5 Questions Houston Texans Must Answer During Training Camp
5 Questions The Houston Texans Must Answer During Training Camp
The Houston Texans come into the 2013 season with high expectations just like they came into the last couple of years. Unlike those seasons, the future has to be now for the two-time defending AFC South champions. They're no longer a team on the rise, they're a team that has arrived, and the real question is whether or not they've hit their ceiling yet.
With the top rushing attack in the NFL and one of the best players in the game on defense, the Texans aren't looking to be just good this year, they're looking to be great. If they don't finish strong and go all the way to a Super Bowl their season will be considered a failure.
And it's that finishing part that's been the sticking point the last few years. They have habit of coming out strong but not being able to follow through with success in the playoffs.
But the Texans front office didn’t panic this offseason. They didn’t make any of those knee jerk, short-term moves that some teams make when they've been near the top of the mountain for a while but can't quite get to the summit. Instead, they chose to stay the course with the core group of players they have and supplement through veteran free agents and good drafting.
2013 will be another competitive year for the young franchise, but if they're going to live up to expectations and finally make their first Super Bowl appearance, they will need to come up with answers to these five burning questions.
5. Can J.J. Watt Repeat His 2012 Performance?
Defensive end J.J. Watt's 2012 season was one of the most dominant performances by a defensive player ever. Yup, that's right, ever.
His 20.5 sacks last year earned him a tie at the number six spot all time. Who was he tied with you ask? Well, you might have heard of a guy named Lawrence Taylor.
But the question isn't whether or not Watt was great in 2012, it's whether or not he can repeat that greatness in 2013. The thing with dominant pass rushers is that putting up those kind of numbers usually brings the kind of attention from opposing offensive lines that makes it hard to do it again the next year. Even the great LT never again approached the 20.5 sacks he accumulated in 1986.
But even if Watt doesn’t have the same kind of numbers this year, his ability to disrupt an offense by either taking up multiple blockers or swatting down passes thrown near him will still make him a dominant player in 2013.
4. Is Ed Reed Still An Impact Player?
The Texans didn’t make any big splashes in free agency this year. The biggest move they made was adding veteran safety Ed Reed, fresh off a Super Bowl win with the Baltimore Ravens.
Reed has been one of the most dominant playmakers in the league for over a decade now. He's made a Hall of Fame career out of baiting unsuspecting quarterbacks into throwing his way since coming out of the University of Miami in 2002.
But his best days are certainly behind him. Whether or not he has anything at all left to give Houston is in question. While his physical skills are diminished, he brings more to the table in his football IQ than almost any other player at his position in the league.
Whether or not that advantage in diagnosing plays and getting his teammates in the right positions before the ball is snapped is enough to allow him to be an impact player will have to be seen.
All I really know on this one is I won't ever count Ed Reed out until I see I have no other choice.
3. How Long Can Arian Foster Keep Up His Workload?
Running backs in the NFL have a finite life span. Very few in the modern version of the game are able to take on a huge workload year after year and not eventually pay the price. The defensive players in the league are producing so much more force when they hit ball carriers these days that each and every carry gets those runners one step closer to losing the physical strength and speed that made them so good.
Whether or not Arian Foster is there already remains to be seen. In fact, he probably isn't yet. But he has topped 300 carries in two of the last three years, including an NFL leading 351 in 2012. Add in 159 receptions in those three years and you have a back who's taken quite a beating.
There's no question that Foster can't keep up this pace for much longer. The league has shown us that there are always consequences down the road to riding a back that much. It might not be this year, but sooner rather than later, all those carries are going to catch up with him.
2. Can DeAndre Hopkins Contribute Right Away?
The Texans have been looking for a reliable second option at receiver for several years now. They've tried players like Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones out at the spot on the other side of the field from Andre Johnson, but neither was able to take advantage of the constant single coverage Johnson's presence provided.
DeAndre Hopkins is the latest attempt at filling that role, and if he can be the Alvin Harper to Johnson's Michael Irving the Houston offense will take on a whole new dynamic. If defenses aren’t able to double and sometimes triple team Johnson with impunity then Johnson will be able to finally live up to the deserved hype his talent brings.
Hopkins is a talented receiver who impressed scouts during his workouts this spring. If he can pick up the pro game quickly, he'll bring the Texans' offense to an elite level.
1. Is Matt Schaub Good Enough To Win A Championship?
The Texans are a throwback team. They've built a successful franchise on a strong running game and a good defense. The problem is, in 2013, those aren’t the things that bring championships.
Champions today are built around the passing game. Whether we like it or not, a team needs to be able to put up 30-plus points regularly to go deep in the playoffs, and the only way to do that is through the air.
That's why Matt Schaub is the biggest question Houston faces heading into this season. If he can elevate his game, much like the previously beleaguered Joe Flacco did last year, then the Texans will have what it takes to win it all.