The 11 Questions Facing the Texans After the Bye Week
What does the second half of the season hold?
The Houston Texans are 3-3 and the bye week is almost over. There are 11 straight weeks of football ahead of this team.
What are the 11 questions facing this team in the final 11 weeks? Here are the ones I have in no particular order of importance.
How else will C.J. Stroud impress?
The rookie quarterback has thrilled through six weeks. He is one of the top ten quarterbacks in passing yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt, and quarterback rating. He has thrown just one interception. It’s been an awesome watch to this point. What does he have left to showcase?
I would sign up for more of the same, to be honest. If he just replicated the past six weeks over the next two months I’d be totally fine with that level of performance. Having watched Stroud and his growth through just a few weeks we can anticipate there will be more to his game. There also surely will be some adversity to bounce back from. It is exciting to think about his growth and really that’s probably the true answer: continued growth.
Will the running game make enough strides?
The Texans have to run the ball better. My hopes and dreams of a rushing attack in the top third have taken a big hit, but I would settle for an average level of production at this point. This is also disguised as a Dameon Pierce question. Can one of last year’s bright spots be a bright spot this year? I would be foolish to give up on Pierce but it is hard not to see the past two games and think there is more if Devin Singletary gets more.
What is the ceiling of this offensive line?
The offensive line was supposed to be a “set it and forget it” situation this offseason. Injuries have derailed that plan and the first six weeks have featured a level of shuffling only seen at the World Series of Poker. Kudos to the line, other blockers, and the whole offense for bouncing back from the first two weeks leading the league in sacks. Two sacks in four games is incredible when you think of the challenges this team has faced.
The future of the line is still in flux though. Tytus Howard isn’t a guard, but he’s been conscripted into playing guard. Is that just until Juice Scruggs is ready to make his season debut in his return from injury? Jarrett Patterson is a rookie and has played well but is the full season going to be too much for him? There is also the health aspect. The Laremy Tunsil knee situation isn’t getting solved so a plan for Tunsil potentially missing time needs to be in place. Oh, and the rushing attack needs to be more consistent and the offensive line is a part of that too. We may be seeing the best soon, or if Juice Scruggs lives up to the billing perhaps there is a little more to the blockers.
Who will be in the hunt for awards?
C.J. Stroud, Will Anderson, and DeMeco Ryans are all legitimate answers to this question. Stroud is currently the favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Will Anderson has some work to do but he could easily be in the hunt for Defensive Rookie of the Year if the sacks start coming to him. DeMeco Ryans is fourth in the odds for coach of the year and has some stiff competition in Dan Campbell and Mike McDaniel. Could the Texans perform well enough for Nick Caserio to win Executive of the Year? I certainly think so.
How can Bobby Slowik continue his evolution?
The top offensive mind in the building has had a little roller coaster to his six games. The Baltimore game was rocky and then the Colts played so well early that the gameplan went to hell fast. The next couple of weeks were smooth sailing and impressive followed by two weeks of mixed results. I have faith in Bobby Slowik. I believe we are just starting to scratch the surface of what he has and will implement in this offense and I don’t think stuff that works will be abandoned in favor of trying new things just because you can. He has one of the most important jobs in the organization these final 11 games.
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Will Derek Stingley be back and how will he play?
Yes, and I don’t know. Stingley is eligible to return from the injured reserve ahead of the Panthers game, but that is likely too soon unless he’s healed miraculously. I believe we next see him against Arizona in the middle of November. That would give him eight games to showcase what he brings to the table. I thought he played well for two games this year, he needs to showcase more though. The thing he must show is an ability to get healthy and stay healthy. Finishing the season with eight straight starts would set him down that path.
Who will be the sack leader?
Will Anderson. I’m betting the favorite here but it’s Will Anderson. He’s the most consistent pressure player on the team and it will eventually translate to sacks for the rookie defensive end. I would love for the answer to be Jonathan Greenard, he currently leads with 3.5 sacks. The Texans get plenty of pressure as their entire starting defensive line is ranked in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate. It would be nice to see these pressures end up in sacks soon and Anderson seems poised to unleash his fury in that category.
Can the Nico Collins breakout continue?
Nico Collins is playing the best football of his NFL career. The only thing I see derailing it is something that has derailed his previous two seasons: injuries. Collins looks like a different player and the offense is using him in a way that maximizes his skills. He’s still on pace to triple his season-best for yardage output. He’s a go-to guy for this team and as he learns more about how defenses approach him he could show even more. I believe the breakout season continues and he plays at least 16 games.
What’s next for DeMeco Ryans’ defense?
As we talked about above the sacks seem to be right around the corner. I do wonder if there will be some stability and consistency at the linebacker spot soon. Henry To’oTo’o has played well for a rookie and Blake Cashman has impressed. Denzel Perryman has dealt with injuries and Christian Harris hasn’t quite played like I expected he would after a solid training camp. I could see a clear pecking order getting established. I’m also excited to see more of the physicality from the Saints and Steelers games. This team can beat some people up.
Which games will we feel like “the Texans should win this one” in the final 11?
I see eight games left on the schedule where I will feel this way and currently feel this way. It’s easier for me to explain why I don’t feel that way for the four games that don’t qualify. The Bengals seem to have clicked on offense and their defense has just enough. The Texans might catch them off a hard game against Buffalo, but the Bengals are no easy task. The Browns and Jets don’t scare me from an offensive perspective, but their defenses are elite. I believe the Texans CAN win these games but I won’t say today they SHOULD win those games. Am I asking a lot from the Texans a team that the “should” designation really only applied to three games at max before the season started? Yes. Amazing what a good quarterback and competent coaching can make you feel.
Are they competing for the playoffs?
Yes. The Texans will be competing for the playoffs. The AFC South is far from decided. It is messy. It will feature some ugly football, and the Texans will be right in the thick of things with a chance to win the division. The AFC South still remains their best bet to make the playoffs, but it isn’t crazy to think the wild card spots could be within grasp should this team stay on pace. Nine wins earned a wild card spot in the last two seasons. Even with a couple of disappointing losses the Texans could be in the hunt for nine wins and thus, in the hunt for a playoff spot.
What questions do you have in the final 11 games? Let me know below.