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What Will Make 2022 Season A Success For Texans?

  • Justin Melo
  • June 24, 2022
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With back-to-back four-win seasons, the Houston Texans have experienced a difficult transition period over the previous two campaigns. Once considered the cream of the crop in the AFC South, the latest iterations of the Texans have fallen significantly behind the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts while keeping the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars company in the division’s basement. The rest of the league has essentially viewed the Texans as one big running joke lately.

The success of the 2011-19 Texans feels like a lifetime ago. Depending on how you view his future prospects, optimism has been somewhat restored in the form of sophomore quarterback Davis Mills. Mills experienced a better rookie campaign than most analysts predicted he would. The former Stanford standout walked into a difficult situation. Mills was expected to sit and learn behind bridge quarterback Tyrod Taylor, but Taylor suffered an injury in Week 2 that ultimately forced Mills into an unexpected baptism-by-fire under center. Mills ended up starting 11 regular-season contests.

The 2021 Texans weren’t built to threaten the AFC’s elite, but Mills managed to complete 66.8% of his passing attempts en route to throwing 2,664 yards and 16 touchdowns versus just 10 interceptions. Mills handled himself about as well as any young quarterback could have given the less-than-desirable surroundings. Mills was considerably more impressive than several of the quarterbacks drafted ahead of him despite a lack of appropriate infrastructure around him. The Texans signaled their faith in Mills going forward by allowing Taylor to depart in free agency. Kyle Allen was added as Mills’ backup. Allen won’t threaten for the starting job.

The Texans remain in a transition period heading into 2022. Following a 4-13 season, Texans General Manager Nick Caserio fired first-year head coach David Culley and replaced him with veteran leader Lovie Smith, who was a part of Culley’s staff. The jury certainly remains out on Smith’s appointment. The Texans have been accused of essentially holding sham head coaching searches in consecutive offseasons. Smith has struggled to recapture the success he once found in Chicago, compiling poor records of 8-24 in Tampa Bay and 17-39 at Illinois since his tenure with the Bears. Head coaches rarely receive a third opportunity to lead a franchise, but the Texans have awarded Smith with just that.

The more important hire (or in this case, promotion) arguably occurred on the offensive side of the ball. Mills is expected to take a step forward under new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, who developed a strong relationship with Mills last season while working as his quarterbacks position coach and Houston’s passing game coordinator. Hamilton has an impressive track record as a quarterback’s whisperer, having worked alongside the likes of Andrew Luck and Justin Herbert.

Caserio has received more than his fair share of backlash since taking charge of the Texans, but he’s done an admirable job adding talent to a Texans’ roster this offseason that was largely devoid of long-term cornerstones. Caserio used his two first-round selections on cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. and offensive guard Kenyon Green. The Texans selected several potential difference-makers on day two as well. Jalen Pitre, John Metchie III, and Christian Harris could realistically carve out starring roles for themselves as first-year contributors. Pitre and Stingley should spearhead what could be an underrated secondary going forward. 

Caserio also managed to re-sign veteran cover-man Desmond King, who enjoyed the most fruitful season of his career as a Texan in 2021. Fellow veteran corner Steven Nelson represents a shrewd addition that joined via free agency and should help round out an improved secondary in comparison to the one that ranked as a bottom-10 unit last season (242.2 passing yards allowed per contest).

Fourth-round rookie running back Dameon Pierce has also impressed this offseason. A lack of running back depth indicates Pierce has a realistic path to becoming Houston’s main ball-carrier in 2022. A trade that sent the disgruntled Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns provided the Texans with plenty of immediate and future draft capital, some of which Caserio has already capitalized on. Caserio is expected to continue building his Texans from the ground up in 2023 and 2024.

Composure has been the theme of the offseason. Caserio wasn’t a major player in free agency. The largest contract he handed to an outside free agent was a two-year, $9 million deal signed by Nelson. Caserio’s inactivity in free agency proves the Texans remain a work in progress, and patience is still required. Caserio did sign superstar receiver Brandin Cooks to a two-year contract extension worth $39.6 million in a move that showcased his willingness to make a sizable financial commitment to a player who’s earned some goodwill and pedigree. The Texans haven’t fielded a legitimate group of receivers in some time. Cooks has been asked to do the heavy lifting, but a new-look room that includes the aforementioned Metchie and an improved, sophomore version of former Michigan standout Nico Collins leans favorably toward taking some of the load off Cooks’ shoulders.

The Texans aren’t expected to legitimately contend for a postseason spot in 2022, but Caserio has begun laying down the appropriate building blocks to restore Houston to prominence quicker than their record may suggest. Caserio drafted a foundational core to be excited about while the second-year version of Mills should showcase whether or not the Texans must find another quarterback of the future. A step back for Mills would see Houston’s rebuilding efforts suffer an unfortunate setback. Alternatively, a strong sophomore campaign from Mills would propel the Texans forward while providing Caserio with much-needed clarity. There are reasons to remain excited moving into future seasons, even if several questions still remain at bay, particularly at head coach.

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Justin Melo