Going into the season, many thought that Houston would be vastly improved on offense. Brock Osweiler had to be an upgrade over the myriad of signal callers Bill O’Brien had been massaging to respectability and .500 or slightly above records over the past few years. Certainly the addition of Lamar Miller would transform the Texans’ running game. Not to mention that Houston got much faster on offense overall and added a huge portion of big play acumen by drafting Will Fuller and Braxton Miller.
Some of that is true. Fuller has been phenomenal. Miller has far exceeded expectations and looks like a long-term answer out of the slot alongside Fuller’s deep explosion and the all around game of DeAndre Hopkins, who also looked to benefit a great deal from the newfound deep threat of Fuller.
Miller hasn’t played terrible, but maybe the Texans overestimated the workload they could put on his plate. During his time in Miami, none of his coaches felt that Miller was a true workhorse runner. Maybe they were right. He also isn’t especially accomplished between the tackles. Still, in the big picture, Miller still has to be considered more of the solution than the problem in terms of this offense as a whole.
But the fact is that Houston’s offense is putrid and there are two massive reasons why: Osweiler is a liability at the game’s most important position and the Texans offensive line is amongst the worst in football.
These are tough problems to overcome.
Of course the Texans don’t have to travel to Minnesota every week and face one of the league’s truly elite defenses. The Vikings’ defense made a mockery of Eli Manning, Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers the past three weeks before hosting Houston. They are a brutal matchup for even the league’s best quarterbacks.
However, Osweiler, who came to his new team with very little starting experience in the NFL (or college) level, is going backwards overall in his development. Now, as alluded to before, O’Brien has done much more with much less than what Osweiler has in his tool box, but the former Broncos’ tools aren’t as impressive as many seem to think from a pure passing perspective and he is regressing in many other areas as well.
Osweiler is handling pressure very poorly. As is the case with most NFL quarterbacks, when the pocket is clean and the play develops as it is drawn up, he can ably deliver the football. But when faced with a big rush as he saw against Minnesota, he isn’t close to effective. His decision-making and accuracy become greatly compromised. This was also the case for him last year with the Broncos. That will be difficult to change, especially considering the state of Houston’s offensive line.
Osweiler also is playing the game far too frantically. He never looks comfortable. In many ways, the game looks too fast for him, as a lot of his movements are just too slow to transpire correctly. But it also looks like his mind is racing and his processing of information isn’t coherent. He doesn’t have a clear picture, isn’t reacting well at all when things break down and is fundamentally unstable with his footwork and other mechanics of the position. Osweiler’s first game in a Texans uniform was highly impressive, but since then, he has fallen week after week.
As for the big men doing the blocking for Osweiler and Miller, Houston was obviously very proactive this offseason in trying to improve their skill players on offense, but they took some hits up front in the meantime.
Duane Brown was struggling before his injury and it is highly questionable how effective he will be going forward. Plus, the season ending injury of second round pick, Nick Martin, who was slated to be the starting center, was a big blow as well. But still, the Texans lost more than they brought in on the offensive line this offseason and it is biting them hard now.
Right tackle Derek Newton just isn’t starting material and is regularly beaten in pass protection. The collective run blocking has been very poor as well, making the evaluation of Miller a difficult one at this point. The Vikings defensive line destroyed Houston’s front five. Again, it will be easier against the Colts next week, but the following week in Denver could be just as ugly.
Either way, there is an obvious problem here.
These weaknesses on offense put more pressure on Houston’s defense to be great. Heading into the season, this defense looked up for that challenge as all the new parts on offense found their way. But with J.J. Watt gone for the season, it is just asking Houston’s defense far too much.
In the end, the Texans could hover around .500 and could very well win the worst division in the NFL. But there are major problems here and problems that are difficult to correct, especially once you factor in what they are now paying Osweiler.