Most headlines of late have been predicting nothing short of doom and gloom for the 2021 Houston Texans, however, Adam Rank of NFL.com opted to steer clear of this well-worn storyline.
Despite ranking Houston's ability in the 'competitive urgency index' as low, Rank appears to see this upcoming season as somewhat of a low-risk high-reward year for the organization.
I know many of you aren't expecting a lot from the Texans this season, but remember: It's usually big-budget movies that are the most disappointing (looking at you, Star Wars: Episode IX). It's the $1 theater movies that usually become the most entertaining. Like the time I took in an afternoon matinee of San Andreas. Or, as I like to call it, The Greatest Movie Ever Made. And if it doesn't work out for Houston in 2021, then maybe you end up with the first pick in next year's draft and have that to look forward to.
Describing the Texans as a '$1 theater movie' is perhaps a backhanded compliment, but at this stage - a compliment is a compliment. And regardless, if Houston can channel its inner 'San Andreas' with a couple of stars lifting the relatively unknown supporting cast, then they may well be able to carve out a few wins after all.
The most likely candidates? Well, Rank singled out running back Mark Ingram, quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and linebacker Zach Cunningham.
Ingram's age may suggest that he is past his rushing prime, but his lockerroom presence will be crucial if the team are to keep their spirits high.
"I look at Ingram as a steadying veteran presence for whoever starts at quarterback this year," said Rank. "He served as the personal hype man for Lamar Jackson over the past two seasons. And he's the only guy I have big trust in for this Houston team. I'm not saying he's going to rush for the most yards or anything, but he will be the most important presence."
Ingram's support and influence should help others around him shine, none more so than his fellow backs such as Phillip Lindsay, who I suspect will be Houston's leading rusher.
Elsewhere, Rank suggested that Taylor deserves more respect for what he has accomplished in the league to date. And he absolutely has a point.
"Tyrod is one of just five players with 9,000-plus passing yards and 1,500-plus rushing yards since 2015, joining Russell Wilson, Josh Allen, Cam Newton and (Deshaun) Watson," said Rank.
Taylor has been dealt a bad hand the past few years whether that be by being overlooked or injured. But Rank clearly believes he can be a more than capable starter for the Texans should 2020 starter Deshaun Watson not suit up this year.
And another player who could play a key part in the Texans finding some extra screenings is Cunningham.
"The dude led the league in tackles last year with 164," said Rank. "So, while he's one of the highest-paid players at his position and has clearly been highly productive, I never hear him mentioned in the discussion of the top performers at the position. Probably because the Texans' defense hasn't been good. Maybe that can change this season with new defensive coordinator Lovie Smith. The Texans are going from the 3-4 to the Tampa 2, which is perfect for Zach."
Cunningham has been a tackling machine since day one for Houston. And with Smith emphasizing his desire for all players to go and make big plays, Cunningham should have the freedom to move about and make a big impact.
Overall, while Rank may not believe this team is set for much box-office success, unlike many others he is willing to give them a chance.
He has confidence in Smith and this Texans defense, he believes the running backs committee approach could work, and he believes the unexpected hiring of head coach David Culley "should be given the benefit of the doubt."
If the 2021 Texans do end up being a B-list bore, we will know soon enough. But for now? We're in line ordering popcorn and ready for training camp,
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