Welcome to 32 teams in 32 days. To get us through the offseason, we’ll be taking a closer look at every team in the league, in order of projected 2023 win totals. Up next: the Texans.
If the Texans become a winning organization anytime in the foreseeable future, they might point to the 2023 offseason as the start of the turnaround after adding several potential building blocks, including hiring coach DeMeco Ryans.
Ryans might get a fair shake—the Texans fired Lovie Smith and David Culley the past two seasons after one-year stints as coach—given the organization made a splash in the draft with the first-round selections of quarterback C.J. Stroud and edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. Houston also spent money in free agency with the signings of tight end Dalton Schultz, running back Devin Singletary, and wide receivers Robert Woods and Noah Brown.
With those arrivals, Stroud could be set up for success this season. The rookie quarterback will also have a stacked offensive line with Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard, as well as talented playmakers in running back Dameon Pierce and wide receivers Nico Collins and John Metchie III.
Ryans will have his hands full with the defense, but the unit has an intriguing core group with Anderson, cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. and safety Jalen Pitre.
Overall, the coach will have a daunting challenge of turning the Texans into winners again after three consecutive seasons of four wins or fewer.
Biggest gamble this offseason: Trading a 2024 first-round pick for Anderson
Not many are expecting the Texans and Cardinals to field competitive teams this season, but only Houston has the pressure to produce wins after it traded its 2024 first-round pick to Arizona, selecting Anderson at No. 3 in April’s draft—just one pick after selecting Stroud. If next year’s projections are correct, the Cardinals could have the first two picks in a draft that will probably feature quarterbacks Caleb Williams and Drake Maye, which would then give Arizona the option of trading one of the valuable picks for more assets.
For the Texans to avoid being on the wrong end of a possible lopsided trade, Anderson will need to make an immediate impact and be a defensive force under Ryans’s guidance for years to come. Stroud will also have pressure to deliver a memorable rookie season, considering this risky draft-day trade essentially proved the organization expects Stroud to be better or as good as next year’s quarterback prospects.
Toughest stretch of the season: Weeks 1 to 5
Ryans’s defense will be first to face the Ravens’ new-look offense, with Todd Monken calling the plays, and with incoming receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers. After the Week 1 road game, the Texans have a winnable home game vs. the Colts, which will feature two rookie QBs in Stroud and Anthony Richardson. But then the competition increases with a Week 3 road game against the defending AFC South champion Jaguars, followed by a home game against the Steelers. The tough stretch concludes in Atlanta with the promising Falcons and their offensive trio of running back Bijan Robinson, wide receiver Drake London and tight end Kyle Pitts.
Breakout player to watch: CB Derek Stingley Jr.
Stingley was selected one spot ahead of Sauce Gardner at No. 3 in the 2022 draft, but the Texans pick had a quiet rookie season (he was also sidelined the final eight games because of a hamstring injury) as Gardner went on to win Defensive Rookie of the Year with the Jets. The 6'1", 195-pound Stingley recorded 43 tackles, five passes defended, one interception and one sack in nine games played last year. After mainly being utilized as a zone-coverage corner, Stingley could return to playing press coverage in Year 2—an area he excelled in during his time at LSU—which would allow him to make more plays around the ball. Given Ryans’s background as a defensive coordinator, he might just be the right person to unleash Stingley’s potential.
Position of strength: Offensive tackle
Ryans highlighted the Texans’ talented bookend tackles of Tunsil and Howard as reasons why he accepted Houston’s offer to become the new head coach. Tunsil, a three-time Pro Bowler, is regarded as one of the best left tackles in the league, and Howard is a quality right tackle known for his physical playing style. Howard, a 2019 first-round pick, could be next in line to receive a contract extension from the organization after it took care of Tunsil with a three-year, $75 million deal this offseason. This would give Stroud two of the best tackles in the league for years to come.
Position of weakness: Interior defensive line
The Texans neglected the interior defensive line in the draft, despite allowing a league-worst 170.2 rushing yards per game last season. They don’t have young promising players at the position, so they’re banking on the arrival of Sheldon Rankins, an eight-year veteran, to provide improvements. (He left the Jets to sign a one-year, $9.75 million deal in Houston.) Rankins, 29, is expected to start next to defensive tackle Maliek Collins, 28, in Ryans’s 4–3 defensive scheme.
X-factor: TE Dalton Schultz
The Texans’ biggest priority in 2023 is ensuring Stroud has a successful rookie season. Schultz can help with that by doing what he did for Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott the past few years, especially as a reliable target on third down. Schultz, however, is coming off a disappointing season in which he had only 57 catches for 577 yards and five touchdowns. If the tight end can return to what he did in ’21 (78 catches, 808 yards, eight touchdowns), Stroud could have a solid pass-catching group with Collins, Metchie and Woods.
Sleeper fantasy pick: Nico Collins
The Texans added a bunch of receivers in the offseason, including Woods, Brown and rookie Tank Dell. Still, Collins might be the most talented of the bunch, and the one with the most fantasy potential. Collins could push for flex value when the matchup is right. —Michael Fabiano, SI Fantasy
Best bet: C.J. Stroud over 3400.5 passing yards
Stroud should be the starting quarterback from Day 1. Davis Mills was on track to clear this last season if he had played 17 games, and I’d rather go to battle with Stroud—who had a 69.3% college completion rate—on any given Sunday. —Jennifer Piacenti, SI Betting
Final record: 4–13, third in AFC South