NFL - US Sports: Houston Texans season preview
The Houston Texans are on the ground floor of a rebuilding phase and everyone knows it - even the franchise executives that were for so long in denial.
They cut their losses on Deshaun Watson and sent Lovie Smith in as an experienced hand on the tiller to guide a young roster through the choppy waters that almost certainly lie ahead.
There is no doubt it is a roster full of youngsters - with two of their top three pass catchers 23 or younger, as is the starting quarterback Davis Mills, with three rookies projected to start in Week 1.
So 2022 looks like being a tough year for the Texans and one in which, by January, finishing in a position that would enable them to recruit one of the best prospects in the following year's draft, could be a saving grace.
NFL Season 2022/23
All across the U.S.A with three games scheduled for London, one for Munich and one in Mexico City.
8th September 2022 - 12th February 2023
|How to watch:|
The vast majority of games are live and on-demand with NFL Game Pass, while selected games are available via Sky Sports and Sports Live Streaming
Where did the Houston Texans' finish last season?
3rd AFC South (4-13)
What are the Houston Texans' hopes for the season?
Beating last season's four-win total, for which Houston are 2.10, is a realistic objective for Smith's team.
And, depending on which teams finish with worse records, it might not prevent the Texans from taking the best quarterback available in the 2023 draft.
The jury is still out on Mills, the third-round pick who led Houston to two wins from his 11 starts as a rookie last year.
He could show steady improvement again this season but, if Alabama's Bryce Young has another hot season, the Texans would be silly not to draft him if he fell into their lap.
The two intra-division games with the Jaguars, who are not expected to draft a top-tier QB next year, will be a good test of where they are in relation to each other in the rebuilding process.
But the 21.00 odds on Houston making the playoffs reflect how far behind the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans they are going into the season.
Who are the Houston Texans' opening opponents?
The Colts are first up at NRG Stadium on Sunday 11th September.
Indy will have yet another new quarterback under center after they traded for 15-year veteran and former Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan in the offseason.
The Colts have opened the past five seasons with a new quarterback: Carson Wentz (2021), Philip Rivers (2020), Jacoby Brissett (2019), Scott Tolzien (2017) and Andrew Luck (2016).
Yet even with the patchy play of Wentz under center, they managed two wide-margin wins over the Texans last season, with a 31-3 victory in October at Lucas Oil Stadium and a 31-0 Week 13 shutout in Houston.
The Texans are 3.75 on the Money Line to spring a shock on opening weekend with the Colts at 1.28.
When are the Houston Texans' key matchups?
Players love featuring in nationally televised games, but the Texans' only appearance in prime time this year is scheduled for Week 3 when the Philadelphia Eagles head south for a Thursday-night matchup.
The home team can sometimes have a big edge in not having to travel on a short week and the Texans could take advantage by earning their first-ever win over the Eagles, who are the only team on their 2022 slate that they have never beaten.
Although there's no rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys as such, intra-state pride will be at stake when the Texans head to Dallas in Week 14.
The all-time record is 3-2 in favor of Dallas and the last two in the series have been epics that went into overtime - Houston winning the most recent encounter in 2018 on the boot of Hawaian placekicker Ka'imi Fairbairn.
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Who is the Houston Texans head coach?
Smith's NFL career began in 1996 when Tony Dungy took him on as a linebackers coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - where he helped develop the Tampa 2 defense.
After five years on the Bucs' staff, Smith was hired as the defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams.
The Rams defense, which had given up a league-worst 29.4 points per game in 2000, became elite under Smith's watch as 'The Greatest Show on Turf' went on to win the 2001 NFC Championship and advance to Super Bowl XXXVI.
He earned his first head coaching chance with the Chicago Bears, leading them to the playoffs in three of his nine seasons at Soldier Field - of which the highlight was the run to Super Bowl XLI and defeat to his former mentor Dungy's Indianapolis Colts.
He returned to Tampa Bay for a two-year stint midway through the last decade, but couldn't turn them around and went back to the college coaching ranks for several years before the Texans came calling.
Smith served as defensive coordinator under Dave Culley last season, during which the Texans recorded 25 total takeaways, tied for 10th in the NFL, and came in at 23rd overall in DVOA when many expected them to be dead last.
Which players have the Houston Texans signed?
OL A.J. Cann (Jacksonville Jaguars)
RB Marlon Mack (Indianapolis Colts)
CB Steven Nelson (Philadelphia Eagles)
DE Rasheem Green (Seattle Seahawks)
DE Jerry Hughes (Buffalo Bills)
WR DaeSean Hamilton (Denver Broncos)
Which players have left the Houston Texans?
QB Deshaun Watson (Cleveland Browns)
QB Tyrod Taylor (New York Giants)
OT Marcus Cannon
CB Terrance Mitchell (New England Patriots)
S Justin Reid (Kansas City Chiefs)
LB Eric Wilson (New Orleans Saints)
RB David Johnson
Who are the Houston Texans' key players?
CB Derek Singley (1st Round)
QB Davis Mills
Since arriving in Houston, Tunsil has been one of the few consistent contributors for the Texans when healthy, earning two Pro Bowl selections in his first two seasons.
However, he was forced to miss most of the 2021 campaign through injury, which reduced the offense's ability to move the ball.
In his second year on the Texans roster, Greenard led the team in sacks with a career-best eight on the year — and it would have been more had injuries and illness not restricted him to 13 games in total.