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Preseason Power Rankings No. 25: Houston Texans

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bill O'Brien AP

The Texans were so close to a good run. They had climbed steadily, going from bad to OK to good.

But they were never able to get past playoff tease, and when the bottom fell out last season, it was time for wholesale changes.

Gone were coach Gary Kubiak and quarterback Matt Schaub, who was offered up midway through a dismal year and was sentenced to Oakland this offseason.

In comes Bill O’Brien, and armed with the first pick in the NFL Draft, he had a chance to take the kind of quarterback he could mold and build around.

Instead, he made the strength of his new team stronger, and surprised many people by not taking a quarterback until Tom Savage in the fourth round. (It was such a shocker that longtime Houston Chronicle NFL writer John McClain had to eat a copy of the sports page to pay off a bet that they’d take a passer first).

Whether O’Brien made the right call will be determined down the road. But for now, he has a a flawed half of a roster and no clear way to improve it until next year’s draft.

At that point, McClain is probably safe to make the same bet.

Strengths.

By using the first choice on South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the Texans added to a defense that already had plenty of star power.

Clowney will have to learn to stand up and play outside linebacker after having his hand in the dirt for three years in college. But once he’s returned from his sports hernia surgery, the transition shouldn’t be that difficult for him.

What he did in a 4-3 he can do in a 3-4 — rush the passer.

With his kind of talent paired with defensive end J.J. Watt, the Texans have an opportunity to have an incredible defense.

And all Watt is is perhaps the best all-around player in the NFL.

Bringing in Clowney also allowed them to experiment with linebacker Brooks Reed, moving him inside next to Brian Cushing, further strengthening the defense.

They also added some heft in the second round, drafting Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix to replace Earl Mitchell.

That gives new coordinator Romeo Crennel lots of quality pieces to work with, and he’ll need to do some of his best work to keep this team competitive.

Weaknesses.

How are they going to score any points?

Being the best option in Texans camp right now is faint praise, but that’s what they’ve laid on Ryan Fitzpatrick by naming him the starter going into camp.

It’s not even recently clear that Fitzpatrick is a good backup in the NFL, but he’s the best they’ve got for the moment.

But it’s hard to know who he’s going to throw it to right now.

Star wide receiver Andre Johnson is disgruntled, and openly questioned the direction of the team this offseason. He has a point, and at 32 years old, he’s burning one of the last years of his prime with a guy who can’t take full advantage of his talents.

Now, it’s unclear if he’ll continue to stay away and pile up fines during training camp since he wants a trade, but then if he comes back, you have the issue of a guy who hasn’t bought fully into the program playing a central role.

Second-year wideout DeAndre Hopkins is the future here, and if Johnson comes back and plays along, they’d have a good pair of targets.

Assuming, of course, they had a viable quarterback.

Which they don’t.

Changes.

Other than a new coach and a new quarterback, there was plenty of other turnover.

They shuffled off some older players, and lost a lot of key depth.

Perhaps no player will be missed like running back Ben Tate, who took the opportunity and the cash in Cleveland.

Arian Foster is back and healthy, but Tate always got plenty of work, and played well when called upon.

The Texans also parted ways with tight end Owen Daniels (who followed Kubiak to Baltimore), putting the position in the hands of Garrett Graham and third-rounder C.J. Fiedorowicz.

The defensive line got a fresh look, with veterans Mitchell and Antonio Smith making way for younger guys, which will be a theme there for some time.

Camp Battles.

The Texans have a premier left tackle in Duane Brown, but the other side of their offensive line is in flux.

Right guard Brandon Brooks and right tackle Derek Newton are going to have to fight for jobs, which they should after a relatively porous performance a year ago.

Second-round guard Xavier Su’a-Filo will eventually take over a job on one side, and will make them more physical in the process.

The Texans will also be looking for more depth at wide receiver among a group of young players, as they can’t know how long they can’t count on Johnson.

Prospects.

The Texans will be good enough on defense to compete with most teams in the NFL.

But they might need to win a lot of 6-3 games, and that’s a lot to ask from any group.

Barring Ryan Fitzpatrick pulling a Kurt Warner-like transformation, it’s going to be hard for them to do much with the ball but run, and that will get tougher with time.

If they can shut teams out and create turnovers, they’re going to have chances, but their margin for error is non-existent.

