In what has been a tumultuous offseason in Houston highlighted by the ongoing legal battle of franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Texans have had little to hang their hat on from an optimistic point-of-view as they head into the 2021 season.
While drastic changes have been made via the hiring of general manager Nick Caserio and head coach David Culley, Houston’s roster remains one of the worst in football—there’s just no way around it. With zero selections in the top 65 picks of the 2021 NFL Draft and just five selections in the entire event, Houston’s talent remains bare, as they are primed to enter the fall touting a group of uber-experienced veterans on the downslope of their careers.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor, you could say, fits that bill, but it goes without saying the importance he could provide if Watson’s career is over in Houston. And while the Texans used their 67th overall selection on the late-cycle riser in quarterback Davis Mills, Taylor is set to earn the starting nod as Houston looks to avoid their first finish in the cellar of the AFC South in nearly a decade.
As he enters his 11th season in the NFL, Taylor offers a slew of experience and a modern presence in the backfield when attributing his ability to both sling the rock and create off schedule with his legs in space. While he isn’t the same quality of playmaker he once was during his three seasons in Buffalo, Taylor, who will turn 32 years old before the Texans face off against the Jaguars in Week 1, has enough juice left in the ever-shrinking tank to keep Houston competitive on Sundays.
If you’re looking for a guy to beat you pre-snap, sit in the pocket, and shred your defense over the top with his eyes, Taylor isn’t your guy. But where he does thrive is the underneath to intermediate areas of the offense, specifically, when targeting tight ends.
During Taylor’s time in Buffalo, Charles Clay’s usage skyrocketed within the Bills offense to the tune of 500-plus receiving yards in each of Taylor’s seasons. With premier talent absent on the perimeter outside of Sammy Watkins in 2015, Clay finished as the third-leading receiver on the team that fall, second in 2016, and he led the team in receiving yards in Taylor’s final season in Buffalo in 2017. In the only game started for the Los Angeles Chargers last season, Taylor completed 16 of his 30 passes for a meager 208 yards.
Why is that important?
Hunter Henry, the Chargers’ TE1 at the time, was the beneficiary of five catches for a team-high 73 yards. Again, another in-line talent reaping the benefits of Taylor, although in just one game, for his willingness to feed the tight end position.
And while it’s difficult to project Taylor’s target distribution in Houston as every environment presents its own set of advantages and difficulties, if one position were to offer a glimpse of optimism, it would be the group tasked with lining up outside the tackles in Culley’s offense. While Houston’s offense is not expected to outscore their opponents on a weekly basis, a foundation layered around ball security and time management will likely result in the usage of tight ends on pop plays and as safety valves when Taylor escapes off schedule.
While Jordan Akins is currently slated to earn a majority of the snaps at TE1 in base 11-personnel, the attention should turn to first-year man Brevin Jordan, whose fundamental athletic makeup has him in a nice spot to accrue positive numbers in his first campaign as a pro. The Texans fifth-round selection in this year’s draft, Jordan offers an array of tools to Houston’s offense that is in desperate need of a shot of energy.
A former standout at the University of Miami, Jordan’s YAC ability coupled with his willingness to block could see him on the field in no time. And although he currently sits behind Akins and Kahale Warring on Houston’s unofficial depth chart, it’s June, and depth charts are nothing more than a PR staple than an actual peek into the who’s-who within an NFL roster. Long story short, don’t be surprised if Jordan jumps the line and earns a majority of the snaps working in tandem with the dual-threat signal-caller.
Taylor isn’t the future in Houston, but as we live in the present, he’s everything the Texans have as they attempt to finagle their way into an identity if Watson’s tenure has come to an end. With limited options available on offense, things could be better for Taylor, but keeping it simple and taking what’s been given has been a habit of the past for the wily veteran; it could keep the Texans in position to at least remain somewhat competitive.