Houston Texans 2023 season preview and predictions
This appeared in the original VSiN NFL Betting Guide released on June 29, 2023.
Wes Reynolds: Despite winning its final game of 2022 which cost them the No. 1 overall pick, Houston still procured a potential franchise quarterback in C.J. Stroud with the No. 2 overall pick. With Davis Mills in the final year of his contract, Stroud likely sees the field sooner rather than later. DeMeco Ryans brings Bobby Slowik from San Francisco to be his offensive coordinator. Slowik started his NFL coaching career under Mike Shanahan in Washington and served under his son Kyle with the 49ers. More than likely, Slowik will be more run-heavy early on, like his mentors, with a young quarterback and as a first-time play-caller.
Dameon Pierce had a solid rookie season (939 rushing yards) before an ankle injury ended his season in Week 13. Last year’s leading receiver Brandin Cooks was traded to Dallas, so Robert Woods comes in from Tennessee. Nevertheless, the biggest addition to the receiving corps is tight end Dalton Schultz who caught eight touchdowns (including three in the postseason) for Dallas last year.
Left tackle Laremy Tunsil was the No. 1 pass-blocking tackle per PFF last season and is now the highest-paid (3-year, $75M extension) OL in the league. He and right tackle Tytus Howard are one of the better tackle combos in the NFL. Houston also upgraded at right guard with a trade for Shaq Mason from Tampa Bay. Left guard Kenyon Green struggled mightily as a rookie last year and is coming off knee surgery.
Ryans’ defense in San Francisco was tops in the NFL last year. He and new defensive coordinator Matt Burke believe in an attacking defensive line that gets to the quarterback. The Texans lacked a force on the edge which is why they traded up in the first round to draft Anderson No. 3 overall. Getting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks is all well and good, but the 2022 Texans surrendered the most rushing yards (170.2 ypg) in the NFL last season. The unit will need Sheldon Rankins (UFA-Jets) to make an immediate impact up front paired with Maliek Collins.
The secondary is arguably the best unit on the team led by second-year man and former first-rounder Derek Stingley Jr, who showed flashes but only played nine games due to a hamstring injury. At the other corner, Steven Nelson had a career season last year. Free safety Jalen Pitre led the team in tackles and picked off five passes as a rookie second-round pick. Ryans brought a reinforcement with him from San Francisco as Jimmie Ward takes over the
other safety position.
The Texans have not exceeded four wins in any of their last three seasons. This is a long rebuild which is why DeMeco Ryans was given a six-year deal. The team should be better this year but will still have a rookie starting quarterback without a true downfield threat in the passing game and a first-time offensive play-caller. The strength of schedule is about mid-pack, and Houston has five of its last eight games at home. More than likely, they will give an honest effort in all 17 games and pick up a couple of late wins due to effort, but there will be growing pains, especially on offense.
This appeared in the Updated VSiN NFL Betting Guide released on August 31, 2023.
Michael Lombardi: The only thing we know about the Texans from the summer is they won’t be firing their head coach at the end of the year. New head coach DeMeco Ryans is playing the long game. He is going to start a rookie at the position and hopes to grow the team around CJ Stroud’s skill set. At times this summer, Stroud has looked confused, hesitant, energetic, athletic, and accurate. It’s been a mixed bag, but what would you expect from a quarterback who never called a play in a huddle, and never took a snap from under center? His development is going to be a process — a year-long one.
With an improved offensive line and lack of elite skill players, the Texans will take their lumps as Stroud grows into the role. One thing is for sure, they will play hard with relentless effort because the players know Ryans is in control. Their defense is undersized, explosively fast, and will close on the ball. They will try to duplicate the 49ers' model of winning up front, but with less talent. They will give each opponent a tough start, will run out of steam late, and have a hard time closing out wins. In the end, they won’t win many games because of their youth, but they will be a formidable opponent for the first 50 minutes of the game.
Player to Watch: TE Dalton Schultz
New offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik is a Kyle Shanahan disciple, having spent the last four years as an offensive coach for the 49ers. While Schultz isn’t exactly George Kittle, Slowik knows the value of a reliable tight end and any reliable set of hands should be beneficial for Stroud in his rookie season. In the final preseason tune-up, Schultz was open regularly, using some of the same route concepts as Kittle. Schultz also praised Stroud’s accuracy throughout the month of August and the two should be a good pairing for a Texans team likely to trail a lot and be forced to throw the ball in the second halves of games. - Adam Burke
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