presumed starter, is better than the critics opinion, but nowhere near the same level as the 25-year-old Watson, last year’s NFL leader in passing yards.
As for rookie Davis Mills? He's a sponge to coaches Tim Kelly and Pep Hamilton, soaking up every bit of information to learn the new system. Is his upside enough to win without DeAndre Hopkins?
With this defense?
This isn't first-year head coach David Culley's fault. It's not Taylor's fault. It certainly not Mills’, who didn't know he was on the Texans’ radar until the phone rang that April evening.
It is their problem though, and they're now along for the ride.
Jones joining the division not only enhances Tennessee's chances to win, but also maybe extinguishes the Texans' chance to pull off an upset.
Two is always better than one. The Texans secondary might be lucky to have one cornerback hang with their Brown or Jones in 2021.
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