Houston Texans

How should Texans fans feel about this season now?

The Houston Texans traded Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks for almost nothing in return, but despite all of their missteps this offseason, fans don’t need to panic about their team’s chances.

This is what happens to teams that don’t have a real general manager running the ship. Houston Texans de facto GM Bill O’Brien had no leverage with edge defender Jadeveon Clowney, who didn’t have to report to practices or sign a franchise tag that unfairly tendered him as an outside linebacker instead of a defensive end.

Because of this, Clowney declined a trade to the Miami Dolphins for Laremy Tunsil and was instead sent to the Seattle Seahawks for a third-round pick and two backup linebackers.

It’s a tough blow for the Texans, but not just because they lost a defensive player who has recorded at least 16 tackles for loss in each of the past three seasons. No, the Texans already signed their fate when they tagged Clowney with the wrong designation, as he made it clear he didn’t intend on playing for them in 2019.

The real issue is that the Texans didn’t manage to get a starting-caliber offensive lineman in front of Deshaun Watson, who was the league’s most-sacked quarterback in 2018. Currently, Watson’s blindside protector is Matt Kalil, who consistently showed the Minnesota Vikings that he has no business starting games for a playoff team.

With an 11-5 record last season and a surefire top-10 quarterback, the Texans are a playoff team. Even after all of their mistakes this offseason, they are still contenders. Yes, even after trading Clowney for pennies on the proverbial dollar.

So Texans fans don’t need to panic. They lost Lamar Miller to a season-ending injury, but they have someone arguably better in Duke Johnson. They lost Clowney, but they still have the likes of J.J. Watt and Justin Reid on defense. And, of course, nobody can overlook the wide receiver trio of DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Keke Coutee surrounding Watson.

But while Texans fans don’t need to panic, they do need to worry. More specifically, they need to worry about the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jacksonville is coming off a poor 2018 season, but that was mostly because of Blake Bortles’ ineptitude at quarterback. They have significantly upgraded on Bortles by signing the more consistent Nick Foles, who has Super Bowl-winning experience and helped carry the Eagles to the playoffs in 2018. Beyond that, the Jaguars’ defense is still elite and certainly looks like a considerably better defense on paper than Houston’s.

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Texans fans can’t see themselves as the clear favorites in the AFC South, even if the second-placed Indianapolis Colts no longer have Andrew Luck. With Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, the Colts can still threaten for a playoff spot. Of course, the Jaguars will be Houston’s strongest competition, and based on how poorly O’Brien has fared out this offseason, the Texans should be worried about their leadership, in addition to the questions on defense and the men blocking for their star quarterback.

That said, the Texans won’t panic. And neither should their fans. Watson is clearly the best quarterback in the division, Hopkins is the best skill position player, and there are other quality pieces on the roster. It’s hard to pick between the Texans or Jaguars at the top of the AFC South, but then again, the Colts were just one win behind Houston in 2018. This should be another strong season from Watson and the Texans, but fans would be forgiven for some pessimism after the way the GM search and Clowney situation unfolded.

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