O’Brien comes to the job well-respected after his work at Penn State.

And though the track record of former New England assistants isn’t great, his work with Tom Brady bought him a chance at this kind of job.

The easy choice for him would have found a quarterback and built around it.

Now, he has to accept that answer’s a year or more away. It won’t reflect well on his record, but he lives in a division in which he can compete, and perhaps build enough of a base that next year’s additions can make more of a difference.

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48 Responses to “Preseason Power Rankings No. 25: Houston Texans”
  1. 12444uggg says: Jul 10, 2014 3:05 PM

    The Texans have never won in Indianapolis.

  2. wydok says: Jul 10, 2014 3:06 PM

    Still no Browns. I can’t even.

  3. politicallyincorrect says: Jul 10, 2014 3:10 PM

    and we go back to the AFC….. LOL

    where are the Jets?

  4. crenshawpete714 says: Jul 10, 2014 3:11 PM

    Whoever is making this definitely (hopefully) got that good stuff from Tanard, because these rankings are nonsense.

  5. brownstown6586 says: Jul 10, 2014 3:12 PM

    I love how all the Browns haters don’t have any clue as to what the roster looks like. Their defense was pretty good last year and only got better. Their offensive line is improved as is the running game. The only real group that got worse this year is the receiving corps. Gordon will be a substantial loss but the rest of the team still got better. Also, the haters also wrongly assume Manziel will be the starts and doesn’t care about football. Hoyer will start and is a leader. Stop hating.

  6. valentino8100 says: Jul 10, 2014 3:14 PM

    Quarterback driven league -just look at last years playoff successors. Fitz? Really?

  7. topdawgandmightyminni says: Jul 10, 2014 3:14 PM

    Let’s hear it from the haters…(again)

    #EverybodyUnderestimatesTheBrowns

    #BrownsWillSurprisePeopleThisYear

    #Underdog

  8. Marshawn Lunch says: Jul 10, 2014 3:15 PM

    That is the worst part for Texans fans. In order to get a top quality quarterback in next years draft (someone who can start right away), they’ll need to have at the least a top 6 draft spot, probably a top 3 spot.

    And so, I’m fully expecting a very bad record from these Texans. Even if they play excellent defense.

    Defense wins championships, but your offense still needs to capitalize on opportunities given to it by your defense.

  9. bassplucker says: Jul 10, 2014 3:16 PM

    Still can’t believe this was a 12-4 team only two years ago.

  10. bullcharger says: Jul 10, 2014 3:16 PM

    I feel like this is probably correct based on their current QB situation. Hopefully they can fix it before the start of the season. The defense has a chance to be great.

  11. bullcharger says: Jul 10, 2014 3:18 PM

    topdawgandmightyminni says:Jul 10, 2014 3:14 PM

    Let’s hear it from the haters…(again)

    #EverybodyUnderestimatesTheBrowns

    #BrownsWillSurprisePeopleThisYear

    #Underdog

    ——————–

    Do you honestly believe the Browns could win the division? Maybe in 2 years if Gordon is back in plays well and Johnny Football actually works out, but not now.

  12. bakeberryjam says: Jul 10, 2014 3:18 PM

    These rankings are good satire. Keep em’ comin :^)

  13. greenlantern75 says: Jul 10, 2014 3:19 PM

    “and we go back to the AFC….. LOL

    where are the Jets”

    been waiting for someone to say that…

  14. 4grammarpolice says: Jul 10, 2014 3:19 PM

    Cliff Branch was better than Lynn Swann.

  15. robigd says: Jul 10, 2014 3:19 PM

    So, the Texans add Clowney and go from a 2 win team to #25 on your power rankings? Seems logical.

  16. mrbigass says: Jul 10, 2014 3:25 PM

    About time you threw my Texans in the bottom of the barrel. They actually like it there as they had lots of practice being at the bottom for so many years.

    That being said, I predict they will be better than most people think. Why do I think that?

    I honestly think their defense will keep them in enough games to make it interesting. After that, who knows…..

  17. largent80100 says: Jul 10, 2014 3:36 PM

    Texas good draft (Clowney, Su’a Filo, Nix) didn’t lead to anything when your QB is Fitztragic and the NFL is a QB-driven league.

    Even with a lackluster draft (including Trent Richardson as their 1st round choice), the Colts can easily go 6-0 against their division and finish 12-4 overall.

