Houston's season was an unmitigated disaster, though that was as much a feature of the roster as it was a bug. The team entered the year with Davis Mills as their quarterback despite his subpar showing in 2021. Mills helmed the team to a 1-8-1 record before being benched. He ultimately reclaimed the starting role to close out the season. After trading Deshaun Watson in the offseason for a war chest of draft picks, this type of season was to be expected. Unfortunately, Houston fumbled the No. 1 overall pick at the goal line via a Week 18 win, though the Texans are still loaded with draft capital. Watson's struggles in Cleveland earned the Texans another top-10 selection, setting up Houston GM Nick Caserio to go all-in on the 2023 NFL Draft. After firing Lovie Smith at the end of the season, Texans fans are now ready to embark on yet another rebuild.
Key Offensive Stats
- Points per game: 17 (30th)
- EPA per play: -0.17 (32nd)
- Dropback EPA per play: -0.15 (32nd)
- Passing yards per game: 196.7 (25th)
- Rush EPA per play: -0.21 (31st)
- Rush yards per game: 86.8 (31st)
Mills quickly proved to be an inaccurate thrower and an ineffective starter, but his receivers didn't give him much help either. Nico Collins and Brandin Cooks ranked 69th and 77th in ESPN's open score respectively. Collins led the way in yards per route run, though he still finished 36th among qualified receivers. Mills ultimately paced the NFL with 15 interceptions in as many games. The one bright spot on offense was rookie running back Dameon Pierce. Pro Football Focus charted him as fifth in the league in missed tackles forced and 12th in yards after contact per attempt.
Key Defensive Stats
- Points per game: 24.7 (27th)
- EPA per play: 0.01 (17th)
- Dropback EPA per play: 0.04 (15th)
- Passing yards per game: 209.3 (10th)
- Rush EPA per play: -0.02 (24th)
- Rush yards per game: 170.2 (32nd)
The Texans made a splash early in the 2022 NFL Draft when they took Derek Stingley with the third overall pick. The rookie, taken one pick ahead of Defensive Player of the Year Sauce Gardner, ranked outside of the top 90 cornerbacks in targets and catches per coverage snap. He broke up five passes and logged one interception in his underwhelming first season. Houston did find some gems in their pass-rush. Jerry Hughes and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo were both brought in as free agents last offseason. The duo combined for 14 sacks and 19 TFLs.
Draft Picks (Top-150)
2nd, 12th, 34th, 66th, 74th, 105th, 139th
Notable Free Agents
C Scott Quessenberry, S Jonathan Owens, WR Chris Moore, EDGE Rasheem Green, and EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
LB Christian Kirksey ($5.3 million in savings) and C Justin Britt ($3.1 million)
With the fourth-most cap space for the 2023 season and the second-least money committed in 2024, the Texans don't have to worry about cap casualties if they don't want to. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil, a free agent next year, is already eying an extension. Getting him a new deal or finding a trade partner before he walks should be a priority for Houston.
This shouldn't need to be said, but Mills isn't the answer. Holding the No. 2 pick, Houston is just waiting to see which quarterback makes it to them. They could also trade up one spot if they have a strong conviction in a specific prospect.
Scott Quessenberry was the league's worst center according to PFF and Justin Britt is a cut candidate. The Texans need to look toward the future across their line as both starting tackles and one starting guard will be free agents next offseason.
Houston didn't do much to address their linebacker room last offseason, though, with all of the holes on their roster, the turnaround isn't happening overnight. This time around, they will look to address both their MIKE and SAM positions.
Coming off their second one-and-done coach in as many years, Houston making an off-the-radar hire had been trending toward a yearly tradition. Instead of hiring Josh McCown after three rounds of interviews, the Texans shocked the world and hired a strong and widely praised coaching candidate. Former 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans will serve as their next boss. Ryans worked his way up the ladder in San Francisco before becoming their defensive coordinator in 2021. He also played 10 years in the league, six of which were in Houston. 49ers passing game coordinator Bobby Slowik is joining him as the offensive coordinator. Cardinals defensive line coach Matt Burke was tabbed as the defensive coordinator. The series of hirings will hopefully bring about both a strategic shift on the field and a cultural change in the locker room.
Houston will make two selections in the top 15 picks of the draft and six Texans will be minted within the first 105 picks. They also have plenty of cap space heading into free agency. Their roster is missing depth and top-end talent at plenty of positions, but no team has more resources to spend this offseason. Houston is all but guaranteed to draft a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick. After that, their offseason will be centered around giving that player a supporting cast to hit the ground running with. They also seemingly have to work out a trade for Cooks and a decision on Tunsil's future. Having a new coach and a new quarterback joining the franchise at the same time, Houston is positioned better than most teams to build a foundation for long-term success.