CBS Sports senior NFL columnist Pete Prisco spent some time last week at the Houston Texans’ training camp, which offered no shortage of storylines.
There’s rookie sensation Jadeveon Clowney, there’s disgruntled wide receiver Andre Johnson, there’s the new head coaching staff under Bill O’Brien, there are players – such as Brian Cushing and Arian Foster – returning from injury, and there are questions surrounding the quarterback position.
What do we make of the Texans – fresh off a 2-14 season – heading into 2014?
“Well, they’re going to struggle this year,” Prisco said on The Morning Show. “I don’t think there’s any question about that. The big reason is the quarterback position. They can’t possibly think Ryan Fitzpatrick is anything more than a stop gap, and they waited until the fourth round to draft Tom Savage, so they obviously have some quarterback issues.”
Beyond that, Prisco sees a serious lack of playmakers in Houston outside of Clowney and J.J. Watt. Cushing is coming off knee and leg injuries, while Foster is a hamstring injury waiting to happen.
That puts a lot of pressure on the 33-year-old Johnson, who is the longest-tenured player on the team. It doesn’t help that Johnson is also reportedly unhappy with his contract situation and the direction in which the Texans are headed. It’ll be interesting to see how he and new head coach Bill O’Brien get along following Johnson’s nearly two-month-long holdout.
“You know how coaches like Bill O’Brien are,” Prisco said. “They never forgive and it’s always in the back of their head. This guy comes from the (Bill) Belichick tree and the (Bill) Parcells tree. Those guys never forget. But (O’Brien) realizes that Andre Johnson is beloved around here. It’s unbelievable. He’s their star. He’s been their star since they’ve come into the league. I think he has to kind of forgive him, but you know how those guys are. They never forget that stuff.”
Amazingly, the Texans have garnered more headlines this offseason than their in-state counterpart, the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas has gone 8-8 in three consecutive seasons and is closely monitoring the health of Tony Romo, 34, as he returns from a back injury.
And yet, the team’s biggest question mark is its defense.
“The Cowboys were the worst defensive team in the league last year,” Prisco said. “You take DeMarcus Ware out of the equation, and all of a sudden (you wonder) who’s going to rush the passer. Now, they drafted a kid (Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence), but it’s hard to throw him in there and expect him to be a guy who can get you 10, 11, 12 sacks. That’s a concern.”
“But if Romo’s back is okay and he can be the same Tony Romo – and I’m a Romo guy more so than many other people – then that offense (gives you hope),” Prisco continued. “They have talent on that offense. I think Terrance Williams is going to take the next step. Dez Bryant is a star. DeMarco Murray averages five yard a carry. They’ve improved the offensive line; they’ve drafted there the last couple years. And then you have (Jason) Witten who’s aging but he can still get it done. If Romo’s back is okay, they’re going to score a lot of points. The question is can they make any sort of improvement on defense? If they do, then they’re going to be a better football team obviously.”