They certainly do have a strong team, returning all key starters on both sides of the ball. These key players include Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing, just to name a few. The Texans also made some pretty big additions to their 2013 team, signing Ed Reed away from the Baltimore Ravens and drafting DeAndre Hopkins from Clemson University with the 27th overall pick in the NFL Draft.
With great preseason performances from the likes of nose tackle Earl Mitchell (three tackles for loss and a sack in just a couple of series) and right guard Brandon Brooks (held up well in the passing game, showed agility and speed in the running game, and made Minnesota Vikings linebacker Larry Dean look stupid on a third-down play), this could finally be the season the Texans lift the Vince Lombardi trophy above their heads and leave that infamous list of NFL franchises that have never appeared in the Super Bowl (I’m looking at you, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars.)
Even so, there are still some weak areas on this season’s squad. Foster could have a less productive season in 2013. If for some reason Foster’s back, calf, knee and irregular heart beat problems persist, or he injuries himself in some other way, Ben Tate will be the starting back for the Texans. Tate is a good player, but he also is coming off of a mild groin injury.
Health issues are also a mild concern for Watt, who is wearing a brace on his arm for the entire season, and Cushing, who is coming off of a ACL tear that caused him to miss most of the 2012 season. However, they should be good to go.
Look to the much-maligned secondary of the Texans for another area of concern. Before Wade Phillips joined the Texans as their defensive coordinator in 2011, they were one of the worst defenses in the league, having allowed the fourth-most points, third-most yards, and second-most yards per play in the NFL in 2010.
With Wade in 2011, the Texans improved to fourth-fewest points allowed, second-fewest yards allowed, and third-fewest yards per play. But his secondary was still terrible, tying for the third-most touchdown passes allowed (29), snagging just 15 interceptions (tied for 14th), and allowing the 14th most passing yards a game in 2012.
They have improved with the addition of Reed via free agency, but he could still be out past the regular season opener. If Reed has to sit out, second-round pick D.J. Swearinger could get his starts, and coaches tend to really target rookie safeties in the passing game.
But the biggest area of concern goes to the Texans’ special teams, who allowed the second-most kick return yards (1595) in 2012 and tied for most kick return touchdowns allowed (two). In punt returns, the Texans allowed the fifth-most yards (483), and allowed one punt return for a touchdown. Their own returns weren’t very good either, as they failed to score in either punt or kick returns.
All this goes to say that though the Texans still have a rather decent chance of making a deep playoff run (and are at currently at a 12-1 odds to win Super Bowl XLVIII), there’s always room for improvement.