  18. cjbrowns1 says: Jul 10, 2014 3:38 PM

    More complaints because the Browns are ranked higher? love it! 1 team moves from basement to crown in their division in each season since 2003. This year only 2 teams have that chance, Redskins and Browns.

  19. texansdude says: Jul 10, 2014 3:40 PM

    The AFC South owns the bottom quarter of this ranking!

  20. bucsorbust says: Jul 10, 2014 3:46 PM

    Probably the worst Pre-Season Power Ranking of all time. First the Bucs at 26, now the Texans at 25? I can see the Texans at 25, but there are still teams that will be worse than both the Texans and the Bucs. Leading the charge are the Browns. The Bucs are better than the Falcons, Giants, Jets, Bills, Dolphins, Raiders, Texans, Titans, Jaguars, and Lions. We know this. The Bucs are par with Rams, Cardinals, Cowboys, Panthers, Bears, Redskins….easily. Bottom line is post-draft, post free agency the Bucs should come out about 15-18. That’s okay…just like in 2010, they will climb 5 spots in pre-season and another 12 during the first month. Raymond James will bleed Red and Pewter in 2014.

  21. ind2cle says: Jul 10, 2014 4:09 PM

    Defense alone allows a team to play not to lose. They need an offense to play to win, and that doesn’t appear feasible under the current roster conditions. Sorry Houston.

  22. largent80100 says: Jul 10, 2014 4:11 PM

    Bucs are not worse than Texans, neither are the Vikings or Dolphins, Browns are not better too.

  23. theravenlives2 says: Jul 10, 2014 4:11 PM

    Raymond James will bleed Red and Pewter in 2014.

    ==================================
    For it to bleed anything you actually have to have fans, you know, show up. I know it will be full when my Ravens play there in October…..full of purple, that is.

  24. nannymcsack says: Jul 10, 2014 4:12 PM

    defense wins championships.

    offense gets you in the playoffs.

  25. saint970 says: Jul 10, 2014 4:20 PM

    This is why Andre Johnson wants to leave.

  26. bassplucker says: Jul 10, 2014 4:24 PM

    Three of the bottom 8 teams are in the AFC South?

    That’s a seriously weak division.

  27. maestro1899 says: Jul 10, 2014 4:32 PM

    No player will be missed like Tate? LOL. The guy had the opportunity to finally show what he could do last year when Foster was hurt and what happened??

    He was hurt. Again.

    Health is the #1 most underrated factor for a player’s success.

  28. politicallyincorrect says: Jul 10, 2014 4:46 PM

    between AFC South and East you have over 2/3 of the worst 8

    time to reseed in playoffs… AFC does not deserve to have a team in SB

  29. 8to80texansblog says: Jul 10, 2014 4:49 PM

    Think about this…..

    If Luck were to get hurt…. the AFCSouth could be won with 7 wins.

  30. Andre's Johnson says: Jul 10, 2014 4:51 PM

    I think the Texans will be better than the Browns and Jets, so I’d probably have them at 23. However it’s not like the Texans deserve the benefit of the doubt or anything. I mean, they were 2-14.

  31. xavy63 says: Jul 10, 2014 4:59 PM

    This list lost all credibility since it started, who are the people making these rankings and who are tasked to do the write ups. When these questions are answered and depending who they are will make an informed decision contrary to what we have read on these “rankings”.

  32. ronketonk says: Jul 10, 2014 5:01 PM

    I’m a Browns fan but as a realistic one, I have long given up on any real optimism. That being said, everyone should be clear that this is a qb driven league not a wr driven one. The season all depends on the play at that position whether it be Hoyer or Johnny.

    Otherwise I’ll put the rest of this roster up against most teams around the league. Defense could be nasty. Offensive line is strong. RB position is strong. One of the best TE in the league. Yes, WR position is hurting a bit but that’s the only weakness outside of the question mark at qb.

  33. politicallyincorrect says: Jul 10, 2014 5:02 PM

    yet the AFC East and South will get playoff teams..

    LOL

  34. fartweasel says: Jul 10, 2014 5:16 PM

    If these “power rankings” meant anything, they wouldn’t have to update them every week. Some bad teams last year will be good, some good teams last year will be bad. And it will come down to the last weeks before the playoffs in most divisions before we know which teams will advance. Such is the NFL every year and it’s why we love it.

