By Jeff Kubiszyn @JeffKubiszyn on April 5, 2014
The Houston Texans closed the 2013 NFL season with 14 straight losses. Gary Kubiak was fired, and Matt Schaub was shipped to the Oakland Raiders. If the Texans want to avoid a repeat of last season, these five players will need to step to the forefront.
In a nightmarish season, Brandon Brooks was actually a pleasant surprise, as the third-year guard steadily improved throughout the season. While the offensive line in general could not protect Houston quarterbacks, Brooks showed promise. This season will be his opportunity to shine.
To date, D.J. Swearinger is best known for ending the season of Miami Dolphin tight end Dustin Keller in a preseason game. The second-year safety would like to be known for being a great run support safety. With Chris Clemons joining the team to play center field, Swearinger hopes to have more freedom to be an impact player closer to the line of scrimmage.
One of the problems on the defensive side of the ball for Houston was a lack of pass rush from the outside linebackers. Teams could key on JJ Watt, because there was not much pressure coming from Whitney Mercilus or Brooks Reed. A new defensive coordinator and linebackers coach could mean a more productive Mercilus. This would be good news for a secondary relying on the front seven to apply pressure.
DeAndre Hopkins had a very good rookie campaign. He was the perfect compliment to Andre Johnson; Johnson will be entering his 12th season with the Texans. Houston will also be breaking in a new quarterback.
Look for Hopkins to start building chemistry with the new signal caller in 2014. much like Johnson did with Schaub. Hopkins may take over as the No. 1 receiver this season.
Garrett Graham sat in the shadow of Owen Daniels for three seasons. Last year was different. After Daniels was injured, Graham became the security blanket for quarterback Case Keenum. Graham had a career year, hauling in 49 passes and five scores. Houston will be breaking in a new quarterback in 2014, which should bode well for Graham to possibly become one of the more productive tight ends in the league.
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