Crystal Ball: Looking Ahead to 2013 Houston Sports, Texans/Rockets Edition
|Photo by Daniel Kramer|
The Texans' future starts essentially now with their first playoff game this Saturday. Yes, Saturday. After losing three of their four final games, the Texans limp into the playoffs as the third seed and will face the Bengals, followed by likely road trips to New England and Denver. A win over Minnesota would almost certainly have meant a first round bye followed by a home game against the New England/Denver winner, then perhaps Baltimore at home on the way to a Super Bowl. Sigh.
The Texans should be able to beat the Bengals at home like they did last year with T.J. Yates as their QB. But winning in the tough climates of both New England and Denver -- assuming Denver isn't knocked off -- seems like a reach for a team that has slumped through the last 7 or 8 games. Still, they will have a bunch of guys going to the Pro Bowl, so that's...eh...something?
If they don't make the Super Bowl, expect the team to head into the offseason looking for a new special teams coach. Joe Marciano has been with the team since the beginning, but with shaky kicking and one of the league's worst coverage teams -- even with beast all pro Bryan Braman -- his days are numbered.
They are going to have to decide what to do with fan favorite Connor Barwin, who underperformed this season, a contract year for him. His value has certainly decreased, but the team is likely to try and keep him, if not at the high price he would have demanded last year. Other key free agents include versatile James Casey, DT Shaun Cody and, perhaps most importantly, Glover Quinn.
In the free agent market and the draft, expect the team to address the right side of the offensive line, after foolishly assuming they could live without their starters there from last year. The run game bogged down and pass protection was spotty, particularly late in the year. They will also need depth in the secondary and in the linebacking core, and it could be argued that the time for drafting a potential replacement for Matt Schaub is on the horizon, but don't expect that this year.
They may not enter the 2013-14 season as the favorite to win the division, either. Despite the loss of Brian Cushing, the team remained remarkably healthy this year, but that doesn't figure to continue. They also got one of the all-time great seasons ever from JJ Watt, which likely won't happen again. And the Colts, with Andrew Luck, are going to be the media darlings from day one.
It will be a long offseason if the Texans don't play in New Orleans on the last day of the season. And don't expect it to get any easier next year.
Our own Ben Dubose, who covers every Texans game for Hair Balls, had this to say:
"In the offseason, Connor Barwin and Bradie James will walk and the Texans will focus resources on the offensive line and linebacker positions. Expect one mid-level free agent signing and at least one of the team's first two draft picks to go to those positions. No huge names, though, with the team still capped out and drafting in the 20s. Brian Cushing will return at full strength, however, bringing an enormous boost to the defense.
Even with the stunning late-season collapse, Schaub and head coach Gary Kubiak will each remain in place for financial reasons, with owner Bob McNair citing back-to-back division championships as proof the franchise is on the right track. In reality, while neither is terrible, they each have clear deficiencies. The success of the Texans will come down to whether the team's other components -- notably, the running game and defense -- can play at an elite level and offset the coach/QB limitations."