  35. doubleplay43 says: Jul 10, 2014 5:17 PM

    I am going to say this a little more politically correct since my previous comment was deleted:

    Brooks is a lock to start at RG this year. He was actually one of the better lineman for the Texans last year and didnt play “poor”.

  36. sirbenly says: Jul 10, 2014 6:10 PM

    32: Raiders
    31: Jags
    30: Browns
    29: Titans
    28: Bills
    27: Texans
    26: Dolphins
    25: Vikings
    24: Redskins
    23: Jets
    22: Bucs
    21: Lions
    20: Falcons
    19: Cards
    18: Cowboys
    17: Giants
    16: Rams
    15: Bears
    14: Steelers
    13: Bengals
    12: Panthers
    11: Ravens
    10: Chargers
    9: Eagles
    8: Chiefs
    7: Colts
    6: Packers
    5: Patriots
    4: Saints
    3: Broncos
    2: 49ers
    1: Seahawks

    – a proper power ranking

  37. politicallyincorrect says: Jul 10, 2014 7:00 PM

    LOL at the AFC

    I know things run in cycles but it is not really fair that AFC gets more than a couple teams in the playoffs or any team in the SB right now…

  38. electricboogalo says: Jul 10, 2014 7:25 PM

    Put JJ Watt at QB.

  39. jagsfanugh says: Jul 10, 2014 10:07 PM

    LOL@ anyone thinking they got a championship defense. Who have they added to make it so? Clowney? Get real on his 3 sacks in COLLEGE.

  40. tealrevival says: Jul 10, 2014 10:13 PM

    Lol at browns fans fighting for the 20 spot and the 8 to 80 texans blog…..Schaub is gone and Johnson wants to be.

    Keep an eye on the team with the arrow up….

    Gus’ Jags

    (Who swept the Texans and beat the browns with no one on the roster last year)

  41. stewart09 says: Jul 10, 2014 11:37 PM

    He could be setting up for maybe 4-12 season for the texans with no real offense (gonna lose Andre give him to the packers, panthers or chargers for a second) but with mariota , Winston and all the other QBs who will develop there will be many of options to improve it next year with maybe a top 5-10 defense already built for him could be the best thing for the texans future.

  42. natelan says: Jul 11, 2014 12:06 AM

    Really sad when you consider how bad off some of these teams are, and yet STILL the Raiders are a clear last place finisher.

  43. imabeliever says: Jul 11, 2014 4:04 AM

    sirBENly says:
    Jul 10, 2014 6:10 PM
    32: Raiders
    31: Jags
    30: Browns
    29: Titans
    28: Bills
    27: Texans
    26: Dolphins
    25: Vikings
    24: Redskins
    23: Jets
    22: Bucs
    21: Lions
    20: Falcons
    19: Cards
    18: Cowboys
    17: Giants
    16: Rams
    15: Bears
    14: Steelers
    13: Bengals
    12: Panthers
    11: Ravens
    10: Chargers
    9: Eagles
    8: Chiefs
    7: Colts
    6: Packers
    5: Patriots
    4: Saints
    3: Broncos
    2: 49ers
    1: Seahawks

    – a proper power ranking

    ******************************************
    LOL… you are really funny.

    If you switched spots between the Browns and Steelers I might agree with you….

    LOL…

  44. zoxitic says: Jul 11, 2014 7:28 AM

    If I were the texans I would trade AJ to the highest bidder and shoot for the best QB next year.

  45. buddysguys says: Jul 11, 2014 7:55 AM

    seriously? No Browns? and the worse team in the league last year all of a sudden got better with a pass rusher and Fitz at QB?

    PFT is on GLUE.

  46. hauts81 says: Jul 11, 2014 8:51 AM

    They might need to win a lot of 6-3 games, but they’re the 25th best team! D’ohhhhkay.

  47. nflgiant says: Jul 11, 2014 9:54 AM

    10-6 at best……..6-10 at worst…………

  48. 8to80texansblog says: Jul 11, 2014 12:01 PM

    @tealrevival….

    Think about this…. every team that the Jags beat last year had their coach fired….

    It means that either the teams you beat were so badly underperforming that they thought they needed to start over with new leadership….

    Or it means that the Jags are so bad that losing to them is a fireable offense.

    Neither promotes a lot of confidence….

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