Houston Texans: 2014 Final Report Card And 2015 Outlook
If the ultimate goal of reaching the Suoer Bowl justifies an overall grade for an NFL team- the Texans would receive an 'F'- as would 29 other franchise.
And heading into 2015, a few areas of concern have started to clear themselves up and place the Texans in a much brighter spot.
One area of concern was shoring up arguably one of the Texans brightest spots on defense- Whitney Mercilus.
As part of the top 10 defense the past few years, Mercilus signed a contract extension on Monday.
Last season, Mercilus totaled 50 tackles, 5.0 sacks, 11 quarterback hits, nine tackles for loss and two forced fumbles in 15 contests (13 starts). He also set or tied single-game career highs in tackles (nine) and tackles for loss (two). In 2013, he notched career highs in sacks (7.0) and quarterback hits (18). Mercilus was originally selected by the Texans in the first round (26th overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft out of Illinois, where he posted 18.0 sacks, 28 tackles for loss, 11 forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in three career seasons.
A closer look at the overall state of franchise reveals that Houston is as close as any of those other 29 franchise's to reaching deep into the playoff's- pending the closure of a couple of holes which was addressed in this years draft.
The 2014 Report Card
Quarterback Play: F
This is not based on just one player but the cumulative sum of all that saw the field in 2014, and for all arguements- the history of the franchise.
Simply put, until Houston can find a franchise quarterback or atleast a worthy passer that can sustain a career for 10 years in Houston- they will remain the Baltimore Ravens of this decade: great defense and an enemic offense.
Departed Ryan Fitzpatrick was heralded as a cerebral player that could offset skill with savy.
His production, like most former Texan field generals- failed to generate nothing more then a 95 percent passer rating in 2014 with a 63% completion percentage.
Sure there were sparks and glimpses of hope, but nothing materialized.
And it doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon.
Brian Hoyer is not the answer, and neither is Ryan Mallett- despite their new contracts.
Ryan Mallett's new deal is for 2 years, $7 million, including $1.75M guaranteed portion of $2.5M base salary in 2015. Brian Hoyer signed a 2 year deal worth $10M with $4.75M guaranteed.
Either of these 2 passers must play their best football since coming to the NFL in 2015 if the offense is to materialize in any fashion.
Do we need to revisit not going after peyton Manning harder?
Defensive Nose Tackle: C
Walk down any street in Texas and you'll hear your casual fan that will proclaim- "If we shore up the middle- we win more games".
That typical armchair quarterbacking isn't far fetched and should be cleared up in 2015.
A 100 yard average per game isnt bad, but help up front could knock that number way below 100.
The addition of Vince Woolfork and a potentially healed Louis Nix added could place the front line of the Texans in with some elite defenses.
And draftee Christian Covington(wherever he's slotted) will add some needed depth to the overall unit of the frontline defense.
Defensive Secondary: C
Houston has typically had a stout defense, even before JJ Watt.
Last year, they ranked in comparison with Seattle and New England in tackling, fumbles recovered and interceptions.
But at times, it was almost a given that Houston's secondary would give up a big play when it could all but afford to.
That would all but explain why they selected cornerback Kevin Johnson from Wake Forest with their first selection in this years draft.
Johnathan Joseph isn't getting any younger, which could ultimately see Johnson morphing into his position. Joseph initially brought a spark with perhaps a shut-down type player when he came over from the Bengals. Since then, he has played a modest role in a suspect group over the years.
Johnson could provide just enough depth to clean up some of last years and previous years issues, and re-energize one of Houston's best players.
With that possibility, the play of the front line and an always tough linebacking group- Houston could be a top 5 defense in 2015.
Overall 2014 Grade: B
9-7 is pretty good when you consider the Texans are clearly a team without offensive leadership and play from the quarteback position.
With 2 losses to the eventual division champ Colt's by a combined total 12 points, Houston can reclaim their role as division champs providing a quarterback can be cemented for the entirity of the 2015 season.
An overtime loss to in-state rival Dallas and a 1 touchdown loss to Pittsburgh could have placed the Texans in a much different position heading into the playoffs, especially winning 4 of their last five- including a solid win over the Ravens.
Their 2015 season starts fast and will test Houston with games at home against Kansas City and Tampa Bay, with Carolina squeezed in between.