Colts: Analyzing Rival Offseasons – Houston Texans

The behind enemy lines series for the Indianapolis Colts finishes with the Houston Texans.

We have reached the end of the series that looks at the rivals of the Indianapolis Colts, who had one of the most talked about offseasons in the entire NFL. Signing Philip Rivers, trading for DeForest Buckner, and drafting Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. were big time steps.

But again, this series isn’t about that. We’re talking about how the rivals in the division improved throughout the offseason, looking at free agency and the NFL Draft. First, we looked at the Jacksonville Jaguars, and then the Tennessee Titans. Now, it’s on to talk about the crazy offseason of the Houston Texans.

The Texans secured the AFC South title in 2019 thanks to another strong season from DeShaun Watson and a well-rounded defense. After defeating the Bills in a wild game, they went to Kansas City and took a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter. It didn’t go well from there, as the Chiefs went on a 51-7 run to finish them off.

Will the Texans be the biggest threat to the Colts? Let’s look at how their offseason went.

Key Acquisitions

Brandin Cooks

The Texans sent a second round pick for Brandin Cooks and a 2022 fourth round pick after shipping off DeAndre Hopkins. Cooks has bounced around the league in his six seasons, but has recorded a 1,000 yard season in four of those. The Texans are his fourth team, but in an offense that likes to go vertical in the passing game, Cooks should fit right in. He also can gain quick separation for the short passing game and be a nightmare after the catch.

Key Departures

DeAndre Hopkins

This move set the NFL world ablaze. The Texans decided to ship off DeAndre Hopkins, a top three receiver in the league, to the Cardinals for David Johnson, a second round pick, and a 2021 fourth round pick. Hopkins has been as reliable as anyone in the league, and his production speaks for itself. Despite the additions the Texans made at receiver, none can replace what Hopkins did for the organization.

D.J. Reader

D.J. Reader signed a four year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency, and he was a big part of the Texans defense. He played both nose tackle and three tech in his time in Houston, eating space as a run defender and pushing the pocket as a pass rusher. He will be missed on the defensive line.

Breakout Candidate

Charles Omenihu

With turnover happening along the defensive line, this is the chance for Charles Omenihu to break out. Omenihu was a fifth round pick in 2019, and played in 14 games as a rookie. He may get the chance to start at times in 2020, and use his athleticism and length to create pressure on the Houston front.

Rookies to Watch

Ross Blacklock

The Texans were quick to address the defensive line in the 2020 NFL Draft, selecting Ross Blacklock in the second round. Blacklock received some first round hype throughout the draft process because of his power, athleticism, and transitional quickness at defensive tackle. He also shows prowess as a pass rusher with good hand technique. There’s a good chance Blacklock sees meaningful snaps in year one.

Jonathan Greenard

Adding more help along the defensive front? You bet! The Texans took Jonathan Greenard in the third round, and he will exclusively line up on the edge. Greenard wins a lot with power, hand placement, and counters. He needs to work on his first step to threaten the outside track. 

How do they stack up with the Indianapolis Colts?

So, we’re back to the important question. Are the Texans at the level of the Colts right now after comparing the offseasons? On paper, the answer should be no. The Colts improved a lot along the defensive front, and the Texans still have a weakness along the offensive line minus Laremy Tunsil. Indianapolis has the horses up front to neutralize all the new additions Houston made on defense, and more weapons to challenge the secondary.

However, Watson makes special things happen at the quarterback position. Despite losing Hopkins, Cooks and Will Fuller will challenge secondaries vertically, and that definitely includes the Colts. Their secondary is still the most glaring weakness.

Next: Xavier Rhodes key to Colts pass defense

So, right now, a split is fair to expect when discussing their two meetings in 2020. If Indianapolis lives up to expectations and Houston falters without Hopkins, then a sweep is in the realm of possibility.